The Dalit protests in Gujarat echoed in Parliament Wednesday with the Congress accusing the BJP and RSS of working for a “Dalit-mukt Bharat” and the government hitting back, listing figures of atrocities on Dalits during Congress rule.
In Lok Sabha, where the Congress raised the issue and created a din, Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the Una incident “very unfortunate” and condemned the flogging of a Dalit family for skinning a dead cow.
He said the Anandiben Patel government had acted “swiftly and effectively”, arresting nine of the accused and was working to have a special court try them. The state government, he said, was also providing medical care and compensation to the victims.
K Suresh of the Congress, who raised the issue during Zero Hour, demanded setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to go into the incident. As his party colleagues trooped to the well of the House, Suresh said: “Violence is RSS agenda. RSS is trying for a Dalit-mukt Bharat. The government totally failed. It was a BJP-sponsored attack. What is going on? Is this the Gujarat model?”
As BJP members protested, the Congress MP said it was the BJP’s agenda to polarise communities before the state assembly elections next year.
In his reply, the Home Minister sought to turn the tables on the Congress, stating that cases of atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat were higher during the Congress rule from 1991 until Narendra Modi became the Chief Minister in 2001.
Outside Parliament, Rajnath Singh said: “There is no place for such actions in a society which supports justice and equality… to target the most deprived and exploited sections. In fact, we need to protect them in every possible way.”
Union Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot slammed the Congress and the BSP for their attempts to draw “political mileage” from the incident and insisted that the Gujarat government had acted promptly. “The state government was very fast in taking all necessary action in this case. And so far, 17 people have been arrested. Cases have also been registered against them. As far as my ministry is concerned, we will provide Rs 5 lakh compensation to the affected Dalit families,” Gehlot, flanked by other Dalit ministers, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Krishna Raj, told reporters.
“In two months, a chargesheet will be filed. Strong action will be taken. Senior state ministers have met the victims. We will give all assistance, including financial, to them,” he said.
BJP’s own ally and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, along with his party leaders, met the Home Minister to demand action in the matter. Singh assured speedy trial and a special court.