The opposition has been demanding the discussion for some time now, but the government agreed to it after PM Modi made a series of statements over the last weekend, calling for the protection of Dalits and strong action against cow vigilantism and what he called “fake cow protectors”.
Ms Mayawati, who heads the Bahujan Samaj Party, today alleged that the PM’s comments were an attempt at damage control after the massive Dalit protests over the stripping and flogging of four young Dalit men by cow vigilantes in Gujarat last month. Opposition parties allege that cow vigilantes enjoy the patronage of the BJP and organisations affiliated to its ideological mentor, the RSS.
“PM should speak in the House. His statement outside was politically inspired and mischievous. After incidents like Rohith Vemula’s death and Una, the BJP’s image among Dalits has taken a beating. That’s why this is damage control,” Ms Mayawati alleged today, also adding, “Dalits don’t need the PM’s sympathy. Instead, he should ensure that Dalits can exercise their constitutional rights.”
“If you have a problem, if you feel like attacking someone, attack me, not my Dalit brothers. If you want to shoot anyone, shoot me, not my Dalit brothers,” said PM Modi in his speech on Sunday in Hyderabad, the home of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide on January 17, triggering a students’ agitation.
Crucial elections will be held early next year in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, both states where the Dalit and backward caste vote can be decisive. Later in the year elections will be held in Gujarat, where Dalits have put the BJP government on notice after the Una attack.
Ms Mayawati, a key contender in UP, is a Dalit and draws huge support from the community. She visited Una last week and attacked both the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress, accusing them of failing to protect Dalits.
On Tuesday, the union home ministry sent out an advisory that emphasised on zero tolerance for those who break the law. Killing cows and attacks on people in the name of cow protection are both crimes, the home ministry circular to states said.
Hours later, in what is seen as more damage control, the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh met senior union ministers to who belong to Scheduled Castes or Other Backward Classes (OBC) to discuss strategy on how to reach out to Dalits.