With a few days left before Karnataka heads to elect new legislators, upholding the rights of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities has snowballed into a major political campaign by all parties. In this context, Congress president Rahul Gandhi sharing a video to highlight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as being anti-Dalit has received a mixed response among members of the Dalit community in the state, with most calling it a bad political gimmick.
“This is just a stunt by the Congress government to get our attention and our votes; they are just humiliating us. Now that the elections are on, they might allow us inside their houses but after elections, they won’t miss a chance to chase us out or humiliate us. On the other hand, BJP has a completely different agenda altogether,” said Dalit rights activist and president of the Republican Party R Mohan Raju.
On Sunday, the Congress president released a video from his official Twitter account highlighting problems being faced by SCs and STs in the country; the video linked the abuse faced by religious minorities with the apathy of the BJP-led central government. The video shows BJP leaders making anti-Dalit gestures and statements. It recalls union minister Anant Kumar Hegde saying how he wants to rewrite the Indian Constitution and shows a clip of BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, ordering food from a hotel while visiting a Dalit household.
Dalit activist BR Bhaskar Prasad, who is also the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Mahadevapura, said the video does not reveal anything new. “Rahul Gandhi is stressing that the BJP is against Dalits; but isn’t that a known fact? What right does the Congress have to make such a statement? I know the BJP has always been against our community but what has the Congress given us?” the 43-year-old activist told Firstpost.
“When the Kambalapalli incident happened in Karnataka, the Congress was in power; what have they done? The Danama rape incident also happened during Congress rule. Since Dr Ambedkar’s time, the Congress has been humiliating Dalits. The Congress is not just against Dalits, but, also against OBCs,” he added.
Mohan Raju feels that such videos being shared by political leaders will not affect the mindset of voters from the Dalit community. “Rahul Gandhi’s stunts are bogus in the light of election purposes. They are doing this only for votes,” he said.
Talking on similar lines, Bhaskar Prasad said that the government should provide fishnets instead of telling what a fish means. “What I mean is the government should give us our basic rights instead of highlighting our problems and asserting support in videos; even today, several people from the SC and ST communities are denied basic rights. Around 10 lakh people had submitted applications to the government seeking land rights for survival; but their requests fell on deaf ears,” he added.
Commenting on the video, Bhasvaraj Kotwal, 43, who works at the Human Rights Department for Dalits in Raichur, said that the BJP is experimenting on minorities in the country. “It feels like we are lab rats for their experiments. The BJP is experimenting with us to see how we react on different issues; and it’s not just the BJP, but Bhajarang Dal, RSS, Hind Sangh Pariwar and other outfits are altogether experimenting on us in different parts of the country. They think what they are doing is right and they are not guilty of denying us our rights,” he added.
Bhasavaraj, however, feels that the Congress has been more supportive towards the SC and ST communities. “Organised crime is going on in the country right now and the BJP government is threatening us in all ways possible. Let’s take the Atrocities Act for example. How is it (the Supreme Court ruling) justifiable? The Modi-sarkar is a threat to our rights,” he said.
Commenting on Hegde’s statement about wanting to rewrite the Constitution, Dattatreya Ikkalaki, founder of Gulburga-based Sumedha Prakarshana, said, “The BJP’s agenda is that they have to remove Dr Ambedkar’s name from the Constitution and write a new one. Rahul Gandhi is the president of the Congress and he too definitely has a hidden agenda; however, he is bringing out issues that are happening in full public view. According to me nobody should vote for the BJP because it is a caste-based party and will continue treating us and denying us our basic rights.”
But Bhaskar Prasad feels the Congress is no different from the BJP. “20,000 people (from the SC and ST communities) are being demoted in Karnataka; when the Congress government could not do anything about this issue then what are they trying to prove by sharing this video. Because of one video, people should not change their views. The Congress and the BJP are two faces of the same snake. If one falls, the other will haunt us for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Mohan Raju, on the other hand, feels that people from economically and socially backward communities have become gullible and political parties are exploiting their poverty to garner votes. “I am very disappointed with our people. If somebody comes to me and offers me Rs 500, I will definitely not vote for him, but, that’s not the case with all SC and ST people. For them, they would earn Rs 500 for the day. This is the situation in our country,” he said.
While a section of people like Ikkalaki are appreciating the Congress’s social media posts highlighting the BJP as an anti-Dalit party, others like Bhaskar Prasad believe that a majority of Congress workers also follow an anti-Dalit sentiment. “Rahul Gandhi said he will become the prime minister in 2019, but, why can’t he give Mallikarjun Kharge an opportunity to become the Prime Minister? BJP is growing with the help of Congress. Most Congress MPs have an RSS-guided background,” he said.
Saying that video posts shared by Rahul Gandhi will not impact the mindset of voters, Bhaskar Prasad said, “I don’t think people will change their mind; they wanted a change and brought the BJP to power but they are also targeting us. We have no idea what we should do. No discrimination, no castes and equal rights for all, is what Dr Ambedkar preached and I don’t think Dalits today have gotten any of it.”
The author is a member of The NewsCart, a Bengaluru-based media startup.
Updated Date: May 08, 2018 21:47 PM