New Delhi: Amid indications that the proposed “Bharat Bandh” called by dalit organisations on August 9 could be more aggressive than the one held in April, the ruling BJP is treading with caution. With the Lok Sabha polls less than a year away, the Modi government and the ruling party are in no mood to add to the already growing perception of it being “anti-dalit” as often alleged by its opponents. The government, it was learnt, is in touch with the organisers so that the bandh is peaceful.
BJP’s own dalit MPs and ally LJP want it to respond positively to dalits’ demands, including a fresh bill in Parliament or an ordinance to overturn the Supreme Court’s rece-nt order on the ST/ST Act, which prompted the prote-sts by dalit groups in April. The April bandh saw widespread violence, including nine people dying.
In addition to their existing demands, the dalit groups want removal of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairman Justice A.K. Goel, who was one of the two judges who gave the order on the SC/ST Act, which was seen as a dilution of the Act by the dalit groups. The BJP is yet to officially react on the issue.
To appease the dalits, who are considered as a significant votebank, the government had recently moved the court seeking resumption of reservation in promotion for dalit and tribal government officials, a major demand by the groups.
While there seems to a growing unrest among the dalits over various issues, BJP’s traditional voters — from upper castes and sections of Other Backward Castes — have firmly backed the party so far despite their reservations about issues such as quota for dalits in promotions and alleged misuse of a law on atrocities against dalits and tribals.
BJP ally Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP has said that Justice Goel’s appointment sent out a wrong message and his son and party MP Chirag Paswan has written to PM Narendra Modi asking for his removal. Dalit BJP MPs like Udit Raj have also backed the demand. Significantly, another ally JD(U) also backed the demand to remove Justice Goel.
After facing criticism over dilution of the SC/ST Act, the BJP lent support to the Opposition with the Union government filing a review plea in the court.
However, it has not yet responded to the demand that it bring a fresh bill.