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  India   All India  16 Apr 2018  Poll impact of dalit, upper caste violence worries leaders

Poll impact of dalit, upper caste violence worries leaders

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BOHRA
Published : Apr 16, 2018, 1:18 am IST
Updated : Apr 16, 2018, 1:18 am IST

In such a scenario, dalits have a tough choice to make as there is no effective third front in Rajasthan.

The SC ruling affects the Scheduled Tribes as well, it was the dalits who were at the forefront of the “Bharat Bandh”, when large scale violence took place in north India including Rajasthan where a dalit youth Pawan Kumar died in firing allegedly by the police in Alwar. (Photo: PTI/Representational)
 The SC ruling affects the Scheduled Tribes as well, it was the dalits who were at the forefront of the “Bharat Bandh”, when large scale violence took place in north India including Rajasthan where a dalit youth Pawan Kumar died in firing allegedly by the police in Alwar. (Photo: PTI/Representational)

Jaipur: The electoral impact of the dalit “Bharat Bandh” on April 2 and the counter-protest by upper caste groups on the next day is worrying political parties ahead of Rajasthan Assembly polls in Decemberthat will be followed by Lok Sabha elections in May 2019.

On the face of it, the BJP should be concerned as the dalits blame the party’s government in the central government for the against dilution of the SC/ST Act by the Supreme Court. But political observers say Congress has more reasons to worry than the BJP.

The BJP won 52 out of 59 reserved seats and 33 out of 34 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes while the Congress did not win a single one in the last Assembly polls. After the recent violence there is a thinking that the BJP may struggle to retain these seats in the next electoral contest.

But, dalit community leaders suggest that in Rajasthan there is polarisation of backward and upper castes against dalits. “There was a clear bid to defame our agitation and polarise, other communities against us through violence during the Bharat Bandh on April 2,” said Dharmendra Kumar from Bharatpur.

Dalit thinker Bhanwar Meghwanshi seconded him saying, “We have seen that the Sangh and the BJP have been working on ground to consolidate OBC and upper caste votes as they know that dalits are not going to support them in the same way as the last elections. The Hindutva forces are also peeved over signs of dalit and Muslim bonhomie seen during the bandh.”

Former Congress MLA Sanyam Lodha, however, dismissed a possibility of OBC and upper caste tie-up. “How can OBCs join hands with upper castes that are opposing reservation?” he asked. Some political observers pointed to Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha’s support to “Bharat Bandh” by dalit organisations to suggest a possible dalit-OBC alliance in next polls.

However, Mr Meghwanshi and other dalit leaders are not convinced. According to them 90 per cent of the crimes against dalits are committed by the OBCs. “How can we embrace a torturer and oppressor?” asked Mr Meghwanshi.

The Congress is treading cautiously. While siding with dalits on reservation and the SC/ST Act, it is trying not to upset the upper castes that recently supported it in a big way in Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls in February. Besides, no party can afford to antagonise jats, an influential OBC caste.

In such a scenario, dalits have a tough choice to make as there is no effective third front in Rajasthan.

Dalits are restless after the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act.  The years of pent up anger finally exploded on April 2. Though, the SC ruling affects the Scheduled Tribes as well, it was the dalits who were at the forefront of the “Bharat Bandh”, when large scale violence took place in north India including Rajasthan where a dalit youth Pawan Kumar died in firing allegedly by the police in Alwar. The retaliation by upper caste communities the very next day was swift and specifically targeted dalits. Houses of sitting BJP MLA Rajkumari Jatav and former Congress minister Bharosilal Jatav were burnt.

A local resident, Nafees Ahmed, described how former minister Bharosilal Jatav’s home was attacked on consecutive two days April 2 and 3, despite police presence.

Tags: bharat bandh, dalit, lok sabha elections 2019