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Dalits are replying to attacks, says Minister

The dalit leader admitted that atrocities on the Dalits were taking place but claimed it was not happening everywhere.

Union MoS Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale addresses at the Global Seminar on Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Constitutionalism, on the occasion of 66th D. Litt day celebration of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in commemoration of Centenary Celebration of Osmania University in Hyderabad on Jan 11, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

Union Minister of State Ramdas Athawale on Thursday said that Dalits were "replying" to attacks on them.

"You attack, we reply. You attack, we reply," the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment said at a seminar on 'Ambedkar and Constitutionalism' at the Osmania University here.

He was referring to attacks on Dalits in Pune while they were celebrating 200 years of the victory of British troops over Peshwa Bajirao II's Army in Koregaon-Bhima near Pune.

"Some people attacked our community. We also replied. Sometimes, they are attacking but we are also replying," he said while clarifying that the Dalits were not attacking anyone.

Later, addressing a news conference, the Republican Party of India leader alleged that some Maratha organisations carried out a "planned attack" on Dalits in Maharashtra. He said the next day the entire Dalit community took to the streets to protest.

"We don't attack because we are in a minority. But if the attacks continue, should we only get beaten?" he asked.

The Minister said the Ambedkar movement brought enlightenment and that the Dalits were taught not to commit atrocities on anybody but should reply if somebody commits atrocities on them.

"We don't want to quarrel with anybody. If you want to fight, go to the border and fight against Pakistan. Why do you want to fight your own countrymen?" he asked.

The RPI leader admitted that atrocities on the Dalits were taking place but claimed it was not happening everywhere.

He said his party was supporting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre because the "Modi government believes, respects, and follows the Indian Constitution and Ambedkar's philosophy".

Athawale said Modi told Parliament that the Constitution is the 'dharma granth' (sacred book) for him and that he became the Prime Minister because of the Constitution.

"The Bharatiya Janata Party may have a different philosophy but Modi, who is an Other Backward Class (OBC) leader from Gujarat, believes in and follows the Constitution," he said.

Athawala said that those who do not believe in the Indian Constitution should leave the country.

He rejected the demands to repeal The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, but said suggestions to amend the Act to prevent misuse could be considered.

He did not agree that more atrocities were taking place on Dalits under the BJP-led government's rule. "Every year, 42,000 to 43,000 cases are recorded in the country, whether it is the Congress government or a non-Congress government."

The Minister also condemned the atrocities perpetrated in the name of cow protection. "You protect cows, but who will protect human beings?" he asked.

Athawale said if the Dalits were selling skin of dead cow or other cattle for their livelihood, some people were doing politics over it and accusing them of killing cows.

The RPI leader said while the Dalits and Muslims should unite, they should also carry Hindus and others along. He feels that Dalit-Muslim unity against Hindus would only harm the interests of both the communities.

He alleged that Dalit leader from Gujarat Jignesh Mewani, through his provocative speeches, was putting the Dalits in danger.


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