July 24, 2016

BJP Hypocrisy about Dalits Unmasked

THE Una incident in Gujarat where seven dalit men were attacked and of whom four were stripped, badly beaten and paraded in the town is the latest dalit atrocity which has come to nationwide attention. That this has occurred in Gujarat is significant. The Hindutva campaign against cow slaughter and the targeting of Muslims and dalits in this connection is being conducted all over the country but it has been virulent in this bastion of the BJP. The four men who were assaulted had gone to skin a dead cow at the behest of its owner, a farmer. They belong to a community which traded in leather. Those who set upon them are reported to be members of a “cow protection committee”. This attack is reminiscent of the barbaric lynching of five dalit men in Jhajjar in Haryana in 2012. That attack was instigated by some Vishwa Hindu Parishad men. Attacks on Muslims and dalits who are engaged in the trading of cattle and leather have taken place in various places around the country in the recent months. Cow protection committees have sprung up which conduct vigilante actions against Muslims and dalits. The infamous Dadri incident which led to the killing of Akhlaq and the killing and hanging of two cattle traders in Jharkhand are two recent shocking examples. The Una incident has exposed the carefully constructed “dalit prem” of the BJP-RSS combine. The BJP Central government had made a big show of observing the 125th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar. At the same time, the BJP government in Maharashtra has presided over the demolition of the historic building which had housed the office of Dr Ambedkar in Dadar, Mumbai. The outburst of protests by dalits all over Gujarat is an expression of the pent up anger at the oppression of dalits in the state under BJP rule. The fact that over 20 dalits have tried to commit suicide during the protests shows the depth of frustration in the dalit community. However, it is heartening that dalits are protesting vehemently and sending a message that they will not tolerate such atrocities. In many places in Saurashtra, dalits have refused to clear the carcasses of dead cows stating that let the cow protectors lift the dead cows. This has effectively exposed the gau rakshaks who will not touch a dead cow. The democratic forces all over the country should stand by their courageous struggle. It is not enough for the state government to arrest the culprits involved in the Una outrage. It must act to disband the cow protection committees and crack down on the rabid communal outfits which are purveying anti-dalit and anti-Muslim sentiments. (July 20, 2016)