Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were recently seen on television, on their way to Hathras to politicise the unfortunate gang-rape of a young Dalit woman. History is, thankfully, immune to political manipulations and it is important for the people leading the Congress party to have a sense of it. Like being selectively vocal about atrocities, the party and its acolytes are also adept at selectively using and misusing history to advance their political interest.
The Hathras tragedy made Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi hit the streets, but what explains their silence on atrocities against the Dalits and minors in states where they have their own government? There have been serious crimes against the Dalits and minors in Baran and Alwar districts of Rajasthan, and Pune in Maharashtra. Are the Dalits in the Congress-ruled states lesser Dalits in the eyes of the party?
With almost three times the population of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh has done fairly well when it comes to restricting crime against women. According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2019 report, the highest number of rape cases were registered in Rajasthan (5,997), followed by Uttar Pradesh (3,065). Uttar Pradesh has been able to contain crime against women through stringent policing measures like the Anti-Romeo Squads. The suspension of SP, Hathras, only shows the commitment of the Yogi Adityanath government towards maintenance of law and order.
Congress anti-Dalit since Ambedkar days
Had the Congress done some elementary research, its leadership would have realised that it was their own party that bitterly fought and contested against Bhimrao Ambedkar in the first general elections, of 1952, and attempted to block the entry of the Dalit icon in Parliament. Also, had it not been for the insistence of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru would not have inducted Ambedkar in his cabinet. It is difficult to imagine what the plight of the Dalits and other socially marginalised communities would have been without Ambedkar being a Member of Parliament in India’s initial days of Independence. The gravitas, robustness and assertion that Ambedkar brought to the parliamentary discourse gave a sense of dignity to those who have been bereft of the structures of power, property and prestige since the conceivable past.
The (mis)treatment the Congress party gave to Jagjivan Ram — one of the tallest subaltern leaders of independent India — is also well known. The Congress ensures that a Dalit never reaches to the top, whether it is in the government or the organisational hierarchy. Jagjivan Ram led one of the most phenomenal military wars in India’s history — one that led to the creation of Bangladesh. His role as the Minister of Defense has been forgotten, thereby attributing complete credit to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Jagjivan Ram eventually had to break away and form the Congress for Democracy, and ultimately became the Deputy Prime Minister after the Emergency.
Not much has changed for the Congress party since the days of Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram. They still treat Dalits as a mere vote bank. Congress remained in power for so many decades, but the Dalits continue to lie at the bottom of the social pyramid, doing poorly on multiple indicators such as health and education. From the way the Congress treated its Karnataka Dalit MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy after the Bengaluru violence, to the allegations of grabbing land meant for construction of Dalit hostel in Mumbai, the list goes on.
Why justice will be done in UP
The Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted to examine the Hathras case, has a Dalit and a woman member. As someone who has been working for Dalit rights for the past many years, I am conscious of their representation and inclusion. It will exhibit a sense of comfort and belongingness in interacting with someone from a similar social origin who is very much conscious of the Dalit psyche. The top leadership of both the central and the state government are invested in this case, and justice will be done at all costs. But history will never forgive and forget the Gandhi family, who even at this difficult hour, chose to express its outrage selectively and sought political benefits out of a tragedy.
An atrocity remains an atrocity and a Dalit remains a Dalit—be it Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan. What we need is a sustainable solution. Creating division and manipulating social fault lines for the sake of politics is unacceptable, and the Dalits now realise this hypocrisy of the Congress party. While the BJP throughout its existence has believed in empowering the disempowered through effective representation in the organisation and the government, the Congress party has not moved a step beyond lip service in the name of social justice since the days of Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram.
Guru Prakash is national spokesperson of BJP. Views are personal.