On Sunday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha member Udit Raj joined the ever lengthening list of party’s Dalit MPs to go public with their unhappiness at the manner in which the BJP governments at the Centre and in states have handled Dalit-related issues.
Raj, an MP from the North West Delhi constituency, tweeted late Saturday night that “reports are pouring that those Dalits who participated in the April 2 agitation are being tortured. “And it must be stopped,” Raj, who joined the BJP weeks before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, said.
Several Dalit MPs, including union social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, had expressed concern after the Supreme Court order on March 20 that is seen to have 'diluted' the SC/ST prevention of atrocities law. They had appealed to the PM that the government file a review petition in the Supreme Court.
Since then, some of them have either given vent to their anger by writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, or gone public. Apart from Raj, Bahraich MP Savitri Bai Phule has addressed public meetings to say that she couldn’t care less if a party ticket was denied to her in 2019, but would fight any effort to end reservations or amend the Constitution.
Nageen MP Yashwant Singh, Robertsganj's Chhote Lal Kharwar and Etawah MP Ashok Kumar Doharey have written to the PM. In his letter, Kharwar said Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath was “casteist”. Singh, in his letter to the PM, said the Modi government has done nothing for Dalits in the last four years.
After the April 2 protests, Doharey also wrote to the PM to complain that Dalits were being harassed and implicated in false cases. Now, Raj has joined Doharey in flagging the issue of Dalits being tortured at a “large scale” after the April 2 countrywide agitation.
Raj tweeted that people from Barmer, Jalore, Jaipur, Gwalior, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Karoli and other parts of the country are calling up to inform that not only anti-reservationists, but police are also beating up and slapping false cases against those who participated in the April 2 ‘Bharat Bandh’. The former revenue service officer said a Gwalior based worker of his is being tortured when he has not done anything wrong.
On Sunday, however, Raj tried to limit the damage. “My tweets are being misconstrued that these are harming the BJP. Rather the tweets strengthen (the party), and that there are people like me in BJP who are concerned with Dalit atrocities after the April 2 agitation. This will convince Dalits and they will remain with the party. The government will check anti-Dalit officers/people,” Raj said.
The BJP won all the 17 Scheduled Caste reserved seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 Lok Sabha. Several of its Dalit MPs had been imported from other parties. However, they are concerned with the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party planning to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha together.
In Mumbai on Friday, BJP chief Amit Shah tried to dispel “propaganda” that the Modi government might end reservation. Next week, the BJP has planned a sustained Dalit outreach. On April 11, it will celebrate the birth anniversary of Dalit icon Jyotiba Phule. On April 13, the PM will inaugurate a memorial to BR Ambedkar in Delhi, and on April 14, Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, BJP workers have been asked to spend the night at the house of a Dalit in 20,000 villages.
But the murmurings are likely to reach a crescendo among the party’s Dalit MPs in the coming weeks.