The Bharat Bandh
organized by various organizations to express angst against the Supreme Court ruling on the SC/ST Act turned unexpectedly violent in many parts of the country, and exposed the forces trying to polarize and divide society in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Nine lives lost, highways blocked, vehicles and shops burnt and stoned, trains stopped - all for protesting a court order of which the centre has already sought a review.
Obviously, it is a manufactured violence whose goal goes beyond Dalit emancipation. The Opposition has supported the protest, didn't condemn the violence and seems to have extended cadre support to make the protest more macabre.
The Dalits were protesting against a Supreme Court order, which they say dilutes a law meant to protect the community
It is tragic that it is the Dalit cause that is getting damaged because of over-zealous political outfits who unleashed hooligans and lumpen elements to create nationwide mayhem in the name of Dalit rights and a deliberately-narrated grievance psychosis. The central government moved fast in appealing in the apex court against the SC-ST Act ruling and making it clear that at any cost it will protect Dalit rights and no dilution in the Act will be allowed to happen. The issue is essentially legal and it has to be dealt at that level. Fortunately for the country, there is great political and social unity of views when it comes to Dalit right. The country is largely united on and Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to empowering poorer segments of society. Hence, provoking hatred and strife is part of a political design. Of late, there has been an orchestration of Dalit Muslim unity with an eye on separating Dalits from the Hindu fold. This articulation was echoed in the wake of unjustified violence during the protest.
Protests that swept north India cost at least nine lives
No party is opposed to reservation for SCs and STs. There is a national consensus as far as their rights and special privileges are concerned. The Narendra Modi government has been particularly proactive about not only protecting but earnestly trying to promote and build a social empowerment narrative around BR Ambedkar's philosophy. It is a fact that the massive Dalit support that Modi received in northern states like UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Jharkhand led to the BJP's big win in 2014. This totally finished Mayawati's BSP, which so far claimed to represent Dalit aspirations. The BSP is back to its early 90s stage and that is why it has found common cause with Samajwadis; otherwise, they are always daggers drawn at each other.
The violence that doused so many lives and caused huge loss to private and public property during yesterday's bandh
has to be seen in this light. Already, reports are out that Mayawati's party incited violence and rapine in areas of its influence. Seven states and several cities in them witnessed large-scale arson and hooliganism. Several of them are remarkable for a considerable BSP presence for many years.
Violence was also reported from parts of Punjab and Jharkhand
The parties who came out openly in the wake of bandh
-related hooliganism as expressions of Dalit frustration have all been for the last few years at the forefront in opposing the BJP and trying to brand it anti-Dalit. So what is the real story behind yesterday's violence? Clearly, there was a political ploy to use Dalit protests as a pawn to consolidate and polarize Dalits against the BJP. The game had begun in right earnest soon after the 2014 poll. We witnessed this earlier in Hyderabad University when a student committed suicide; then there were efforts to replicate accusations against the central government at JNU, then at Jadavpur in Bengal and then Gujarat before the state assembly polls. Everywhere, the protagonists tried to build a narrative to paint the central government as the villain of the piece. The plot did not click. But the same faces and voices are out again with the story of Dalit angst against centre. Here again, there is no justification for violence. The centre has already filed a review petition in the Supreme Court asking clearly for the restoration of all clauses of the Act with retrospective effect. So there was no issue. Still, the harangue of the opposition is on very familiar lines. That the Modi government is anti-Dalit, anti-farmer, anti-student. For heaven's sake, why would any government be against so many, especially these are the segments who solidly stood by the BJP during and after the election?
Train services were hit in parts of Bihar, Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan as protesters blocked railway tracks
In fact, it is this pandering to falsehood that is the biggest roadblock for the opposition. From intolerance to award-wapasi
to Dalit alienation, the script, direction and actors are the same beaten lot. Mayawati's huge disappointment is understandable. With no representation in parliament, her party has touched the nadir after the BJP which made her Chief Minister thrice emerged on the scene. She entered into an opportunistic alliance with the Samajwadi Party whose attack on her was prevented by the BJP leader Brahmdutt Dwivedi in the 90s. As the BJP gained by uniting Hindus above castes and region, the "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas"
commitment touched a raw nerve in every Indian's heart. The new strategy adopted by the opposition is to chip away at different caste groups to create a wedge in the social fabric. In the coming days, more such discrimination stories are bound to be fished out.
Including great Ambedkar memorials in Delhi, Mumbai and Satna, no other government has done so much to epitomize social justice to Ambedkarism. In the empowerment of the socially-deprived, poor and destitute, Modi's affirmative actions have won him a niche in the constituency. A slew of bogus allegations cannot take away the good work on the ground Modi has done for Dalits.
Five states witnessed violence as protesters tried to enforce the bandh
The idea of weaning away Dalits from Hindu society is as old as the British divide-and-rule policy but was resisted by Ambedkar by entering into a pact with Gandhiji
. The parties playing politics in the name of Ambedkar are trying to create a new separatist narrative. The Dalits at large are well aware of this nefarious game plan.(Dr R. Balashankar is Member, BJP Central Committee on Training, and Committee on Publications and former Convener BJP National Intellectual Cell and former Editor Organiser.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.