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Speaking at a function in Hyderabad on Sunday, Narendra Modi said, ‘If you have to attack, attack me, but stop attacking my Dalit bretheren.’  Photo: PTI
Speaking at a function in Hyderabad on Sunday, Narendra Modi said, ‘If you have to attack, attack me, but stop attacking my Dalit bretheren.’ Photo: PTI

Narendra Modi leads campaign to woo Dalits

RSS lines up behind Narendra Modi, cautions cow vigilantes even as BJP seeks to regain lost ground with the Dalit community

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the fightback of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to regain lost ground with the Dalit community following missteps by fringe saffron groups.

After condemning the gau rakshak groups on Saturday, the following day, while addressing a public rally in Hyderabad, Modi sent out a strong warning to groups attacking Dalits. “If you have to attack, attack me, but stop attacking my Dalit brethren."

On Monday, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, lined up behind the Prime Minister and cautioned self-styled cow protection vigilantes. Senior RSS leaders also urged state governments to act against individuals and groups.

“We urge all the communities in the country to maintain peace and social harmony. People should be careful of individuals and groups who are trying to disturb social harmony. We hope the administration will act against these people and not allow them to break the law," RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi said.

The RSS had earlier started a nationwide campaign to end caste discrimination and help Dalits get equal rights in the country.

The Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has tried to reach out to the Dalit community through flagship programmes of Stand-Up India, providing soft loans to financially weaker sections to foster entrepreneurship.

“I would like to tell these people (anti-social elements) that if you have any problem, if you have to attack, attack me. Stop attacking my Dalit brethren. If you have to shoot, shoot me, but not my Dalit brothers. This game should stop," Modi said.

ALSO READ | Attack me if you want but not Dalits: Narendra Modi

Modi’s choice of Hyderabad to send a message to Dalits is no coincidence. The BJP leadership had come under attack from all political parties after Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide in January following alleged persecution by authorities at Hyderabad University.

“It should be our responsibility to save and respect Dalits," Modi said.

“I know this problem is social. It is a result of sins which have crept into the society... But we need to take extra care and save society from such danger," the Prime Minister added.

During his address in Hyderabad, Modi also appealed for the safety of the Dalit community.

“Those who want to solve this social problem, I request them to leave politics that divides society. Divisive politics will not do any good to the country," Modi said.

The BJP is making efforts to woo the Dalit community ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Gujarat in the next 18 months.

On Saturday, too, Modi had asked state governments to act against self-styled cow protectors who have carried out attacks on the Dalit community in the name of protecting cattle.

“I feel very angry...some people have opened shops in the name of cow protection. Some people indulge in anti-social activities at night and become gau rakshaks (protectors of cows) during the day. State governments should act against such people," said Modi at the town-hall event at the Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex in Delhi on Saturday.

Modi said that the biggest service towards cows would be if people stop throwing plastic bags on roads. “Many cows die from eating plastic bags thrown on roads. The biggest service for cow protection would be if these people try to convince people not to throw plastic on the roads," the Prime Minister said.

In the past 20 days of the monsoon session, the NDA has been repeatedly cornered by opposition parties over incidents of atrocities against Dalits, and both Houses of Parliament also discussed issues related to atrocities against Dalits.

The most recent incident of violence by self-styled cow protectors was reported from Una, Gujarat, where a group of Dalits was beaten up for skinning the carcass of a cow.

During his last Mann Ki Baat radio programme aired 31 July, Modi had said that equality and equal opportunity can be the biggest guiding principle for any society and government.

Political analysts welcomed the Prime Minister’s intervention.

“Where is the issue? Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister and there is no reason why his directives will not be followed. The Prime Minister has to look sincere in his efforts to act against these self-styled cow vigilantes. These people are goons and the government should act against them, irrespective of their affiliation to any group or organization," said Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst.

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