Hyderabad/Gajwel (Telangana): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday came down heavily on the perpetrators of violence on Dalits, telling them, “if you have to attack, attack me" but stop attacking “my Dalit bretheren".

Facing increasingly bruising opposition assault on him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over attacks on Dalits and on the issue of cow vigilantes, Modi also lashed out at “fake cow protectors", denouncing them for the second day running for trying to create “tension and conflict" in the society and asking the states to take stringent action against them.

Making an emotional appeal at a meeting of BJP workers in Hyderabad, Modi asked people to protect and respect Dalits, who have for long been neglected by the society. Questioned repeatedly over his “silence" on the sensitive issue of attacks on Dalits by alleged Hindu right-wingers, Modi said, “I would like to tell these people that if you have any problem, if you have 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’s choice of Hyderabad to denounce the attacks on Dalits was significant as his government had come under opposition fire following the suicide by Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula in the city, which had triggered campus unrest in several parts of the country.

“It should be our responsibility to save and respect them (Dalits)," Modi said without referring to any particular incident.

Modi asked what right the perpetrators had to exploit Dalits and said the unity in society should be our priority. “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 (of social strife)," he said.

Modi said society should not be allowed to be divided on the basis of caste, religion and social status. Deprecating those who try to make political currency out of such issues, he said attempts to politicize those would only aggravate the problem. “Those who want to solve this social problem, I request them to leave politics that divides the society. Divisive politics will not do any good to the country," he said.

Earlier in the day Modi took on cow vigilantes at a public meeting in Gajwel in Telangana after laying the foundation stones for several development projects. “I want to tell everybody beware of these fake cow protectors. These handful of vigilantes have nothing to do with cow protection, but want to create ‘tanaav’ (tension) and ‘takrav’ (conflict) in the society," Modi said.

“In the name of cow protection, these fake cow protectors are trying to disturb the peace and harmony of the nation. I want the real cow protectors to expose them (fake ones) and the state governments should take stringent action against them," he added. Modi on Saturday said in Delhi he felt enraged at such “anti-social elements," who indulged in crimes by the night and masqueraded as cow protectors by the day.

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