NEW DELHI: Opposition members in Lok Sabha today took the government to task over its "failure" to check rising cases of atrocities against Dalits, with some members seeking a ban on 'right-wing' cow vigilante outfits saying the SCs and STs were living in "deep sense of fear".
Participating in a debate on attacks on dalits, the members focussed on the poor conditions of these downtrodden sections across the country, with K H Muniyappa (Cong) alleging that in Gujarat, the attacks on them have a reached "a level never seen in history".
Initiating a debate on the issue, P K Biju (CPI-M) spoke about the overall poor conditions of Dalits and cited figures to argue that they were denied equal rights despite the Constitution promising all citizens same rights.
Every day, three Dalit women are raped and every 18 minutes a crime against Dalits occur, he said, adding that over 37.8 per cent of students from the community sit separately in government schools while over 24.5 per cent of them are not allowed to enter police stations.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement against cow vigilante groups, Biju demanded action against these outfits and not remain confined to words alone. "If you have got such a feedback (about attacks on Dalits by the cow protection groups), then why should you not stop such atrocities? We would like him to take strong measures," the CPI(M) member said.
Observing that he had visited Una in Gujarat where some Dalits were flogged for skinning a cow, he said "ban it (cow vigilantes) throughout the country" and also sought measures to fill up vacancies of posts reserved for Dalits.
Muniyappa said "dalits are living in the grip of deep sense of fear and insecurity. They had faith in Congress to protect them but have no faith in BJP. ... There was no protection needed for SCs and STs earlier. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was there, such incidents never happened."
He said quality education will bring SCs and STs to the mainstream and asked the government to open Navodaya Schools for them. Muniyappa also raked up Union Minister V K Singh's alleged dog analogy in a case involving Dalits and questioned why he was still in the government.
Referring to cases of atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat, he said over 14,500 such cases have occured there so far since Modi had taken over as the Chief Minister and added that the conviction rate was only 3-5 per cent. "This never happened in history," he said. Muniyappa and Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) sparred for a while when the Congress leader targeted the BJD government in Odisha over the recent killing of tribals in Kandhamal.
Defending his party, BJP's Udit Raj said no one but the system was responsible for the atrocities on Dalits. "People are encouraged (to attack dalits) as cases remain pending in courts for years on," he said, adding that the debate should not get entangled in a war between BJP and Congress or BJD.
He used the opportunity to attack BSP chief Mayawati saying under her rule several attacks took place against the community and her government did little to defend reservation in promotion policy in the Allahabad High Court. He also said the conviction rate under the Prevention of Atrocities Act varies from 2-8 per cent which was very poor.
Raj also took on the AAP government in Delhi saying it has not set up a vigilance committee to assess the progress made in cases relating to atrocities on dalits. Saugata Roy (TMC) asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh to ban VHP and 'gau raksha dals' saying in the name of cow protection, they were targeting dalits and Muslims.
Taking potshots at BJP, he also questioned why the Prime Minister had only referred to Dalits in his recent statements and made no mention of Muslims. He said it took Modi 26 days to speak out against dalit atrocities after the Una incident.
"Enough with Hindutva. You have come to power. Now is the time to wipe the tears of Dalits," he said amid protests by BJP members who questioned why the TMC member named VHP and RSS in his statement. Roy said while Modi has become the Prime Minister and was holding a responsible position, his followers were indulging in cow vigilanteism. He also questioned the "time lapse of nine days" by then Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in visiting Una after Dalits were beaten up there by the so-called cow vigilantes.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) said the conflict was growing among dalit community and the society cannot be brought together by force. "Conflict is growing as dalits demand for justice. Constitution provides for equality but the society does not accept it," Mahtab said, adding that atrocities against dalits have been growing day by day in last 10 years.
No political party has taken upon themselves to bind the society together and a number of parties are surviving by dividing the society either on the basis of society or caste, Mahtab said.