MHOW: Reaching out to Dalits from the birth place of B R Ambedkar, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today opened another front against the Narendra Modi government accusing it of trying to "silence" a student group of IIT-Madras for being critical of the Prime Minister.
However, BJP retorted saying the Congress has "historically disrespected" Ambedkar and members of his community and has treated them "only as a vote bank". Launching the 125th anniversary celebrations of Ambedkar by his party, a combative Rahul called on the people to come forward to pull down the walls that prevented from fulfilling the mission of Babasaheb, who stood and fought for the rights of the depressed classes and a society free of caste discrimination. Criticising the "ideologies that divide people on the line of caste", Rahul said centralisation of power strengthens casteism.
"Centralisation of power strengthens casteism. While its decentralisation weakens the caste system. Even Ambedkarji had stated so," he said. Stating that the country is not still free of casteism, Rahul appealed to the youth to not remain quiet against the social menace, which denied the rights of some sections. "In the name of caste and religion even now the people are differentiated as some people don't want to give equal rights to them," he said while addressing a really here.
Seeking to strike a rapport with Dalits, who form a major segment of the Congress in the past, Rahul began his address by saluting the gathering with "Jai Bhim". On the controversy over derecognition of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras, he said, "the voice of some people is simply being muzzled" as they are associated with the ideologies of reformers like Ambedkar and Periyar. The student group has been critical of the Prime Minister and Centre's policies.
"This system explicitly explains that even today some peoples' rights are being snatched. It also stated that there is no social equality in the country," he added. Rahul also mentioned Mumbai youth Zeeshan Ali, who was denied job by a private firm because of his religion, to underline "social inequality".
However, BJP hit back instantly accusing the Congress of "historically disrespecting" Ambedkar, his followers and also the memorials associated with the Dalit leader. "(In contrast) BJP has taken a number of solid steps for their (Dalits) welfare and conservation," Madhya Pradesh General Administration Minister Lal Singh Arya told reporters in Bhopal.
He said Congress has always considered Dalits as its vote bank. "...But the party was reduced to just 44 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections," Arya said, adding that Congress is attempting to "mislead" Dalits as it wants to regain their support.