MUMBAI: Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale has said he will meet the family of the Hathras rape-murder victim on October 3 “if the police allow me”. “I have already put up my request with the state government,” he said. Athawale said opposition parties should not politicise the incident, though they have the right to protest and visit the victim’s family.
The Opposition had hit out at the minister for taking actor Payal Ghosh, who has accused filmmaker Anurag Kashyap of sexual harassment, to the Maharashtra Governor while not saying a word on the Hathras rape victim. Athawale told this paper on Thursday that crimes against women, particularly Dalits, have increased. “But I think this is more of a social problem. Dalits have become more assertive about their rights due to education and prosperity. Therefore, clashes between them and the upper castes have increased more in rural areas than in cities,” Athawale said.
He said UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath was his friend who would do everything to stop such crimes. “I feel sorry for the Hathras girl and her family. I condemn the incident,” said Athawale. He said he appreciated the state government’s initiative to probe the case through a SIT. “Many people are demanding a CBI investigation, but the police have already arrested the accused. So, there is no point in handing over the case to the CBI,” said Athawale.
He said social activists and NGOs should come forward to bridge the social gap between the upper caste and Dalits. “I am also a Dalit, but got married to a Brahmin. The family of my spouse visits my place and does not treat me like a Dalit. The same should happen to everyone. We need more marriages between Dalits and Brahmin and upper caste people. The caste system should be abolished. Society as a whole should take such reformative initiative,” said the minister.
Athwale narrated an incident in Dr BR Ambedkar’s life. “During Chavdar lake protest, the Dalits were angry with the upper caste people for refusing to allow them water from the lake. But Dr Ambedkar persuaded the Dalits to take help of good people among the upper castes to end the enmity. So, social reforms are needed to change the mindset,” he said.