Athawale to RSTV: BJP must control ‘Gau Raksha Samitis’

Neelu Vyas

At a time when Dalit atrocities are in focus and BJP government is on the backfoot for remaining silent on the cow vigilante groups, the newly inducted Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, who is also a prominent Dalit leader from Maharashtra, has asked BJP to control the ‘Gau Raksha Samitis’.

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Athawale admits that BJP’s image has taken a beating in the wake of such attacks. Athawale also vows to recapture the land of Uttar Pradesh when he starts campaigning for the 2017 polls. He’s claimed that if NDA comes to power in UP, the post of Deputy CM will go to someone from his party.

The RPI leader said that he will spread the word of Babasaheb Ambedkar in every village of Uttar Pradesh. He even took a dig at BSP supremo Mayawati asking her to convert to Buddhism rather than attacking BJP and Prime Minister Modi.

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

It seems that BJP is running no other campaign in the country except for cow protection?

Modiji is running many campaigns but as far as cow protection is concerned it has legal backing.

But the way cow vigilante groups have overtaken the political narrative of the country, unleashing atrocities on Dalits, can you assure that these things won’t happen again?

Atrocities on Dalits is a social issue. The UPA regime too witnessed major atrocities on Dalits. Opposition must raise Dalit issues in Parliament.

The Vajpayee regime was fair to the Dalit bureaucracy. Such incidents will not happen again India is dominated by the caste system. I assure that I will seek cordial ties between Dalits and Upper castes.

It seems BJP has not learnt its lessons? First it was Dadri, then Rohit Vemula and now again a pattern of attacks on Dalits. Don’t you think BJP is deliberately antagonising Dalits?

BJP and RPI both condemned Rohit Vemula’s death. 9 students also committed suicide during the Congress rule. I supported BJP because of Congress misrule.

One must not see BJP as anti-Dalit party. All parties stand against atrocities on Dalits. BJP must punish the culprits. Who will protect the people if everyone starts protecting cows. There should be collective efforts to stop atrocities on Dalits which are based on casteism.

RPI leader speaking exclusively to Rajya Sabha TV's Neelu Vyas.

RPI leader speaking exclusively to Rajya Sabha TV’s Neelu Vyas.

Will you and your party not have a problem with RSS as it is seen as an anti-Dalit and casteist? Won’t BJP do what the RSS says?

RSS and BJP practice separate ideologies. RSS agenda is not against reservation. According to my view, reservation should be given to non SC/ST communities. RPI has always supported Ambedkar’s agenda.

People like Mayawati are also fighting caste oppression but she does not seem to be convinced by you. She says you are venal and slave minded.

I am not a slave of the BJP. Mayawati became UP CM thrice because of BJP. Mayawati encroached RPI’s turf in Uttar Pradesh. There will be a Deputy Chief Minister from RPI, if NDA comes to power in UP polls.

Does this mean that you will be a star campaigner for BJP for Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections?

I don’t know if I’ll be a star campaigner but I’ll definitely go to reclaim my old land and also spread the ideology of Babasaheb Ambdedkar.

Mayawati has been Chief Minister thrice. Will the people of Uttar Pradesh take you seriously when leaders like Mayawati will also be in the fray?

Of course! I will show to the people of Uttar Pradesh what difference the schemes of PM Modi has made to their lives. But BJP must control ‘Gau Rakhsha Samitis’. Even though there is a cow protection law there is a need to regulate the samitis that are running unregulated. Government must follow Ambedkar’s vision.