Civil society activists, students and lawyers came together on Monday to condemn the “anti-dalit”, “anti-minority” actions of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and demanded the immediate release of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and reconstruction of Ravidas Temple in New Delhi’s Tughlaqabad.
At a press conference called by Bhim Army, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “The agenda of the anti-dalit BJP government is to reconstruct the structures of dalit oppressions similar to what was practised by the worshippers of Manusmriti in the bygone era.”
The press conference was called to protest the arrests of 96 dalit activists, including Azad, who were detained after violence broke out between dalit activists and police in the Capital on August 21. The dalit organisations had assembled in Ramlila Ground to carry out a massive protest against the demolition of the Ravidas Temple by the BJP – led Delhi Development Authority, which said it was following court orders.
In addition to this, “unlawful” cases were filed against over 750 people from the dalit community, including National General Secretary of Bhim Army, Kamal Singh Walia, in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur on September 10. The Bhim Army was protesting against the vandalism of a statue of Bhim Rao Ambedkar – the architect of the Indian Constitution – in Saharanpur district’s village, Ghunna.
Senior Advocate Mehmood Paracha, All India Students’ Association national president Sucheta De and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) President Aishe Ghosh among others criticised the targeting of Bhim Army leaders by the BJP government. As of now, Bhim Army’s three out of four top leaders – its chief, national president, and vice president – have been arrested.
Paracha, while addressing the media, spoke about the “blatant discrimination of Manuvadi forces, who are out in open trying to replace the Indian Constitution with the rule of Manusmriti,” against the minorities.
“The UP Police was asked to file FIR against the vandals of the Ambedkar’s statue under the SC/ST Act, however, it was diluted instead with the charges that does not include the caste factors that could have led to the demolition.” Paracha said, highlighting the “partisanship” of the UP police in filing an FIR in the Saharanpur incident.
He recalled the Delhi Police refusing to lodge a complaint against the members of Karni Sena who openly gave death threats to Chandrashekhar Azad and his family.
“Instead, Chandrashekhars’s brothers were accused of violence against the police, which is nothing but an attack on his family by the state,” he added.
Bhushan reiterated the arguments raised by Paracha against the BJP government which, according to him, has been carry forward its “anti-minority” agenda in the most “systematic manner”.
Speaking about how the ruling government had succeeded in depriving the Scheduled caste community of their rights, Sucheta De pointed out that it had all been done under the garb of following Supreme Court’s orders.
“This time, it is the demolition of the Ravidas Temple and earlier, it was the formulation of the 13-point roster in the universities through which the BJP government has attacked the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes,” she said.
Aishe Ghosh, extending JNUSU’s solidarity to the dalit struggle, spoke about numerous cases through which the reservation scheme in universities had been “scuttled” by the BJP government.
“Larger attacks have been inflicted on the dalit community in the recent past by the government which preaches Hindutva ideology,” Ghosh said.
The Indian Constitution is under threat by these “manuvadi” elements, she added.
Meanwhile, The Supreme Court, on Monday, referred the petition seeking reconstruction of Guru Ravidas Temple to the Chief Justice of India for passing appropriate orders, Live Law reported.
The writ petition has sought permission to reconstruct the temple, saying that “the temple was a site of historic and cultural significance for the followers of Guru Ravidas.”
Speaking to Newsclick, Paracha, who is also a member of Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission, welcomed the Supreme Court decision.