Monday, 1 February 2016

BJP doesn't instil fear in Dalits to get their votes: Sudhanshu Trivedi

Sudhanshu Trivedi, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and an emerging ideologue of the party, tells Archis Mohan how certain groups have tried to exploit the tormented psyche of Dalit students like Rohith Vemula to turn them to anti-national causes. On the Ram Janmabhoomi case, Trivedi is confident the verdict will be in favour of those who wish to see a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.

What is your assessment of the events that led to the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula and the protests in its aftermath?

Rohith Vemula's suicide was unfortunate. But vital facts have been ignored. A concerted effort has been made to give the episode a political colour.

First, it is incorrect that a BJP MP forced the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) to take disciplinary action against members of the Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA), including Vemula. The fact is the HCU vice-chancellor was forced to take action under pressure from the court. This was after the mother of an injured Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student moved court, which sought an action-taken report from the university that couldn't furnish it.

Second, it is being said that an MP (Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya) put pressure on the HCU. Fact: Three Lok Sabha and two Rajya Sabha MPs are nominated to the HCU court. Isn't it natural for these five MPs, who are part of a university body, to be concerned about events at the university?

Third, Vemula hasn't blamed anyone in his suicide note. That is not important. His letter reflects his pain and loneliness and how he never found proper support in his harsh struggle. It is evident that he felt deeply hurt. Certain forces exploited his state of mind, and those of his colleagues who felt similarly, to spread anti-national propaganda.

Here, I would request all those who have criticised us to enlighten us how the hanging of (1993 Mumbai blasts convict) Yakub Memon and the protests in its wake have anything to do with the Dalit cause. Memon was convicted by the Supreme Court of treason and anti-national activities. Isn't supporting him anti-national?

But shouldn't universities allow students to agitate over socio-political issues they strongly feel about?

Yakub Memon was no victim of politics. He was convicted of treason after a due and long process of law. Even if I were to agree that protesting was their right, what about the rights of others to disagree with these students? Isn't it their right as well to mount a counter-protest? The right here is equal.

There is a sense, including among Dalit leaders in the BJP, that the government could have handled the issue sensitively....

This is just another way of denying the facts. The FIR on the case was lodged by the mother of the injured ABVP student in July 2015. There was no Dattatreya then. Neither the government nor any MP had put pressure on the university when the process had started.

The Congress and other political parties have politicised the issue along caste lines. They are maligning us because they are unnerved by our track record in according respect to Dalit political symbols and our efforts to promote Dalit socio-cultural empowerment.

The young student ended his suicide note with "Jai Bhim", that is, victory to Bhim Rao Ambedkar. In the current Lok Sabha, the BJP has the highest number of Dalit MPs. Has the Congress elected a Dalit as its party president in the last three or four decades? The BJP has.

Jawaharlal Nehru not only threw Ambedkar out of his cabinet but also campaigned to ensure his defeat in the Lok Sabha elections then. Congress governments were not the ones which honoured Ambedkar with a Bharat Ratna. Now, such people have taken to espousing the cause of Ambedkar.

It was the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh that built a memorial to Ambedkar at his birthplace in Mhow. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government built a memorial at Delhi's Alipur Road where Ambedkar had breathed his last. It is the Narendra Modi government that is commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar and also turning into a memorial the house in London where Ambedkar lived during his student days. If you remember, it was a Dalit by the name of Kameshwar Chaupal who laid the first stone of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi shilanyas.

Leftist and radical forces have traditionally supported the Dalit cause....
If you look at Vemula's suicide note, he had cut out some of what he had written. The police have deciphered it. It reflects Vemula's views on how Leftist forces, which claim to be supporters of the Dalit cause, use students like him for political purposes. They try to instigate Dalit students to get their support. Tell me what the condition of the Dalits was after 34 years of Left Front rule in West Bengal, or 15 years of Lalu Prasad's rule in Bihar? Please compare this with the record of our governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The Dalit cause is identified with that of other marginalised communities like the Christians and the Muslims.

The Madhya Pradesh government's Niyogi Commission report of 1955 revealed how some groups take advantage of the poverty and lack of education (of Dalits) to motivate them for religious conversions.

The BJP doesn't instil fear in the Dalits to get their votes; its opponents do. Take the example of the 1993 alliance in Uttar Pradesh between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). What was the fate of that government? They (the SP supporters) tried to kill (BSP President) Mayawati after having taken her support to form the government. It was the BJP that came to her rescue, despite knowing that the decision would cost it dear in the long term in UP.

There is some anger among BJP's core supporters that the party has forgotten its primary issues now that it has come to power at the Centre....

There are two aspects to this: factual and emotional.

The factual aspect is that it was our government in UP in 1991 that acquired 67 acres around the 2.77 acres of the temple. The matter reached the courts after the demolition (of Babri Masjid). The Vajpayee government first tried to build consensus. An Ayodhya cell of the Prime Minister's Office was set up and intense negotiations took place. But consensus eluded us. In 2003, our government submitted excavation facts that became the basis of the judgement by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010. Now the matter is in the Supreme Court.

The three-judge bench of the 2010 judgement was unanimous that historical and archaeological evidence proves the sanctum sanctorum existed below the central dome of the mosque. Now the dispute is: Who will get possession of the land, which the high court divided into three parts? It could go to anyone, but what is settled is that the site is Ram Janmabhoomi. The facts are so clear that I am confident the decision will go in favour of Ram Janmabhoomi, as have court judgements consistently since 1949.

On the emotional side, the dispute here is about Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid, not any temple or mosque. Our opponents object to politics in the name of Ram, yet why are they comfortable with politics in the name of Babar in Hindustan?

The political vision and life of Mahatma Gandhi was devoted to Ram and Ram Rajya. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi started his election campaign from Ayodhya with the slogan of establishing Ram Rajya. Much changed in the subsequent years. On the issue of Ram Setu, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court in 2007 that Ram never existed. Even the British or Aurangzeb didn't deny the existence of Ram! What does it mean? Our stand didn't change over the years but theirs did.
This New is Originally Posted on Business Standard

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