BJP leader sacked over sex­ist slur on Mayawati

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Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers shouted slo­gans and dis­rupted par­lia­ment re­peat­edly on Wed­nes­day, ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of do­ing lit­tle to pro­tect Dal­its af­ter four mem­bers of the com­mu­nity were thrashed for skin­ning a dead cow in Gu­jarat.

Last week’s beat­ings by self­styled cow pro­tec­tors have sparked the most se­ri­ous protests by Dal­its in Gu­jarat, pos­ing a po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge to Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s party ahead of a string of elec­tions in states where the com­mu­nity ac­counts for a sub­stan­tial size of votes.

The attack’s fall­out con­tin­ued to re­ver­ber­ate in Gu­jarat, where a strike called by Dalit groups on Wed­nes­day evoked over­whelm­ing re­sponse in Saurash­tra and north Gu­jarat.

In Delhi, Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi led the op­po­si­tion charge, ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of “snatch­ing the rights” of Dal­its, many of who earn a liveli­hood by skin­ning an­i­mals that die nat­u­rally.

“The re­cent shock­ing in­ci­dent in Gu­jarat… is just one ex­am­ple of the so­cial ter­ror the gov­ern­ment con­dones,” Gandhi said, ad­dress­ing party law­mak­ers.

But home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh sought to douse the po­lit­i­cal fire, call­ing the July 11 Dalit beat­ings as “un­for­tu­nate” and a “so­cial evil”. “The prime min­is­ter was sad and hurt (about the Gu­jarat in­ci­dent),” Singh told Mem­bers of the Dalit com­mu­nity lead a protest march in Ahmed­abad, Gu­jarat, on Wed­nes­day. Par­lia­ment. Op­po­si­tion par­ties, how­ever, com­peted to take credit for cham­pi­oning the cause of the Dalit, who ac­count for 32% and 21% of the pop­u­la­tion in po­lit­i­cally cru­cial states as Pun­jab and Ut­tar Pradesh. The BJP has been try­ing to reach out to the com­mu­nity as part of its ef­forts to ex­pand its sup­port base be­yond up­per caste vot­ers.

Vi­o­lence against Dal­its is not un­usual in many parts of In­dia, and the Gu­jarat in­ci­dent has given op­po­si­tion par­ties a po­tent weapon to attack the BJP-led cen­tral gov­ern­ment, which has been strug­gling to tackle weeks of vi­o­lent street protests in Kash­mir.

The BJP’s vice-pres­i­dent in UP was re­moved from all party posts and ex­pelled for six years on Wed­nes­day for com­par­ing Dalit leader and four-time CM Mayawati to a pros­ti­tute, a re­mark that trig­gered po­lit­i­cal out­rage and a de­mand for his ar­rest. Daya Shankar Singh, an up­per-caste Thakur, called the BSP chief a “vaishya” for al­legedly sell­ing party tick­ets to as­pir­ing can­di­dates for next year’s state polls. For her part, Mayawati de­manded Singh’s ar­rest. “Other­wise, if in re­sponse to this, peo­ple get vi­o­lent, it will not be on my con­science,” she said in the Ra­jya Sabha.

Seven peo­ple were ar­rested for the mur­der of a 16-year-old Dalit boy, al­legedly by the fam­ily of a girl from his neigh­bour­hood.

The po­lice said the boy had been in a re­la­tion­ship with the 17-year-old girl, but her fam­ily did not ap­prove. The girl’s broth­ers had ear­lier threat­ened the boy and his fam­ily a few times, which they had re­ported to the po­lice.

The seven peo­ple ar­rested are the girl’s fa­ther Ra­jen­dra Naik, 50; mother Malti Naik, 43; broth­ers Sa­gar Naik, 25, and Sa­jesh Naik, 21; Durgesh Patil, 22, Asish Thakur, 23; and Sameer Shaikh, 23.

AP PHOTO

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