Reser­va­tion should be ex­tended to the up­per castes too: Athawale

Union Min­is­ter Ramdas Athawale makes a case for an ad­di­tional quota for the eco­nom­i­cally back­ward among the for­ward castes

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Sob­hana K. Nair

Union Min­is­ter Ramdas Athawale of the Repub­li­can Party of In­dia, an NDA ally, re­cently an­nounced that he would move the Supreme Court against the Union gov­ern­ment’s di­rec­tive to the me­dia dis­cour­ag­ing the use of the word “Dalit” for the Sched­uled Castes. He says there is no pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment against the us­age of the word, and shares his views on reser­va­tion poli­cies, the ar­rest of civil rights ac­tivists and the 2019 elec­tion.

What are your rea­sons to protest against the gov­ern­ment di­rec­tive to stop use of the word “Dalit” in the me­dia?

Dalit is the key word that unites the Sched­uled Castes across the coun­try. It is not an in­sult. It is not the same as Har­i­jan, an ep­i­thet used by Ma­hatma Gandhi for our com­mu­nity.

Many had then felt that Har­i­jan brack­eted them as in­fe­rior. There is no such pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment against the us­age of Dalit. Marathas, Ka­pus and many other for­ward caste com­mu­ni­ties have been de­mand­ing reser­va­tion. Should up­per castes also get reser­va­tion?

Yes. They may be­long to the up­per caste but need not be eco­nom­i­cally well off. There are very valid rea­sons why the de­mand for reser­va­tion is get­ting louder.

In my opin­ion, one of the big­gest rea­sons for atroc­i­ties against Dal­its is the up­per caste re­sent­ment against reser­va­tion.

A for­mula should be worked out in a way that the present reser­va­tion pol­icy is left undis­turbed. Ad­di­tional quota for the eco­nom­i­cally back­ward among the up­per castes should be cre­ated. What is your opin­ion on the re­cent ar­rests and raids by the Pune po­lice in con­nec­tion with the El­gaar Par­ishad case?

The po­lice felt that El­gaar Par­ishad may have been par­tially funded by Nax­alites. I be­lieve that the po­lice ar­rests are right. Those who have been ar­rested have di­rect or in­di­rect con­nec­tion with Maoists. The po­lice have ev­i­dence to sup­port this claim.

The po­lice have not ar­rested the other hun­dreds of peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the El­gaar Par­ishad. If th­ese ac­tivists want to be Ambed­karites, they need to forgo Mao­ism and Nax­al­ism. It is al­leged that the Ma­ha­rash­tra po­lice are shield­ing Samb­haji Bhide and Milind Ek­bote for their role in the Bhima-Kore­gaon vi­o­lence. Your com­ments?

Nei­ther Bhide nor Ek­bote is big­ger than the law. If there is ev­i­dence against them, they will be pun­ished. Af­ter this con­tro­versy, Bhide has sud­denly gained too much im­por­tance.

Now me­dia trails him ev­ery­where he goes. This is prompt­ing him to make warped state­ments such as the Manusm­riti is big­ger than the Con­sti­tu­tion. The po­lice must act against him. I am with the gov­ern­ment; at the same time, I can’t ig­nore the larger sen­ti­ments of my com­mu­nity.

One of the big­gest rea­sons for atroc­i­ties against Dal­its is the re­sent­ment against reser­va­tion

You had re­cently asked Mayawati to join the NDA. What are your rea­sons?

Didn’t Mayawatiji feel that the BJP was Manu­vaadi when she formed the gov­ern­ment with their help thrice in Ut­tar Pradesh? I firmly be­lieve that if she wants to work for Dal­its, she should join hands with the NDA.

There is no point op­pos­ing the gov­ern­ment. All three of us to­gether, Mayawatiji, Ramvi­lasji [Paswan] and me, can make sure that the Dalit agenda is im­ple­mented. The Sa­ma­jwadi Party was her big­gest en­emy; so why ally with them now? If the BSP in­deed wants an al­liance, then it should join the NDA. How do you think the NDA gov­ern­ment will fare in the 2019 elec­tion, es­pe­cially in view of the U.P. Ma­ha­gat­band­han [grand al­liance]?

No other gov­ern­ment has done as much as the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment. Rahul Gandhi is no match to Naren­dra Modi and will not be able to unite the Op­po­si­tion. I be­lieve that BJP will cross 300 seats in 2019. As far as U.P.’s

Ma­ha­gat­band­han is con­cerned, I be­lieve that af­ter years of ri­valry, SP-BSP cadres will find it dif­fi­cult to work to­gether. And peo­ple will unite be­hind the BJP be­cause it is now Modi vs all. I think, the so-called Op­po­si­tion unity will re­duce the vic­tory mar­gins of BJP MPs but they will gain more seats.

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