Ahead of polls, attacks on Dalits on the rise

Mumbai, Feb 25 : The recent attacks on Dalits and other backward classes (OBC) is being seen as an attempt by the dominant Maratha caste to suppress the voice of Dalit/other backward classes for having opposed reservations for the Marathas.

In Beed, two women were paraded naked in their village while an activist was brutally beaten up for raising his voice when talking to so-called upper caste leaders. In Parbhani, an old dalit woman was killed over a land dispute and on Tuesday, a young Dalit boy was killed in Aurangabad for allegedly teasing an upper caste girl.

The Bharip Bahujansamaj Party (BBP) chief, Prakash Ambedkar, blamed the rise in attacks on the Maratha's demand for reservations. "The police's inaction in the Marathwada region is promoting attacks against the Dalits," he claimed.

He charged the state government of deliberate inaction against those committing the atrocities. "At Shrirampur, OBC activists who merely attended a political rally were arrested for promoting caste conflict, but when Maratha activists pelted stones at the chief minister's aircraft, the police did not arrest a single person. Such administrative prejudice encourages further attacks," he added.

The Congress is banking on the support of the Dalits, who form 10.5% of the electorate, to win the elections, and such attacks might hurt the party. Congress leaders are quick to blame the NCP, whose member is the home minister that is responsible for law and order, for failing to curb the attacks.

Arjun Dangle, a Dalit writer who is associated with the Republican Party of India (RPI), said, "The state has set up the Atrocities Committee to tackle attacks against Dalits after the Khairlangi killings in 2006. But till date, this committee has not been empowered."