By MANOJ CHAURASIA
PATNA: Even as the BJP has gone on holding meetings and renewing contacts with the masses, the continuing protests by the upper caste community over the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is giving sleepless night to the saffron camp despite putting up brave postures in public.
The upper castes who account for some 14 percent of the total population in Bihar have been the mainstay of the BJP’s vote-bank.
The upper caste people under various banners such as the Bhumihar-Brahmin Ekta Manch and the Swarn Sena have been angrily protesting on the streets right since the Narendra Modi government brought a new law, doing away with the preliminary inquiry for filing FIRs and reinstating the clause that anticipatory bails won’t be permitted.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had removed the strict provision of mandatory arrests under the SC/ST Act but under heavy protests from the Dalit community across the country, the Centre was forced to bring amendments in the ACT, overruling the apex court’s order.
Although it pacified the Dalit class community but has angered the upper caste people, leaving the BJP in a peculiar situation.
Anger of the upper castes spilled on the streets once again today when the protesters under the aegis of Brahmin Mahasabha gheraoed the residences of NDA ministers from upper castes community in Patna to express their anger over the passage of the bill.
They threatened to teach a lesson to the government in the coming elections if their alleged “tortures” didn’t stop under this Act.
The protesters carrying banners in hands first laid a seize to the official residence of industry minister Jai Kumar Singh and then they gheraoed the residence of PHED minister Vinod Narayan Jha, serving a strong message.
“There is a larger conspiracy to victimize the upper castes under this Act. The government should initiate immediate steps or it must be ready to face serious consequences in the coming polls,” the protesters warned.
This was the third time in the past one fortnight that the upper caste people had taken to the streets to vent their ire over this Act. First they had taken to the streets on 30 August when they enforced Bihar bandh over the issue, blocking traffic, pelting stones and clashing with the police. Then they gave a call for nation-wide shutdown on 6 September which also saw angry protests on the streets.
Analysts say the continuing protests may alienate the upper castes from the BJP if not handled properly and that too without any delay.
The upper castes had traditionally supported the Congress but after it got weakened they switched over their loyalty to the BJP as it was the only party giving ferocious challenges to the RJD in the 90’s.
The loyalty shifted soon after the state came in the grip of caste riots with the Maoists and the private upper caste militia, Ranvir Sena indulged in bloody caste wars while the Congress party lent support to the RJD government.
Experts however are not sure as to which side the upper castes will move after they have dumped the BJP in protest.
What has added to their confusion is that the RJD which is the main opposition party in Bihar has refused to support the demand for reservation for poor among upper castes saying “the reservation is not the tool to eradicate poverty from the society, rather this provision was made in the Indian constitution to let the socially backward and deprived castes get social respect”.
At a Press conference held earlier this week, RJD legislator and party chief Lalu Prasad’s “heir apparent” Tejashwi Yadav remained ambiguous over the issue saying “the party would take a call after publication of caste census”.
Perhaps the RJD believes supporting reservation demand for upper caste could lose their “trusted” support base among backwards and Dalit groups.
“Supporting the upper caste’s reservation demand is like playing with fire. While we are not sure if the upper castes will support us even if we back their demand, this could ultimately antagonize our own voters which means only losses and losses,” commented a RJD leader wishing not to be quoted.
Courtesy: The Statesman