Amid the flurry of controversial remarks being made by several Union ministers or the ruling BJP leaders, the Union home minister Mr Rajnath Singh on Friday cautioned them, including the Union minister of state Gen (retd) V K Singh and another minister Kiren Rijiju, asking them to be "extra careful" and telling them that they could not get away by simply saying that their comments were misinterpreted.
Mr Singh’s public expression of disapproval of his ministerial and party colleagues sparking rows regularly came on a day when the Opposition, including the Congress party, sought to highlight the alarming rise in cases of atrocities against Dalits in Haryana and other parts of the country.
The Congress alleged that such incidents betrayed the Narendra Modi government and the BJP-RSS’ "anti-Dalit, anti-backward and anti-poor mindset". Hitting back, the BJP charged that the Opposition was playing politics and "shedding crocodile tears" over such incidents.
Gen Singh had on Thursday set off a political storm by using a dog analogy
in the context of defending the government in the recent horrific incident of a Dalit family being set ablaze in a Faridabad village in the BJP-ruled Haryana in which two infants were killed.
He had drawn fire for this analogy from virtually the entire Opposition and even some BJP allies. The angry Opposition – including the Congress, Left and AAP – demanded his immediate sacking from the Modi ministry and registration of a criminal case against him under the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The Union MoS, home, Mr Rijiju had also drawn flak over his comment that he agreed with a former Delhi Lt Governor’s remark that north Indians "take pride" in breaking rules.
Choosing to pull up Gen V K Singh and Rijiju in public, Mr Rajnath Singh told media persons: "I feel that as leaders of the ruling party, we must all be extra cautious while making any statement."
He said, "We can’t get away by saying that our statements were misinterpreted or twisted. We need to be extra careful while putting forth our views."
The home minister said the ministers and leaders of the BJP must ensure that their statements had been reflected in proper perspective and that no wrong message was communicated through them. “We should also ensure that there is no possibility of our statements to be interpreted in the wrong way.” He, however, also said V K Singh and Rijiju had already given their clarifications on their controversial remarks, which should end the matter.
Gen Singh&’s remark kicked up a major political row when he sought to defend the government in the recent Faridabad Dalit family burning incident, saying
the government could not be held responsible for eveything like “if somebody throws a stone at a dog, whether the government is responsible…it is not like that.”
Following the public furore and snowballing of controversy, which also made intense waves in the assembly poll-bound Bihar, Gen Singh gave clarifications, maintaining that his dog remark was “distorted” and “torn out of context” and that he had not meant offence to the victim Dalit family. Later, he had also tendered a qualified apology.
Mr Rijiju had also given a clarification on his remark, saying it was not aimed at one section but was applicable to our entire society. The Congress, meanwhile, highlighted the fresh incident of a 15-year-old Dalit boy, accused of theft of a few pigeons, dying in police custody with his family alleging that he was allegedly killed by the local police who had also extorted money from them.
The former Union minister and Congress leader from Haryana, Ms Selja alleged that the “atmopshere of fear, lawlessness and communal tension” created by the BJP government at the central and state levels were sparking such atrocities.
“The anti-Dalit mindset of the RSS-BJP and the Modi/Khattar government has blatantly manifested itself in the Haryana state administration. Just two days after the gruesome burning of Dalit toddler siblings in Faridabad, a 15-year-old Dalit teen has been brutally murdered in Gohana, Sonipat. What is even more shocking is that this time around the violence and atrocities against Dalits has been perpetrated by the police themselves,” Ms Selja alleged. The Congress&’s chief spokesman Mr Randeep Surjewala echoed these views. When asked to comment on the Haryana CM Manoharlal Khattar and Gen Singh&’s views that these atrocities against Dalits could be attributed to inter-family disputes, Mr Surjewala highlighted the point that there was a caste angle to the conflict.
Attacking Mr Khattar for “pre-judging a case before investigation”, Mr Surjewala alleged the continuing atrocities against Dalits reflected “the RSS-BJP&’s anti-Dalit, anti-poor and anti-backward mindset”.