RJD spokesman Mritunjay Tiwari said the incident – involving the alleged gang-rape of a 19-year-old Dalit girl by upper caste men followed by forcible cremation by police without informing her immediate family members – is a major issue. With the Samajwadi Party supporting the RJD in Bihar and raising the incident in a big way in UP, he said, the RJD will tell the electorate how the BJP is humiliating Dalits. “Hathras is a national issue now. Dalits everywhere can see how the BJP has treated them in Hathras,” Tiwari told ET.
In Bihar, 38 assembly seats are reserved for scheduled castes (SCs). Of these, the BJP had won only five seats in the 2015 polls while the opposition alliance had swept these seats, with the RJD winning 13, JD (U) securing 11 and the Congress getting five seats.
BJP’s Bihar general secretary Devesh Kumar, however, said the issue that was raging in Bihar was the killing of a Dalit activist and former RJD secretary (SC/ST Cell) Shakti Malik in Purnea on Sunday for which a first information report (FIR) had been registered against RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and his brother Tej Pratap. “This is agitating the Dalits in Bihar against the RJD. Malik had alleged that Tejashwi was asking for Rs 50 lakh for giving a ticket and he was gunned down at the behest of RJD leaders. Both the Hathras and Purnea incidents are unfortunate and the culprits must be punished very strongly,” Kumar told ET.
The SP and the Congress are also planning to make the Hathras incident a major issue in the bypolls for seven seats in UP, two of which are SC-reserved constituencies. “These bypolls will be a reflection on the Yogi Adityanath government’s failures and the CM’s casteist approach towards crimes,” said an SP spokesman.
In Madhya Pradesh, where 27 crucial bypolls will determine who remains in power, there are nine SC-reserved constituencies and 17 out of the 27 seats are in the Gwalior-Chambal region abutting UP. Both the BSP and the Congress plan to raise the Hathras issue here as well. Former CM Kamal Nath has said that the Hathras incident and a suicide by a Dalit woman after alleged gang-rape in Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh revealed that women were insecure in BJP-ruled states.
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