It's an expression of hurt indignation on part of Dalits, he says
The controversy over a six-decades-old political cartoon took a turn for the worse with Republican Party of India president Ramdas Athawale condoning the vandalism of the office of the former National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) adviser Suhas Palshikar by persons affiliated to his party on the Pune University premises on Saturday.
At a press conference here, Mr. Athawale acknowledged that the vandals were from his party but emphasised that Prof. Palshikar was physically unharmed.
Defending the act as an expression of “indignation on the part of the Dalit community,” he demanded that a criminal case be lodged against Yogendra Yadav and Prof. Palshikar, both of whom have resigned from the NCERT in the wake of the Central government's decision to scrap the controversial cartoon from the Class XI textbook.
“Had a private agency published the cartoon, we might have ignored it; but it has circulated in a government textbook,” Mr. Athawale said. He warned that his party activists would have no alternative but to go on a similar rampage if such incidents occurred in the future.
“A cartoon which ridicules Dr. Ambedkar is an insult to the Constitution and Parliament. While HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has apologised, he should investigate this matter sternly.”
“It's not political opportunism”
Asked about the timing of protests by the RPI and other Dalit leaders like Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, Mr. Athawale refuted suggestions of political opportunism.
The RPI chief said he would meet Mr. Sibal in New Delhi on May 18 for talks, failing which, he warned, a massive agitation would be launched by his party.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Athawale played down noises of a rift within the ‘Mahayuti' (mega alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Shiv Sena and the RPI in Maharashtra) following his recent Rajya Sabha snub by the Shiv Sena.
Commenting that both the centrist Congress-NCP coalition and the right-wing BJP-Shiv Sena alliance could not do without the Dalit vote bank in Maharashtra, the RPI chief said his party's strategy for the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly electrons would be to develop a strong grassroots connect.