Interview | Interview

Reservation should be extended to upper castes too: Ramdas Athawale

Union Minister Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India, an NDA ally, recently announced that he would move the Supreme Court against the Union government’s directive to the media discouraging the use of the word “Dalit” for the Scheduled Castes. He says there is no popular sentiment against the usage of the word, and shares his views on reservation policies, the arrest of civil rights activists and the 2019 election.

What are your reasons to protest against the government directive to stop use of the word “Dalit” in the media?

Dalit is the key word that unites the Scheduled Castes across the country. It is not an insult. It is not the same as Harijan, an epithet used by Mahatma Gandhi for our community.

Many had then felt that Harijan bracketed them as inferior. There is no such popular sentiment against the usage of Dalit.

Marathas, Kapus and many other forward caste communities have been demanding reservation. Should upper castes also get reservation?

Yes. They may belong to the upper caste but need not be economically well off. There are very valid reasons why the demand for reservation is getting louder.

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for atrocities against Dalits is the upper caste resentment against reservation.

A formula should be worked out in a way that the present reservation policy is left undisturbed. Additional quota for the economically backward among the upper castes should be created.

What is your opinion on the recent arrests and raids by the Pune police in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case?

The police felt that Elgaar Parishad may have been partially funded by Naxalites. I believe that the police arrests are right. Those who have been arrested have direct or indirect connection with Maoists. The police have evidence to support this claim.

The police have not arrested the other hundreds of people associated with the Elgaar Parishad. If these activists want to be Ambedkarites, they need to forgo Maoism and Naxalism.

It is alleged that the Maharashtra police are shielding Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for their role in the Bhima-Koregaon violence. Your comments?

Neither Bhinde nor Ekbote is bigger than the law. If there is evidence against them, they will be punished. After this controversy, Bhide has suddenly gained too much importance.

Now media trails him everywhere he goes. This is prompting him to make warped statements such as the Manusmriti is bigger than the Constitution. The police must act against him. I am with the government; at the same time, I can’t ignore the larger sentiments of my community.

You had recently asked Mayawati to join the NDA. What are your reasons?

Didn’t Mayawatiji feel that the BJP was Manuvaadi when she formed the government with their help thrice in Uttar Pradesh? I firmly believe that if she wants to work for Dalits, she should join hands with the NDA.

There is no point opposing the government. All three of us together, Mayawatiji, Ramvilasji [Paswan] and me, can make sure that the Dalit agenda is implemented. The Samajwadi Party was her biggest enemy; so why ally with them now? If the BSP indeed wants an alliance, then it should join the NDA.

How do you think the NDA government will fare in the 2019 election, especially in view of the U.P. Mahagatbandhan [grand alliance]?

No other government has done as much as the Narendra Modi government. Rahul Gandhi is no match to Narendra Modi and will not be able to unite the Opposition. I believe that BJP will cross 300 seats in 2019. As far as U.P.’s Mahagatbandhan is concerned, I believe that after years of rivalry, SP-BSP cadres will find it difficult to work together. And people will unite behind the BJP because it is now Modi vs all. I think, the so-called Opposition unity will reduce the victory margins of BJP MPs but they will gain more seats.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 3:18:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/reservation-should-be-extended-to-upper-castes-too-ramdas-athawale/article24956934.ece

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