Union MoS for Social Justice and RPI(A) president Ramdas Athawale. (Express photo)
Are dalits drifting to armed struggle under the banner of CPI(Maoists)?
A die-hard Ambedkarite will never subscribe to any Naxal activities. We should understand that the biggest inspiration for the Dalits are Dr B R Ambedkar, who himself had adopted the middle path, Buddhism, which shuns violence. Ambedkar is also the architect of the Constitution, which has laid the strong foundation of democracy.
How do you perceive the attack against human right activists who are championing the cause of Dalits?
Since, the investigation is underway and police have explained its stand, it would be improper to comment. I believe anybody who is adopting democratic methods to voice their views should have the right. I am sure Dalits had no role in the Bhima Koregaon violence. It was the handiwork of outsiders.
Do you get a sense of Dalit intellectuals and cadre realigning with Left Front organisations?
Generally, Dalits have always considered Left Front as their friend. They associate with the Left Front on broader issues. But when it comes to electoral politics, Dalits are never with Communists. It has its origin in the ideology and politics of Babasaheb Ambedkar who believed communism would not work in complex caste-ridden society.
How do you perceive Naxal movement?
One is always sympathetic to the struggle for the welfare of tribals and Dalits. But we cannot endorse their armed struggle. I think Naxals should join the mainstream and accept democracy.
How do you perceive the growing caste-conflict?
There are many aspects. Gone are the days when Dalits would swallow insults, bow their heads and walk away. Today, generation next is ready to give a befitting reply.
There is a common refrain about misuse of the atrocities act by Dalits against the upper castes?
The total cases registered under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act are 47,000. There are adequate provisions that mandate every case is scrutinised. Nobody is arrested unless the crime is established. My counter argument is that if people stop abusing and exploiting Dalits, they will not invite charges under the act.
What about growing unrest due to reservation politics?
I admit there is a growing unrest among the upper castes as they see Dalits, tribals and OBCs walking away with incentives because of quota. For the last 10 years, I have been suggesting 25 per cent quota to accommodate all the economically backward among forward castes, including Marathas.