Cong team to probe UP Dalit killings

By Anita Katyal

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: With the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) having taken the lead in espousing the cause of Dalits, the Congress is now following suit.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday directed a high-level team to visit Hasanpur in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh where five Dalits were massacred recently. This incident was followed a few days later with the killing of five Dalits in a caste war in Jehrana village of Aligarh district. According to reports, the incidence of Dalit killings by upper castes has been on the increase as the divide between the two has been steadily widening.

With the state headed for an assembly election, these incidents have acquired a political colour. BSP leader Mayawati was quick to visit Hasanpur village on Monday and blame the BJP-led state government for not doing enough to protect the Dalits. She also used the occasion to remind the villagers that since she was not in power, she could do little to help them. The BSP has announced a state-wide bandh on June 20 to protest the rise in Dalit killings.

Probably realising that it can pin down the BJP government on this issue, the Congress has belatedly decided to despatch a fact-finding team to Fatehpur. On Monday, party spokesperson Jaipal Reddy condemned the resurgence of violence against Dalits in UP. He said there was a pattern to it, particularly since the Dalits did not have a say in the BJP-led government.

The Congress team to Hasanpur is headed by AICC general secretary Mahavir Prasad, party secretary Subodh Kant Sahay, UP Congress chief S P Jaiswal, and other senior leaders of the UPCC. The delegation is to submit its report to Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday.

Despite Congress' combative posturing in UP, party leaders are sceptical about the possible revival of the party in UP. Senior party leaders maintain that despite widespread disenchantment with the BJP government, the Congress is just not able to cash in on this sentiment and gestures like sending fact-finding teams are unlikely to have any impact.

The Congress recently announced a jumbo-size UPCC executive, but leaders believe the party's inability to set up district and block-level organisations will cost it dearly. ``It is the local leadership at the district and block levels which does the bulk of the work,'' explained a senior leader, adding that "at least at that level, the Congress just does not exist."

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Referred by: Sashi Kanth
Published on: June 20, 2001
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