Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Thursday said atrocity against Dalits is "not a political but a social problem", stressing on the importance of encouraging inter-caste marriages and stringent action against the offenders to end such incidents.
Noting that Uttar Pradesh tops the chart in the country in terms of caste-related violence, followed by Rajasthan and Bihar, the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment said it is wrong to say that such incidents have increased under the BJP regime as the attacks on Dalits are continuing for many years irrespective of which party is in power.
"There were 47,000 registered cases of such atrocities in India last year. It is not a political issue but a social issue. Taking initiatives like encouraging inter-caste marriage and higher conviction rate of the offenders can help.
"The attacks on Dalits have been happening in this country for several years. As long as there is casteism, such attacks and atrocities would continue, no matter which party is in power at the Centre," the Dalit leader from Maharashtra told reporters here.
It is not true that atrocities on the Dalits have increased in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime, Athawale said, adding that there were instances of attacks and violence on Dalits even during the Congress rule.
"In Bengal, Dalits faced violence during the communist rule and it is going on in Mamata Banerjee's regime also," he said.
Athawale urged the state governments to come up with initiatives like providing a grant of Rs 25 lakh to the district with highest number of inter-caste marriages and give such couples a priority in government jobs to encourage such practices.
The Minister, however, pointed out that there have been 1,708 and 609 cases of attacks on the backward classes in Bengal in 2017 and 2018, respectively, which is significantly lower than many other states.
He said the Bengal government should increase to Rs 1 lakh the grant of Rs 30,000 that it now gives to inter-caste couples after marriage.
Referring to the petitions challenging the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018, which does away with the court-imposed requirements of undertaking preliminary inquiry and of procuring approval prior to making an arrest, he said there should be no changes to the new amendment.
"99 per cent of cases of atrocities on Dalits are legitimate. The act comes into play when there are attacks on Dalits' lives and properties. However, the authorities need to be cautious that the law is not misused. Instead of seeking changes in the act, the people should change their mindset regarding how to behave with the Dalits," he said.
The Minister, who held a meeting with the members of Matua Mahasangha, a religious reformation movement that originated from Bangladesh, said the Bengal government should pass a resolution in the state Assembly to grant citizenship rights to the community.
"We demand that the 1971 citizenship act be amended so that those who were forced to take refuge in India in search of livelihood and security are be given Indian citizenship," the Republican Party of India leader said.
"These people (Matuas) are neither terrorists nor do they have any intention to create unrest in India. They were forced to take refuge in India during the war between Pakistan and Bangladesh. So they should have the right to stay in India," he added.