Why the BJP is unlikely to get Dalit votes in the Rajasthan elections

28 October 2018
The 2 April 2018 Bharat bandh, called to protest the Supreme Court's ruling diluting the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, left ten people dead and hundreds injured.
Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
The 2 April 2018 Bharat bandh, called to protest the Supreme Court's ruling diluting the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, left ten people dead and hundreds injured.
Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

On 14 May 2015, a five-decade-old land dispute between the Meghwals, a sub-community of Dalits, and Jats of Dangawas village in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district exploded into caste violence. That morning, a mob comprising hundreds of Jats marched to the disputed 15-acre plot of land outside the village, where 16 Meghwals from the family of Ratna Ram—a resident of Dangawas who claimed ownership of the property—were keeping vigil over the land. In an ensuing altercation, shots were fired and a bystander was killed. The police allege it was one of the Dalits who opened fire, a charge vehemently denied by the Meghwals. The crowd then violently assaulted the Meghwals, including running them over with tractors. Ratna Ram Meghwal and his brother Pancha Ram Meghwal died that day, while three others—Pokar Ram, Ganpat Ram and Ganesh Ram—succumbed to their injuries later.

The police registered two first information reports on the incident—one on a complaint filed by Ratna Ram’s family, naming 70 persons as accused, and another against the Meghwals for the death of the bystander, Rampal Goswami, who was neither Dalit nor Jat. When I visited Dangawas, Govind Ram Meghwal, Ratna Ram’s nephew, told me the local political and administrative machinery was insensitive to Dangawas’ Dalits. He also said that Vasundhara Raje’s government had not extended much support, while Sukharam Meghwal, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of legislative assembly from Dangawas, had sided with the Jats.

“We filed an FIR under the SC/ST Act and the police had to register it, despite the Jats political and financial clout,” Govind Ram told me, at his home in the Meghwal basti, situated on the outskirts of Dangawas. “We may vote for the Congress in the coming elections, but we will definitely not vote for the BJP,” he said, gazing at the temporary police tent outside his home, meant to contain caste tension in the village. In recent years, Rajasthan has witnessed recurring caste atrocities, such as the Dangawas violence, all of which present a challenge to the BJP’s support from the Dalit community for the upcoming assembly elections.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Jatavs Bharatiya Janata Party Congress Assembly Elections 2018 Rajasthan Bahujan Samaj Party caste violence SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act Scheduled Caste Dalit atrocities Meghwal Jignesh Mevani Dangawas Rajasthan election 2018 Rajasthan assembly elections 2018
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