The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bharti challenges Digvijay caste fine

Bhopal, July 16: The Digvijay Singh regime’s move to slap a Rs 25-lakh fine on higher castes in five villages involved in Dalit atrocities has taken a political turn with Uma Bharti coming out in open support of them.

The defiant villages have already declared that “mar jayenge par jurmana nahin denge (we will die but will not pay the fine)”.

Bharti, the BJP’s chief ministerial nominee, today questioned the rationale of a community fine, which has been touted as a path-breaking measure to check caste violence. She said the guilty should be punished instead of society being held responsible for the crime.

“Such a measure would perpetuate caste tension. Digvijay Singh plans to convert Madhya Pradesh into Bihar. I fear Jehanabad sort of violence,” she said, referring to the Bihar district notorious for bloody inter-caste clashes.

Buoyed by Bharti’s support, villagers in Rajgarh have raised the banner of revolt. According to them, the Digvijay regime’s “reign of terror” had even surpassed the strong-arm tactics of the British Raj. “We went to jail, ran around courts and now we are expected to pay a fine,” said Ramanand Yadav of Lasudia Majaraj village where a mob had destroyed ready crop on August 9 last year.

A BJP delegation led by Assembly chief whip Sitasharan Sharma had gone to the villages of Lasudia Majaraj, Selapani, Lalahedi and Purankhedi to study the situation. Sharma said the villagers seemed in no mood to obey the government order.

The state had slapped the fine after inquiries into a series of incidents established that upper castes had got together to destroy crops belonging to Dalits and tribals in protest against the government’s move to grant them patta of grazing land.

Bharti alleged Digvijay was trying to derive political benefit in the guise of Dalit agenda. “The land given to the landless should have been non-controversial. Instead of social justice, Digvijay is perpetuating social injustice, pitting one caste against another,” she said.

In political circles, Bharti’s opposition to the fine is being seen in the context of the caste divide in the poll-bound state. Bharti, who hails from the OBCs, seems to have taken up their cause to consolidate the vote bank. Her step comes in the wake of Digvijay’s move to wean away OBC votes by promising 27 per cent reservation.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has been lukewarm to the Dalit cause. A few months ago, it had tried to attract Dalit votes by preparing the Mhow declaration but the document has not yet been made public.

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