Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday attacked the NDA government over "centralisation" of power and de-recognition of a student group in IIT Madras as he asserted his party will always stand against injustice whether done on Dalits, tribals and women or people from any religion.
Addressing a rally at Mhow, the birthplace of Ambedkar who is regarded as architect of India's constitution, Rahul Gandhi also said that casteism was a reality and it was duty of every citizen to work for its removal.
"Babasaheb's dream of annihilation of caste is unfulfilled. Even today, importance is given to caste in the country. Casteism still prevails in our politics, in our schools and in our brains...the truth is you cannot escape from casteism in India," he said.
His visit to mark the start of year-long celebrations of Ambedkar's 125th birth anniversary by the Congress came amid a seeming competition among various parties to claim the legacy of Ambedkar, held as an icon by Dalits. In wake of a string of electoral defeats, there is a perception in the party that its Dalit support base has drifted away and has to be wooed back.
Terming Ambedkar "a symbol of resistance against oppression", Gandhi credited him with laying the foundation of free India along with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
He said the right of "one man, one vote" was jointly achieved by Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. "No one person could have done it," he said.
In a veiled attack on Bharatiya Janata Party, Gandhi referred to a Dalit's killing in Mahrashtra where it is in power.
"The killing of Sagar Sejwal of Ahmednagar for having ringtone of Babasaheb shows that the country has not achieved social equity. When Zeeshan Ali is not given employment despite his talents, it shows that all citizens do not get economic opportunities equally," he said, also referring to a Muslim MBA who was told by a prospective employer that they did not hire Muslims.
Referring to the controversy about de-recognition of Ambedkar-Periyar study circle by IIT-Madras following an anonymous complaint to the central government, he said that the incident shows that rights of some people were being still snatched away and the "country cannot realise its full potential if some people are kept away from their rights".
He said that India still faces threat from the forces which think one person inferior to the other. "These forces seek every moment to strengthen those walls against which Balasaheb fought all his life. They weaken us by making one person fight against the other," he said.
Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been accused of centralising power, he said "centralisation of power strengthens casteism and decentralisation of power weakens it. This had been said by Ambedkarji also".
He said Ambedkar's life showed that it was not easy to bring a change and there was need to make continuous efforts.
"When a woman is able to travel without fear in a bus, it will be first victory. When a young entrepreneur from Jhabua or a college student from Aligarh - all have chance to be part of economy and get a chance to move ahead, it will be second victory. Every victory will break wall," he said, calling on the youth to not sit quiet against casteism.
"I want to remind that the responsibility to fulfil Babasaheb's (Ambedkar) mission is mine, of the Congress and of every citizen. Everyone needs to come forward to fulfill their responsibility in ending casteism," Gandhi said.
Ambedkar (1891-1956), who belonged to the Dalit community, was a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who campaigned against social discrimination faced by Dalits and women.