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Opposition trying to paint Modi govt anti-Dalit, it will not succeed; we won’t dilute SC/ST Atrocities Act: Sitharaman

New Delhi :WHILE an “irresponsible” Opposition was trying to paint the BJP as anti-Dalit, the Modi government was committed to ensuring that the SC/ST Atrocities Act is not diluted, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the Express Adda here on Saturday.
“Those promoting these agitations want the government to be seen as anti-Dalit. But sorry, we are not giving them the opportunity. We are with SC/STs. For those who want to make political capital out of a social guarantee given by our Constitution, I am really disappointed… that instead of fighting for (SC/ST) rights, they are building distrust… For the last 60 years, you (the Opposition) haven’t done anything for them,” Sitharaman said.
She added that it was a court that had ordered change in provisions of the SC/ST Act. “These decisions are not of the government. The dilution in the Act would mean that a few benefits given to the Dalits, just to take their fight for justice a bit forward, will all go. We are not in favour. We will not dilute it,” the BJP leader said.
The Express Adda is a series of interactions with people at the centre of change.
Sitharaman said no government in the past has been put constantly on test as the Modi government. “Questions never stop. This government, if anything, has faced tonnes and tonnes of questions. We are continuously put on test… ‘Prove yourself in Delhi, Bihar, Assam… and now Karnataka’.”
She added that unlike the Opposition, the BJP never talked of losing trust in the government when it was on the other side. “When corruption was rampant, we did not lose trust… But for everything, they say, trust is gone. On the Dalit andolan (protest), the trust in Modi is gone. On media, trust is gone.”
Asked about the controversy surrounding a recent circular by the I&B Ministry as a means to curb fake news, which was later withdrawn, and the uneasy relationship between the media and government, Sitharaman said, “Why would media lose trust with us? I thought you now have a lot more opportunities to question the government… During Kapil Sabil’s time (when (Section 66 A of the IT Act was brought in), none of us lost trust in the government. Rajiv Gandhi got a bhayankar kanoon (dreadful law, on defamation), no trust was lost. Now for everything, it is either this or ‘India doesn’t exist the next morning’.”
The first woman to hold full-time charge of the Defence Ministry, Sitharaman said that after the ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan, “We are finishing them off at the border. If that makes the border hot, so be it. We can’t allow them to come in and after that strategise on how to deal with it… which becomes terrorism on our land. So the policy is not to keep it hot or cold, it is more to make sure that it is timely, relevant on the ground, rather than allowing them to come in and determine the rules of the game.”