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Invoking Sant Ravidas, Narendra Modi seeks an end to caste discrimination

The Prime Minister said those who create and promote caste discrimination should be identified.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday appealed people to recognise those who for their “political self-interests” keep raking up caste.

While Mr. Modi did not name anybody or any party, his remarks are understood to be targetted at Opposition parties in UP, the SP and BSP, who have forged an alliance that unites two major caste blocs in opposition to the ruling BJP.

Mr. Modi’s statement came in Varanasi, where he laid the foundation stone of Guru Ravidas Birth Place Development Project at Guru Ravidas Janmasthan Temple, Seer Goverdhanpur to mark his birth celebrations. The first phase of the beautification and expansion of the project would cost ₹50 crores, Mr. Modi said.

The bhakti poet Sant Ravidas,who stood against institutionalized caste hierarchy, has a huge following among Dalits in Punjab and UP.

At another event, Mr. Modi criticized Opposition leaders for “mocking and targetting” the semi-high speed train Vande Bharat Express for developing a snag during its inaugural run last week while returning from Varanasi.

The PM said mocking the “world-class” train amounted to an “insult” of every technician and engineer, and said he was saddened by the episode. “Every citizen and every youth must be cautious of those people who have a mentality to mock India,” Mr. Modi said.

He asked people if those mocking the train should get the “right punishment” at the “right time,” a veiled reference to voting day.

Mr. Modi said Ravidas wanted a society where there was “no discrimination on the basis of caste or class.” Had the country followed his path, it would have been free from caste atrocities by now, the PM said.

Quoting one of Ravidas’ stanzas, Mr. Modi said caste was like the banana stem, which had underlying layers in the form of sub-castes.

Till caste based discrimination continues, all humans cannot fully bond with each other and no social unity is possible, Mr. Modi said.

In Varanasi, Mr. Modi unveiled development projects worth ₹3350 crores, including the flagging off the first ever Diesel to Electric Converted Locomotive at Diesel Locomotive Works in his Parliamentary constituency.

The other projects pertained to health, sanitation, Smart City, connectivity, power and housing.

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