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Urinating On Tribal Man Turns Political in Madhya Pradesh Election Race

On July 4th, a deeply disturbing video circulated on social media, capturing a man named Pravesh Shukla engaged in an act of extreme disrespect and humiliation. The video shows Shukla smoking a cigarette, apparently drunk, while urinating on the face of Dashmat Rawat, a tribal man.

The incident garnered widespread outrage and condemnation. Allegedly the accused, Pravesh Shukla, was affiliated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Kamal Nath, a former chief minister of the state, tweeted. "This incident has put the entire Madhya Pradesh to shame. Strictest punishment should be given to the guilty person and atrocities on tribal people in Madhya Pradesh should be stopped." 

The state government swiftly took action, arresting the accused and charging him under the National Security Act (NSA) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act). However, as the government bulldozed the accused's house and questions of justice arose, the incident became a political issue, with the BJP working to cover the matter for the upcoming elections.

But to make matters worse for BJP, Amid the controversy, photos surfaced on social media showing the accused Shukla with BJP legislator Kedarnath Shukla. However, the BJP vehemently denied any association with Pravesh Shukla. Kedarnath Shukla stated that he knew the accused but clarified that he was not a representative or a BJP worker. On the other hand, Pravesh Shukla's father claimed that his son was a representative of Kedarnath Shukla, the BJP MLA, which, according to him, was the reason behind the opposition's targeting of his son. 

Congress leader and former CM of state Digvijaya Singh made allegations linking the accused and the local MLA's son to illegal sand mining. He claimed that Dashmat Rawat, the victim, was assaulted and humiliated because he had complained about them. Singh further accused several individuals, including the Siddhi MLA, of encroaching upon tribal land. He criticized the incident as a mere political drama that would not erase the stain on the dignity of the tribals.

In response to the incident, the Congress party sent former ministers to Rawat's home, alleging that he was forcibly taken to Bhopal, isolating him from his family and elderly parents. Ramu Tekam, the head of the tribal department of the MP Congress, described this act as a form of political abduction.

But despite the MP Government's efforts to address the controversy by arresting the accused, Shukla, they found themselves still embroiled amid the ongoing dispute. In a further attempt to mitigate the damage to the BJP's reputation, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took a step by extending a personal invitation to the victim, Dashmat Rawat, to his residence. In a public demonstration of remorse, Chouhan washed Rawat's feet and apologized. The chief minister's actions were aimed at not only containing the potential fallout from the incident but also assuaging the concerns of the tribal community, which forms a significant part of the state's population. 

By offering financial aid to Rawat and assuming personal responsibility for the incident, Chouhan sought to project himself as a compassionate leader who prioritizes the well-being and dignity of all citizens. Additionally, the government's decision to bulldoze the house of the accused, Shukla, further exemplified their commitment to justice and addressing the serious nature of the incident.

While the government's swift action is commendable, questions of justice and political manipulation have emerged in the incident's aftermath. The accused's family claimed the video was old and being circulated for political reasons as the elections draw near. Opposition leaders criticized the BJP-led government for its delayed response and called for a thorough investigation into the accused's connections with the party.

As Madhya Pradesh gears up for the upcoming elections this year, this incident involving a tribal man has become crucial in the political landscape. The government's actions in response to the incident aim to win the support of the tribal community. At the same time, the opposition Congress party consistently blames the BJP and seeks to magnify the issue for electoral gains. Understanding the significance of the tribal vote requires examining some crucial facts.

Since coming to power three years ago, after toppling the elected Congress government, the BJP has made concerted efforts to woo the state's Scheduled Tribes (STs), who constitute over 21% of the population and have 47 reserved seats out of the state's 230. However, the 2018 elections saw the BJP suffer a shock defeat in tribal-reserved seats, winning only 16 compared to the Congress's 30. This marked a complete reversal of the 2013 results, where the BJP had secured 31 ST seats while the Congress won 15.

Madhya Pradesh has one of the largest tribal populations in the country, with 46 groups recognised as STs, including three Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. Six of the state's 52 districts are classified as "fully tribal," while another 15 are categorised as "partially tribal." The Bhil community represents nearly 40% of the state's ST population, followed by the Gonds at 34%.

To further its tribal outreach, the BJP government undertook various initiatives. For instance, Union Home Minister Amit Shah renamed Chhindwara University after Shankar Shah and his son Raghunath Shah, the last Gond rulers. The installation of their statues and the construction of a museum were also announced. 

CM Chouhan renamed the Patalpani railway station after Tantya Bhil, a tribal leader who participated in the 1857 rebellion against the British, and declared the establishment of a memorial to Bhima Nayak, who led the Bhil struggle against the British in Khandesh. 

In November 2021, Bhopal's Habibganj railway station was renamed after Gond queen Rani Kamalapati, wife of Gond ruler Nizam Shah.

The BJP has actively emphasised its schemes for tribals, including implementing the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) or PESA Act. Meanwhile, Congress has also recognised the significance of the tribal vote. Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief, frequently highlights the alleged "atrocities" against tribals in the state during his campaign speeches. The Congress claims that under the BJP's 18-year reign, there have been "30,400 cases of atrocities on Adivasis." 

Nath's statement, "No matter how many feet he (Chouhan) washes... he who has a clear soul doesn't need a camera," reflects the party's scepticism towards the BJP's actions.

The tribal vote has emerged as a crucial factor in Madhya Pradesh's electoral dynamics, with both the BJP and the Congress recognising its significance. While the BJP endeavours to consolidate tribal support through various initiatives and highlighting its policies, Congress seeks to capitalise on alleged atrocities and mobilise tribal sentiment against the ruling party. 

As the election approaches, the contest for the tribal vote will continue to shape the political landscape in the state. The incident and subsequent handling have significant electoral implications, especially in a state like Madhya Pradesh, where caste plays a crucial role. In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP's performance in tribal-reserved seats was the worst in recent years. The Congress capitalised on the BJP's alleged neglect of tribals and has been vocal about atrocities against them. 

The Congress intends to target Chief Minister Chouhan in their campaign, using the incident to criticise the BJP's governance and appeal to tribal voters. However, the BJP remains confident that its focus on tribal welfare and development over the past three years will overshadow the incident.

The MP's Sidhi urination case has sparked widespread outrage and raised questions about justice and political manipulation. The swift actions taken by the government, including arresting the accused and demolishing his house, demonstrate an attempt to contain the damage and regain the trust of tribal communities. 

However, the incident's political implications, caste dynamics, and the BJP's cover-up strategy have made it contentious in the upcoming elections. As the political parties battle for public perception, it remains to be seen how the incident will shape the electoral landscape in Madhya Pradesh.


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