Congress General Secretary 'Sher-e-Hind' Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made headlines on Saturday after she went to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to meet the family of the Dalit victim who was allegedly tortured and gang-raped by four upper-caste Thakur men before succumbing at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital on Tuesday. She was also accompanied by Rahul Gandhi.
Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi's journey to Hathras wasn't a cakewalk as the police had put up barricades at Delhi–Noida Direct Flyway. They also resorted to lathi-charge. In a video going viral on social media, Vadra is seen shielding her party workers during the lathi-charge as the police tried to disperse the crowd. "The police resorted to lathi-charge and our leader Kamal Kishore suffered injuries on his head. Priyanka Gandhi came to his rescue and she too struggled in the crowd. I too was beaten," a party worker told ANI.
Later, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi were allowed to visit the family as the administration conveyed that a group of five persons could meet the victim's family. The brother-sister duo met the grieving family and said the party's fight will continue until justice is delivered.
Priyanka gave a firm embrace to the victim's weeping mother and demanded security to the aggrieved family. "The family couldn't see their daughter for the one last time. UP CM Yogi Adityanath should understand his responsibility. Till the time justice is delivered, we'll continue this fight," Gandhi said. "The family wants a judicial inquiry into the incident and removal of the District Magistrate. They also want security," she added.
However, what caught the attention of many including this author was the colour of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's kurta and the possible hidden message behind it.
Vadra was seen wearing blue - the colour associated with Dalits. According to many ground reports with respect to this incident, caste discrimination has terrifyingly come to the fore. When Newslaundry spoke to the victim's sister-in-law about the unjust cremation in the dead of the night, she said, "Yes, our fault is that she was a Dalit girl. Yes, our fault is that we didn’t agree for her to be cremated at night. If she was from a Thakur family, none of our mistakes would have been pointed out.”
According to an Indian Express report, the incident has also sparked fear in the minds of other Dalit families in the village. “I have two sons aged 10 and 5. They go to a government school in Hathras. They often complain that their classmates don’t speak to them because we are Dalits, ‘untouchables’. I want them to study, leave this village. They shouldn’t be forced to do the same work as their parents, they deserve better. But what can we do? The teachers, police, administration—everyone is either a Brahmin or a Thakur,” said a farmer.
Meanwhile, blue is the colour of Dalit resistance. It was reportedly the favourite colour of the architect of Indian Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who campaigned against social discrimination and was the force behind the Dalit Buddhist Movement in India.
“Ambedkar is known to have introduced the blue Mahar’s Flag as his party flag for the Independent Labour Party. It is representative of identifying with Dalit consciousness that is non-discriminatory. It also appeals to the masses as in the blue-collar workers," reads a paper Fabric-Rendered Identity: A Study of Dalit Representation in Pa. Ranjith’s Attakathi, Madras and Kabali, published in Artha-Journal of Social Sciences in 2017.
Hence, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra donning a blue kurta and showing her strong support to the Dalit community is very significant as they constitute 21.1 per cent of Uttar Pradesh's population as per the 2011 census. In doing so, Priyanka is directly challenging the four-time UP CM and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, who is losing her Dalit vote.
With many pundits betting that Priyanka will take Yogi Adityanath head-on in 2022 Assembly elections, the hidden message in her kurta is just a stepping stone.