Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly told a public gathering in Ludhiana on Tuesday that his head "hangs in shame" because there are atrocities committed against Dalits in India "even today".
"Even today we hear of crimes being committed against our Dalit brothers, and my head hangs in shame," he is reported to have said. "If they get an opportunity, they will not lag behind in changing the fortunes of India."
About a third of Punjab's population is Dalit, making them one of the biggest vote-banks in the state. Assembly elections in Punjab are in three months' time, around the same time as in Uttar Pradesh, which also has a significant Dalit population. Modi's words, timed just before the elections, speak to Dalits in both UP and Punjab.
Modi also claimed that the government now needs to look after Dalits.
"After 70 years of the Independence, we cannot wait longer and need to focus more on this front," he reportedly said. "Aspirations of a Dalit or an Adivasi youth are no less and if given an opportunity, they will not lag behind in changing the fortunes of India."
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