Politicians across party lines pledged their support to the demands made at the ‘sammelan’ held in Delhi on Friday
On 23 November, Adivasis and Dalits from 14 states gathered at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi demanding amendment in the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST PoA) Act.
The National Coalition for Strengthening SCs & STs Prevention of Atrocities Act (NCSPA) has been at the forefront of this struggle. In coordination with 500 Dalit and Adivasi organisations, it has put forward a systemic study of the amendments crucial for an effective SC/ST PoA Act. Dr Sirivella Prasad, Convener of the NCPSA said, “It is a thoroughly deliberated compilation of amendments necessary to make the PoA Act effective. People cutting across denominations have contributed in generating this body of proposal that seeks to comprehensively expand its scope to include newer forms of discriminations and disabilities, and alongside induct appropriate remedial provisions”
Political representation at the sammelan reflected the positive attitude of the government towards the demand for amendment. Cabinet Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Kr. Selja reaffirming her support said, “There is no doubt that the law needs to change. I will try whole heartedly to bring this issue up in the Budget Session.”
Ramvilas Paswan, Mukul Wasnik, Balram Naik and PL Punia, Chairman, SC/ST Commission delivered rousing speeches. The CPM saw representation from Sitaram Yechuri. “Even after six decades of independence, Dalits and Adivasis are going through lot of hardship. They are asking for their share, which they create by their hard work every day. It is not just your declaration, but it also a declaration by me and my party. It is a wake-up call for the Government of India,” said D Raja of Communist Party of India.
Amid rousing declarations of “Baba Saheb Amar Rahe!” and a sea of blue flags, Vijay Parmar who is National Convener of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights stated, “It is a fitting occasion to remind the nation of the grave aberrations that have continued to mar social and political mobility of the vulnerable communities in our country. We are here to demand a renewed commitment to the core vision of equality of the architect of our constitution, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar.”
The victims of caste based violence recounted tales of having faced discrimination at the hands of the upper caste communities. Nirasha Kumari was raped by an upper caste boy from her village in Bihar while she was working in the fields. She was 15 then. Despite life threats from the offenders’ family, her father pursued the case and the culprit is in jail today.
However, the law has so far been poorly implemented across the country. While 99% of the cases under the Act are eventually withdrawn, the conviction rate is an abysmal 1%. The Act in its present form also fails to provide remedy to the caste based discrimination faced by Dalits who have converted to other religions.
With inputs from Prakhar Jain