Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act: Why the Dalits are protesting

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Apr 02, 2018, 04:24 PM IST
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Dalit protesters in Delhi shout slogans at a protest against the caste violence In Uttar Pradesh. Photograph:(PTI)

Four people were killed in violence that broke out in Madhya Pradesh Monday. 

The violence has swept across north India, with Dalits protesting against a recent Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Supreme Court order bans the automatic arrest and filing of cases against people accused under the act. 

The court had wanted to put a stop to frivolous allegations, but the Dalits view the move as a watering down of the act. India's Dalit community still faces massive discrimination and violence at the hands of India's upper caste and OBC communities. 

The court further ruled that a preliminary inquiry in cases filed under the SC/ST Act would be conducted by a district's Deputy Superintendent of Police, to ensure that the allegations levelled are not frivolous.

The court's reasoning was that the changes would protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the act.

Dalit organisations and some political parties however fear the dilution of the act may lead to an increase in violence against the community.

On March 30, Union Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had sought legal opinion of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad favouring filing of a review plea, while noting that there were concerns that the order will make the law “ineffective” and adversely impact the dispensation of justice to Dalits and tribals.

After holding agitations over the last few days to protest against the top court's ruling on the SC/ST Act, several Dalit outfits have called for a Bharat Bandh today.

A delegation of NDA’s SC and ST MPs, led by LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and Gehlot, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to discuss the apex court judgement diluting provisions of the SC/ST atrocities act.

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) have also conveyed their views and demanded a review of the verdict, saying the original Act, as it existed before the SC verdict, should be restored.

The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, 1989 was amended recently to include new offences and to ensure speedy justice to victims. The amended law had come into effect from January 26, 2016.

A number of Dalit organisations today staged a protest in the national capital today as part of the countrywide agitation called by them against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act banning automatic arrest and registration of cases.

The protesters, who were demanding that the provisions related to immediate arrest be restored, gathered at Mandi House and blocked the road outside the metro station there, bringing traffic to a halt and inconveniencing commuters travelling towards ITO and other stretches.