New Delhi, National Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination based on Caste (Work and Descent) was organized in Constitution Club to bring together Dalit leaders, Parliamentarians and activists across the nation and other South Asian countries to address the challenges in the implementation and continuous attempts to dilute the provisions of the SCs and STs (PoA) Act.
Dr Ramesh Nathan, National Convener, NCSPA opened the session with his welcome speech He said that in a situation when the implementation of the Act was already very poor, continuous attempts have been made to dilute the Act .After Supreme Court verdict of 20th March diluting the SCs and STs (PoA) Act. On 02nd April, Police unleashed excessive force to suppress the protests organised during the Bharat Bandh. Several protesters were injured and killed in several parts of the country including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha, Andhra Pradesh. Thereafter NCDHR has put a lot of effort to restore its original provisions. NCDHR filed review petition and did continuous advocacy to restore the original provisions of the Act.Still we are still facing the challenge of poor implementation of The SCs and STs (PoA) Act and rising atrocities. After Parliament promulgated the SCs and STs (PoA) Amendment Act 2018 but then a P.I.L has been filed against the Act. Now amidst so many challenges the banning of the use of the word ‘Dalit’ by media has been another setback to Dalit movement .
Shri. P.S. Krishnan IAS, Former Secretary to the Government of India & Chief Advisor, NCSPA, delivered his opening speech with an introduction to the background of the amendment to the SCs and STs (PoA) Act and by acknowledging the resentment of the Dalit and Adivasis community against the government because of continuous attempt to dilute the Act. He said that after the SC judgement delivered it judgement diluting the Act, there was widespread agitation that was quite effective. Still we are struggling with non-implementation of the Act such as non establishment of the Exclusive Special court, non-appointment of Public Prosecutors, no constitution of vigilance committees etc.
Ms. Meenakshi Natrajan, Former M.P, Indian National Congress, M.P particulary focussed on the situation of Madhya Pradesh where as despite of meagre number of false case the govt is continuously trying to vitiate the Act. She said that when a Fact finding was conducted in Bhind along with NCDHR team, a horrific tale of violence was revealed. On the day of SC judgement and on the day of Bharat Bandh , severe violence was unleashed on Dalits by both the dominant caste and the police. Still now the community is living in fear.
On the occasion, 17 Survivors and the family members of those died during the April 02, 2018 Bharat Bandh from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for protesting against the Supreme Court order of March 20 2018 diluting the SCs and STs (PoA) Act were present .The coalition conferred Dr B.R Ambedkar National Award 2018 to them for their contribution in restoring the original form of the Act.Now the challenge is to seek justice for these survivors .
Ram Lakhan Chamar, Member of Parliament, Nepal spoke at length on the legal framework for the protection of Dalits in Nepal. Nepal formulated the constitution recently after a long struggle. Many Dalit movements were part in the demand of democracy and constitution. So in the constitution, we have a detailed provisions of Dalit rights including representation in govt offices/organs, education etc But now the challenge is in implementation of the constitutional provisions for the advancement of Dalits.
Mr. Jai Singh, Dalit Dasta Virodhi Manch – The Dalit movement are peacefully working on the ideologies of Dr Ambedkar and fighting for their rights but now many blockades have been created in Dalit struggle. The obstruction from politicians and judiciary is evident. He highlighted that the present government and judiciary are continuously trying to create frictions in the Dalit struggle Now declaring the term ‘Dalit’ as unconstitutional is recent attempt to weaken the Dalit movement as the term Dalit is unifying and empowering.
Dr K. Krishnan- He raised few questions that ‘Why President, the protector of the constitution is silent, when the constitution is being violated’ He questioned the Prime Minister on non-implementation of Sub plans and diversion of fund. Why PM is not raising this fact in parliament and public meeting Why Judiciary is not bringing order for promoting equality and freedom.
D Raja, M.P, Communist Party of India, Delhi Dr. Thol. Thirumavalavan, Former M.P President,Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Tamil Nadu expressed their concern on rising fundamentalism, rising atrocities against the SCs and STs , increased peril in the functioning of democratic institutions , parochial definition of Nationalism by the RSS. underrepresentation of Dalits, Adivasis , BC, Women in Public sector undertaking, Judiciary, government cabinets on the pretexts of ineligibility and unavailability of suitable candidates and decline in reservation because of increased privatisation , PPP Model, Joint sector.
Mr. Wilson Bezwada, National Convener, Safai Karamchari Andolan, Delhi was present to speak about his movement for the right of Manual Scavengers . He said that our fight is not only for meagre meagre social welfare schemes but equality and dignity and equal distribution of National resources .
Ms. Durga Sob, Co-Chairperson ADRF & Director, Feminist Dalit Organization,Nepal and Mr. Bhakta Biswakarma, Director, Dalit NGO Federation spoke about the same situation of injustice and violence Dalits in Nepal. The Dalit struggle in Nepal succeeded in including detailed provisions for the Dalits in the newly formulated constitution in Nepal but still the challenge is the implementation of the provisions .
Ms. Rineeta Naik, Social Inclusion Specialist, UN Resident Coordinator, India was present to inform on the available mechanisms at U.N level for elimination of discrimination. She informed on the other mechanisms such as Special Procedures for raising the issues.
Ms. Vimal Thorat, National Convener, NCDHR said that Indians have carried with themselves the caste system wherever they have migrated and settled. Still discrimination can be observed among the diaspora communities.
Mr. Siva Pragasham, Director, Human Development Organization, Srilanka spoke on Pre historical origin of Indian plantation workers , essentially Dalit communities from India. Presently the plantations workers are the most poor community and depicts low human development index and face discrimination on basis of work and descent.
- Justice to the 17 survivors and those who died during the protest organized on 2nd April Bharat Band and arrest of the accused.
- The Central and State governments should ensure proper implementation of the SCs and STs POA Amended Act 2018 including establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and appointment of Special Public Prosecutors
- The government authorities to provide special protection to the SCs and STs communities in declared atrocity prone regions
- Supreme Court should take cognizance of the ground situations of historical injustice to the Dalits and Adivasis
- Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to withdraw the circular banning to the use the word ‘Dalit’ by the Media and recognize the term as a self-empowering and unifying identity; and not to further degrade the term
- The legal protection enforcement authorities should recognize the wide spread existence of untouchability practiced against Dalits
- The Authorities to take into account caste perspectives while implementing SDGs
- UN Guidelines on Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent should be ratified and be implemented in true spirit by South Asian countries including India