Upset over the Supreme Court’s decision to dilute stringent provisions under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the ruling BJP’s Dalit MPs are learnt to have met Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot on Wednesday and asked him to take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to sources, the MPs, including a minister, asked the government to file a review plea in court.
Alleging an increase in atrocities against Dalits under the BJP-led government, the Congress also demanded a review plea or an amendment in the Act. “There is serious concern over yesterday’s decision of the Supreme Court… There is a feeling of insecurity among SCs, STs and other oppressed classes. We feel there should be a review of this decision, in national interest,” said senior Congress leader Anand Sharma.
“People are falsely implicated in murder or dacoity cases too. Why is the demand to save people from being falsely implicated always only in cases of Atrocities Act. Why is there an attempt to further silence the already oppressed,” said Congress MP P L Punia, former chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
Meanwhile, the government said it would study the order. “I will have to examine the order and the issues and concerns over it,” said Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Noting that the Act was being abused, the Supreme Court on Tuesday laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail, “preliminary enquiry” before registering a case, and prior sanction before arrest.
“The Supreme Court order is a huge setback for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It violates the fundamental protection provided by the Constitution for the weaker sections. The government should act and take necessary steps to protect the communities,” Vinod Kumar Sonkar, MP and head of the BJP’s SC cell, told The Indian Express. “It is virtually giving the harassers or assailants impunity,” he said.
A BJP leader said the party’s Dalit MPs were very upset. “Now the only thing left is to take away the reservation for SCs and STs. I fear things are moving in that direction,” said a party MP. Pointing out recent developments, including the UGC’s notification of a new formula which would shrink quota in faculty posts, he said the community was watching the developments “with fear”.
“In effect, if a Dalit girl gets raped, she will have to wait for a week to get the case registered. And in a week, things would move in such a swift way that the case would disappear,” he said.
“What (BSP founder) Kanshiramji said decades ago has come true. He had warned that the manuvadis would use nyaypalikas (judiciary) to attack us. That’s happening now,” said the MP, adding that “nobody in the government appeared to be seriously worried about it”.
“There could be exceptions and some may have misused the law. But there are too many incidents of attacks and atrocities against the communities. The Dalit community is too weak to misuse the laws in many parts of the country. Despite stringent laws, most of the cases are not even getting registered due to pressure from different sources,” said the party’s Etawah MP, Ashok Kumar Dohrey.
“Now, with the new order, nobody will hear them. Many will not even complain. They will be too scared to complain. You have no idea what’s happening to such cases in rural areas in India,” he added.
Dinesh Kashyap, Lok Sabha MP from Bastar, reserved for the tribal community, said the order would affect the daily lives of the weaker sections. “The government should take steps to protect them. We will approach our leadership and I hope they will appeal against it,” he said.
RJD MP from Banka, Jay Prakash Narayan, said the law should be strongly in favour of the SCs and STs, and their rights should be protected. Stating that this was the BJP’s responsibility, he added: “But the BJP government will not do that, because it has manuvadi mentality and it is anti-Dalit.”