The Supreme Court, quite unfortunately, appears to be giving the impression that it is oblivious to social sensitivities.
The one-day “Bharat Bandh” call by several dalit organisations on Monday caused large-scale public violence, and damage to government infrastructure, specially in the northern part of the country. We appeal to the angry dalit youth to eschew violence so that deflection is not caused from their focus on non-dilution of laws meant for their protection, and upholding of their social dignity.
In view of reports of deaths of at least nine protesters across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — prominent states run by the BJP, which has lately been perceived by dalits in a negative light — we hope that the Bharat Bandh protests don’t spill over. That would be unfortunate. It cannot be emphasised enough that any protest must be peaceful.
All state governments must be ready to nip any violence in the bud, but not through strong-arm tactics. Peaceful ways need to be found to deal with the grievances of the poorest sections of our society, who are traditionally downtrodden. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh set an example by closing all educational institutions on Monday and taking effective administrative steps to minimise the flow of traffic in order to avert clashes.
The Supreme Court on March 20 gave a wrong-headed order, arguing the 1989 law to check atrocities against dalits and adivasis was being misused. In consequence, it revoked the stipulation of automatic arrests of persons charged with atrocities against those who were once called “untouchables”, made anticipatory bail easy, and made arrests subject to permission from the authorities.
It is this which set off a firestorm. The Supreme Court lost sight of the fact that any law can be misused, but that doesn’t distract from the need of having a useful law on balance. To make matters worse, the court’s order came in a period when serious social and gender crimes, leading to grievous bodily harm, including rapes and death, against members of SC/ST communities have been on the rise.
It is a pity that the Centre did not move a review petition right away in order to allay the fears of the SC/ST communities and to extend solidarity. It did so only on Monday after being energetically petitioned for days by dalit sections of BJP leaders, including ministers, as well as dalit MPs and ministers of non-BJP NDA parties.
The Supreme Court, quite unfortunately, appears to be giving the impression that it is oblivious to social sensitivities. It is hard to recall an all-India bandh call being given by dalit communities, and the occurrence speaks of the rise in militant political consciousness among the educated dalit youth. If society is wise, and if the Central government remains farsighted, it will not ignore their wider concerns.