“Untouchability is an instrument in the hands of the upper castes”
Dalit and Tribal activists plan a “Dilli Chalo” campaign demanding an amendment to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act
The National Coalition for Strengthening Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act on Thursday 25 October 2012, announced the launch of “Dilli Chalo” a nationwide campaign to pressurise the government to amend the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act. The campaign will culminate in a show of strength of 63,000 Dalits and Adivasis participating in a National Samelan (conference) in New Delhi on 23 November, 2012. The date has been fixed to coincide with the winter Session of the Parliament in the hope that the government will take up the issue during this session.
In a build up to the conference in Delhi several coalition partners of the movement have organised consultations, rallies and public hearings in their home states. Discussions revolve around the lacunae in the present Act and how it can be strengthened.
According to Dr SDJM Prasad, general secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and a prominent human rights lawyer, “The government has given a positive response so far. We have invited all political parties to share their stand on the issue.”
“Despite the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women atrocities against these communities have not stopped. Cases of atrocities on SCs and STs are not even registered. Conviction rates are abysmally poor, going down to 8% in some states” said Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch.
Vimal Thorat, convenor of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch harked back to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement from two years ago when he said “Our necks should hang in shame”, commenting on the condition of SCs and STs in India. She urged the media and civil society to build pressure on the government.
“Untouchability is an instrument in the hands of the upper castes to suppress the lower castes. When the lower castes revolt they have to face atrocities. This is why this Act is important. The present Act suffers from casual implementation” said retired bureaucrat PS Krishnan. Ramesh Nathan, director, Social Awareness Society for Youth in Tamil Nadu said, “More than 150 Dalit and human rights organisations have reviewed the Act and come to the conclusion that it is not effective and untouchability is still prevalent.”