New Delhi: A cabinet decision to restore some dilutions of the SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act cuts no ice with the All India Ambedkar Magasabha, which will go on the August 9 strike as planned.
In what is seen as a hasty attempt to avert Dalit anger across India, the Union cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to ‘undo’ the dilution of the SC/ST Act. The original form of the law was meant to prevent atrocities on citizens belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
It must be noted that this is just a cabinet decision, the Bill hasn’t been presented in Parliament yet. Interesting is also the question as to how the parliament will overrule a Supreme Court decision.
The Narendra Modi government was under intense pressure from Dalit groups and its own allies after a Supreme Court judgment made provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act less stringent to ‘avert its misuse’.
The March 20 judgment had essentially barred the immediate arrest of a person accused for atrocity against a Dalit and included a provision for anticipatory bail. This fuelled fear among Dalit groups that it would embolden their persecutors.
The cabinet has now decided to’ restore’ the original provisions. The bill is expected to be tabled during the ongoing session.
The All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM), an umbrella organisation of a dozen Dalit groups, however, is in no mood to call off its scheduled Bharat Bandh on August 9. The Mahasabha said several of its other demands are pending.
BJP ally and food minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said his party’s proposal to join the agitation now stands cancelled and thanked the Prime Minister. Paswan had also demanded that A.K. Goel, the judge who was part of the bench that delivered the March 20 judgment, be removed as the chief of the National Green Tribunal. After the cabinet decision, he seems to have dropped that demand. “Our main demand was the restoration of the SC/ST Act. All issued are closed now,” Paswan said.
The Mahasabha, which has also opposed Goel’s appointment, has raised the issue of cases against Dalit activists. More than a hundred activists had been arrested on various charges after their participation in a bandh on April 2 against the dilution of the act.
Mahasabha chairman Ashok Bharati told the media: “We appreciate the decision of the cabinet to restore the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to its original form. However, in order to take the Bharat Bandh call back, we want the government to remove the NSA (National Security Act) charges from the five Dalits arrested in Uttar Pradesh last year and withdrawal of false cases filed against the Dalits who took part in the April 2 Bharat Bandh.”