The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was implemented to punish atrocities committed on the SC/ST’s. It gives special protections and rights to victims and courts are set up to complete the cases faster. 19 acts have been listed as crimes and some of them are boycotting them socially, forcing them to eat cow dung.
The Central Government amended The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)(Sc/St) Act 1989 in 2014 and in 2016. The latest one being The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)(SC/ST) Act 2016. These rules added more crimes to the list of existing and punishments for committing them.
Even though this law exists the number of crimes committed is on rising and the conviction rate has been very low. The punitive provisions are also rarely invoked.
On 20th March 2018, Justice AK Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit, a two-judge bench in Supre Court passed ruling which stopped the immediate arrest of accused and introduced provision for bail for accused under this act. They justified their ruling stating that the law has been misused for personal vengeance or blackmail.
The Dalit Groups declared Bharath Bandh on 2nd of April 2018 to put their dissatisfaction on not being presented properly in the court. The severity of the act by passing this rule has also been one of their points for protest.
The bandh affected Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand. The calm protest turned into clashes and violence. 10 were reported dead while hundreds were injured across the states.Curfew was imposed on Gwalior, Bhind, Morena due to the clash of protesting Dalits and right wing. Internet services were stopped in these 3 districts to avoid further rumors in social media. A rumor of cancellation of reservations for SC’s caused more rise in protest in certain areas.
CBSE class 10th and 12th exam scheduled in Punjab were postponed.Schools were shut in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Suspension of public transport services was observed in Punjab. Protestors disrupted train services. 100 trains were affected while 9 trains were canceled.
Arrests and FIR’s were lodged across the state for violence and arson.
In reaction to the protests, parts of Rajasthan observed violence by upper caste men. They torched houses of Dalits and cases of eve-teasing were reported. Houses of Minster of Legislative assembly were not spared.
The Congress, BSP, AAM ADMI Party and other parties came out and gave their support to the Dalit movement while attacking the party running the current government BJP.
BJP too assured that they were with the Dalit community. The Centre made a plea to intern stay on the order by the Supreme Court.
The court refused to pass a stay on the order. It stood its ground stating that it did not dilute the amendment.They justified their judgment by quoting that they are trying to avoid communism and give the accused if innocent a right to protect.
The Current Situation:
Since the implementation of the law even though the law has been upgraded the number of cases registered are rising. This means that the law has not been a scare to the accused. This is mainly because of the low acquittal rate. The chances of the accused being punished though they are supposed to has not been happening.
Even though we should have surpassed castism in the community, it still persists. A section of our own people are being mistreated and humiliated.
We criticise reservation offered to these groups. But in reality, only a few are being able to actually claim their reservation for studying or jobs. And sometimes they are mistreated in these surroundings too.
The Supreme Court has asked all the parties to submit reports within 4th of April 2018. The case will be heard after 10 days.