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The war of attrition on Dalits and Adivasis: Anti-atrocities Act, reservations and Constitution of India

Dalits agitate against the anti-atrocities Act

By Antara and Umesh Babu*

“Ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle of reclamation of human personality.” -- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

In the recent past, the social fabric of this country has been repeatedly violated through gross acts of politically motivated injustice and violence. We are witnessing a growing political leaning towards fascism under the current regime. Hundreds of cases of pre-planned riots, murders, mob lynchings and loose-end policy formulations have been taking place rampantly.
Some examples would be the murders of renowned journalists like Pansare, Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi amongst others who articulated such doubts. Further, horrendous cases of mob violence have been reported, where innocent Dalits, Adivasi, women, religious and other social minorities have been targeted without the fear of law. Dalit and tribal students have been harassed in University campuses, where educational aids have been reduced and conditioned, women are increasingly being reduced to their bodies and the entire country is being poked into a xenophobic frenzy.
In relation to the above, most political parties have failed in their duties and their assurances have fallen flat. Persistent and consistent deprivation, humiliation, isolation and discrimination to the point of cold blooded murder is being regularly committed by militant political outfits like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Durga Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and its related branches. 
They claim that they are the ordained enforcers of religious codes and that their retaliation towards any social minority that tries to step out of their ‘status’, is a sacred duty. They are shielded by the governments at the Centre and run amok with no fear of law. Even though there is a large pool of proof like audio, video and photographic evidence of their wrongdoing, they continue to go scot free.
To articulate the necessity of collective action, one should observe the current events in the country. The Supreme Court’s decision to dilute the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has resulted in a widespread protest and agitation by unorganised Dalit and tribal communities. 2nd April 2018 was a day of historic resistance, without any political or religious organisation, the streets across the country were covered in blue and the rage of the historically deprived masses. This attempt by the Supreme Court to protect the perpetrators was not received passively, it is not only an attack on these communities but also a large blow to the Constitution of this country.
The High Courts have also ordered that SC/ST/OBC employees, who benefitted from reservation at the time of their recruitment, should not be promoted and instead should be demoted if required. Court orders also prohibit recruitment of merit owners, once fee or any other relaxation is taken by the applicants of these communities. Such court orders are being implemented on war footing. Besides court orders; there are ordinances, laws, office memorandums, guidelines, and many other instruments and subordinate legislations that are being used to abandon the representation of these communities in bureaucracy.
It makes one thing clear: religious and political ideologies that encourage violence, political and economic unrest within the country are in blatant opposition to the Constitutional rights; they are no longer acceptable to the larger population, which is evident in the growing distrust in the system. These spurts of resistances and social movements have to be channeled into a larger opposition to the current regime. These struggles can be turned into a tide of change and to strengthen it, the civil society has to play a major role.
Therefore, we need to plan and strategize our work to support such resistances. Political leaders, law scholars, academicians, activists and other likeminded people need to work together and unify practice and theory.
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*With Delhi Forum. Concept note for preparatory meet in Delhi on April 6 for a plan of action and to strategize to support struggle

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