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Dalits rights meet planned on how citizenship law 'negates' Ambedkar's equality focus

Martin Macwan
By Our Representative
A Dalit rights meet has been planned at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), Sanand, Ahmedabad district, to discuss implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament on December 10-11, for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized sections. Announcing the decision, DSK director Martin Macwan said, the meet would take place on December 25, 2019, at 11.00 am, to commemorate the anniversary of burning of copies of Manusmriti by Dr BR Ambedkar.
An explanatory note on what CAA should mean to Dalits, who have in actual fact not been acknowledged as equal citizens of India even 73 years after they became the country’s citizens, says, at a time when BJP is talking of providing shelter to all religious minorities, except Muslims, persecuted in the three neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, India’s own Dalits “continue to be victims of untouchability and manual scavenging.”
Pointing out that are yet to be treated as ‘equal’ citizens, Martin Macwan, who has authored the note, says, “Despite being Hindu, they are refused permission to enter into temples or cremate bodies on common cremation grounds. If this is not religious intolerance then what is it? Dalits among Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs face a similar predicament.”
Wondering if there is any way to ensure that India’s 21.5 crore or 16.5% Dalits do not become victims of religious abuse, Macwan, who is recipient of the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award, says, “The 2014 Lok Sabha elections saw BJP and its supporters gain majority in the Lok Sabha because of the reserved seats of Adivasis-Dalits, yet government figures show that atrocities against under their rule against Adivasis-Dalits have gone up.”
Despite being India's equal citizens on paper, India’s 21.5 crore or 16.5% Dalits, continue to be victims of religious abuse
“How can one expect the Central government, which has failed to stop atrocities against its own citizens, to provide solace to those living in other countries?”, wonders Macwan, suggesting, what CAA is doing is to negate what top Dalit icon, Dr BR Ambedkar, did on December 25, 1927, to put on fire Manusmriti, the ancient treatise which gave religious sanctity to unequal status to Dalits.
Pointing out that Dr Ambedkar’s campaign was for equal status to Dalits who faced religious persecution at the hands of those who were wedded to the thoughts and views Manusmriti, Macwan says, Dr Ambedkar’s campaign was not against any particular religion, but against injustice.
Anti-CAA protest: Historian Ram Chandra Guha with Ambedkar poster
“Hindu leaders also participated in the programme and put on fire Manusmriti. Dr Ambedkar’s was not against any particular religion but was against those who are taking shelter of religion for irreligious acts”, he says.The Constitution was unanimously adopted by all the elected members of Parliament, irrespective of their religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, in 1950”, says Macwan, citing how CAA, even as seeking to provide citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jains, has refused to provide a similar status to Muslims, which is contrary to the Constitutional values.
“Seventy years on, BJP and its allies want to remove the provision of equality before law, guaranteed by the Constitution”, he says.
Also noting how, over the years, Adivasis of India have been progressively deprived of their equal rights, guarantees by the Constitution’s Articles 14 and 15, Macwan regrets, refugees seeking to resettle in India were invariably dumped on tribal land. Thus, “the 1931 census figures show that Tripura had 56.37% Adivasi population, which went down to 28.44% in 2011. Even as the proportion of the local people went down, their landownership, employment and political power also went down. The same thing happened in Assam.”
According to Macwan, “Coming under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, all the north-eastern states have seen Adivasis losing their control over land, property, jobs. According to a Planning Commission report, though the Adivasi population in the country is 8.08%, the refugees are sought to be settled in those areas where the Adivasi population is 40% or more.”

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