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Mudda panellists feel Dalit stir should not be allowed to get violent

With parties getting ready for elections in 2109, the sizeable Dalit votebank has become the new battleground. Prime Minister Narendra Modi came down heavily on the perpetrators of violence on Dalits, telling them, “if you have to attack, attack me” but stop attacking “my Dalit brethren”. The NDA government filed a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court order diluting the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which protects marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities. Dalit organisations called a Bharat Bandh protesting the Supreme Court verdict, and five states witnessed violence. Train services were hit in parts of Bihar, Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan. APN’s popular debate Mudda took up the issue with panelists including BJP’s Ashok Thakur,Congress’s Ajay Verma, Dalit observer Dr Lalji Nirmal, Jhakhand Mukti Morcha’s Antu Tirki, constitutional expert CB Pandey, Supreme Court advocate MC Dhingra, and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.

Anchorperson Anant asked the first question to Nirmal, who said: “Dalit anger is not without reason. The SC/ST Act should not be diluted, it was meant to protect Dalits.” He added that the Dalit stir should not get violent.

Dhingra said “the law has not been weakened. Many false cases have been filed under this Act. It has led to hardly 5-10 percent convictions.”

Thakur also said the law has not been weakened.

Verma said Dalits must be feeling let down which is why they have taken to the streets. “The government has to protect the interests of all.”

Pandey said: “It’s important to understand the ramifications of the Supreme Court verdict. The Supreme Court has provided for a procedural safeguard. “

Raju said “the government immediately agreed for a review petition. Government indications have always been in favour of a review petition. But the protests have not been peaceful, and that is not good for Dalits.”

Tirki said the agenda to stop quota for SC/ST is not good, and it goes against the vision of Dalit leader Dr BR Ambedkar.

Verma said: “The country’s current state of affairs is because of the BJP’s lopsided policies. Rahul Gandhi in his tweet has not encouraged violence.”

Dhingra said “there is no restriction on filing FIR. Supreme Court has only said that arrest should not be hurried immediately after filing of FIR. There should be a provision for examining bona fidecases.”

Nirmal said he does not agree with Dhingra’s views that protestors are not fully aware of the Supreme Court verdict. “It’s actually a huge dilution of the SC/ST Act,” he said.

Pandey said “the fact is that Dalit FIRs are never lodged, and in many cases, the witnesses change stand. This protest is for Dalit pride.”

Raju said: “It’s a fact that poor Dalits face huge odds. If a case is registered, they feel that something at least is getting done, but if an SP rank officer has to examine the case before a case can be filed, the ground is open for corruption and delay. We all know that our police force is likely to treat such cases in a go-slow way. If the right to lodge FIR is stopped, Dalit anger is justified. However politicisation of the issue, and the way Rahul Gandhi has tweeted, is also not right.”

Thakur said the government is right by filing a review petition, but other parties are out to grab political mileage out of the issue.

Pandey said that FIR should be allowed to be filed immediately, independent of permission from higher authorities.

Nirmal said:”Politicisation of this issue should be condoned. It’s because of such politics that Dalits continue to be doing poorly, despite so many years of struggle after Independence.”

~Niti Singh Bhandari

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