A number of Dalit organisations on Thursday asked the Narendra Modi government to "restore" through an ordinance the SC/ST Act that has been "diluted" by a Supreme Court order and withdrawal of cases filed against Dalit activists during the countrywide shutdown on April 2.
Addressing a press conference here, they also announced to observe April 14 -- the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar -- as "Protect Constitution" day across the country.
Those addressing the press meet included Ashok Bharti, advisor to the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisations; Ramesh Nathan of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights; Anand Rao of All India Dalit Rights Federation; Srinivasa Rao of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch; and Nirmal of Bharat Khet Mazdoor Union.
"The government must bring an ordinance to protect the sanctity of the SC/ST Act. Also, the cases against the Dalit activists who were implicated during the Bharat Bandh on April 2 must be withdrawn," said Bharti.
Accusing the Narendra Modi government of not being "honest" vis-a-vis Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar, the Dalit leaders said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government could not use the past Congress governments' inaction or deliberate unwillingness to give the Dalits their due as an alibi to deny them their rights now.
The Supreme Court in an order on March 20 said that an accused cannot be mandatorily arrested under the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act without an initial probe. The Dalit organisations and various civil society groups see it as "dilution" of the Act and accuse the Modi government of conniving in the case.
"Our Prime Minister claims that he comes from a backward class. Our request to him is that being from the backward background, he should do justice to the backwards. Let's give 52 per cent reservation to the backwards through a legislation," Bharti said.
The Dalit leaders also demanded putting the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, under the Schedule IX of the Constitution.
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