NDA blinks, to undo dilution of Dalit atrocity law by apex court
Union cabinet clears a new legislation to be introduced in Parliament for restoring provisions of the law
New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Wednesday cleared a new legislation to be introduced in Parliament, restoring provisions of the law on atrocities against scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) which had been knocked off by the Supreme Court.
The Union government has been under pressure from alliance partners as well as prominent Dalit organizations, who had been protesting against the Supreme Court move introducing safeguards against the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act or SC/ST Act to make false allegations.
The decision by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes just days ahead of a nationwide call for protest by Dalit groups on 9 August.
“Cabinet has taken one more very important decision. But, respecting parliamentary traditions, we are not sharing it with you. We will bring a bill and share it with Parliament,” Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the meeting.
“One thing we will definitely say, Narendra Modi-led government is committed for the progress of Dalits and tribals in the country and we will take all necessary steps required in that direction,” he added.
The ruling BJP is under tremendous pressure from its alliance partners like Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Janata Dal (United) and Republican Party of India (Athawale).
LJP president and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan had recently said the centre should bring a new law in Parliament to overturn the order of the Supreme Court.
Several members of Parliament (MPs), including from opposition parties, have been speaking against the apex court’s directions on the issue.
The Congress was quick to claim credit.
“In the end, the pressure of Rahul Gandhi and Congress party as well as protests by Dalits and tribals have produced the results. Modi government, which was conspiring to end the SC/ST atrocities Act, bent under pressure. We are hopeful that Modi government’s bias will not make this bill a victim of conspiracy,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala wrote on Twitter.
Pressure against the NDA government was building from earlier this year in April when six people were killed and several others injured during a “Bharat Bandh” called by Dalits. Interestingly, similar pan-India protests by Dalits and tribals was being organized on 9 August.
The move also comes just ahead of upcoming elections in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year, all three of which have considerable Dalit and tribal population.
“Government was rattled by the protest of NDA partners. Paswan and Athawale had literally encircled the government. The demand of Dalit leaders was that they wanted an ordinance to be brought by government. The Union cabinet has decided to bring the bill but what is the guarantee that it will get passed?” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
“Upper castes have traditionally voted in the favour of BJP and the dilemma for the party is it cannot be seen overtly working for the Dalits,” he added.
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