Although India is a democratic republic but equality to the schedule cast and schedule tribes is still not available. People of SC/ST communities are suffering at every phase of their lives.
On March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court in its decision in SK Mahajan versus the State of Maharashtra examined the manner in which the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 was being misused. While doing so, the Supreme Court unfortunately displayed selective amnesia by focusing on only certain instances of misuse, passing broad sweeping comments and issuing guidelines preventing such misuse while in essence ignoring the decades of abuse and exploitation that members of the scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) have been and still are subjected to.
The judgment of the Supreme Court is another dispiriting blow to a country whose current Government formed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has overtly and in some cases, subtly tried to implement the philosophy of division, discrimination and exploitation espoused by its philosophical father, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In this week’s column, I will attempt to highlight the manner in which this Government has failed our most downtrodden communities and why we must be wary of their hate-filled approach that places more importance on the varna system than the words of our Constitution.
The state of affairs: When I say that SCs, STs and OBCs are some our most downtrodden communities, I don’t say so lightly. To give some perspective, STs constitute approximately 8.2 per cent of India’s population but only 22.6 per cent of such STs have toilet facilities. In terms of dropouts, over 70.6 per cent of SC boys and over 71.3 per cent of SC girls drop out before Class X. In terms of absolute poverty, almost half of all Adivasis are classified as poor.
These are just cold, hard numbers for thought and looking back over the past few years at the suicide of Rohith Vermula, the hacking of Shankar, a 21-year-old Dalit in broad daylight and the innumerable instances of violence, paints a miserable picture where SCs, STsand OBCs are treated as second-class citizens in our country. Ideally, a responsible, sensitive Government which respects the words of our Constitution would take all efforts to ensure that this disparity in treatment, as well as the brutality that these communities are subject to, is addressed as a matter of priority.
Sadly, the BJP Government does not classify as one such Government. Instead, through its words and actions, the BJP has betrayed the Constitution of the country and has failed these communities.
Words and actions: As the numbers highlighted above show the status of SCs, STs and OBCs is deplorable. Reservation is an important tool, which can help bridge this disparity and enable SCs, STs and Dalits to achieve some amount of upward mobility and escape the shackles of poverty and deprivation. Clearly though, this is an idea which does not sit well with the BJP and the RSS. Repeatedly, we have seen comments from Mohan Bhagwat, Manmohan Vaidya and other leaders voicing their displeasure with the idea of reservation.
This is because reservation is a mechanism, which can help ensure that people of all castes and communities enjoy the benefits of India’s growth. The idea behind reservation is to ensure an India where no community or caste is left behind.
This, however, is not the idea of India that the BJP/RSS harbours. By adopting this language of exclusion and hatred, the BJP repeatedly demonstrates little regard for the values of our Constitution and lesser still for the dignity of all people irrespective caste, religion or creed.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the words of the BJP and the RSS that betray their true divisive intentions but their actions too.
I have seen the BJP try to implement this politics of divisiveness and hatred in my home state of Jharkhand. The BJP has consistently made attempts to take away the rights of SCs and STs in the state. Right from 2010, when Arjun Munda and his BJP Government made attempts to dilute the provisions of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) by waiving off the requirement to obtain the
deputy commissioner’s consent for transfer of tribal land (only to be rapped on its knuckles by the High Court) to just recently when Raghubar Das and his Government have sought to make some striking changes to the CNT and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT).
Both the CNT and the SPT were originally enacted to protect the land rights of the tribals from this region, however, the BJP Government has sought to systematically take away these protections and make it easier for private players to steal the land of tribals and Adivasis.
While originally, under Section 21 of the CNT, the use of tribal land for anything other than agriculture, constructions of ponds, well and brick making was barred, the BJP has sought to amend the act to empower the Government to make rules for non-agricultural use of agricultural land.
Other amendments to the acts seek to not only expand the list of projects for which tribal land can be acquired but also to do away with the provision of compensation in case of fraudulent transfers.
Another example of how the SCs/STs and OBCs are being targeted unfairly is the recent proposal of the University Grants Commission, which has received the nod of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. As per this proposal, the University Grants Commission proposes to calculate the reservation department-wise rather than on the basis of the total number of posts in a University.
This proposed change is certain to impact the already low number of faculty members from the SC/ST and OBC community at central universities.
It is therefore clear that the BJP has adopted an all-out assault on the rights of SCs, STs and OBCs by attacking their right to education, their right to employment and their right to property. There is, however, no doubt that the people of the country are wising up to the mala fide motives of the BJP and no matter how many times Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Government make empty promises and give long-winded speeches about being a Government that cares about its most neglected, the facts on the ground make for some uncomfortable viewing for those who respect and adhere to values of our Constitution.
(The writer, Jharkhand PCC president, is a former MP and IPS officer. Views expressed are personal and entirely of the writer)
Writer: Ajay Kumar
Courtesy: The Pioneer