NCHRO Statement on the Brutal Firing and Attack on the Protestors during the Bharat Bandh
April 03, 2018
National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) condemns the way in which the BJP ruled state governments in North India handled the Bharat Bandh organized by various SC/ST associations on April 2 against the recent SC judgment diluting the provisions of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Though the Bandh was announced well before, the state governments didn’t care to take any precautionary measures to handle the situation peacefully. People have every right to protest against the government to protect their hardly earned rights and liberties. NCHRO condemns the brutal police firings which killed six protesters in Madhya Pradesh, two in UP and one in Rajasthan. The protesters were attacked brutally and thousands of people were arrested in Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Jharkhand and Odisha.
The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 is a landmark achievement in the history of eradication of untouchability in India. Though Article 17 of Indian Constitution seeks to abolish ‘untouchability’, it is basically a “statement of principle” that needs to be made operational through specific criminal laws and procedures.
It was in this background the Untouchability (Offences) Act was enacted in 1955. However, lacunae and loopholes in this act impelled to revamp it with more stringent provisions. In 1976 the Act was revamped as the Protection of Civil Rights Act with some additional provisions. Despite these measures the SCs and STs remained vulnerable and were subjected to various offences, indignities and harassments.
Since the normal provisions of the above laws and the provisions of Indian Penal Code have been found inadequate to check these atrocities the Parliament passed ‘Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’, 1989 & Rules, 1995. These laws were provided with some extraordinary provisions to handle the extraordinary situations faced by SC /ST people.
But still the stringent provisions introduced in this way were not able to improve the situation in any way. The perpetrators of these atrocities continued to roam free. Hence in the year 2013 various civil rights organizations and Dalit movements, after a yearlong campaign succeeded in amending the act by introducing some more punishable offences in the 1989 Act. The Amendment Ordinance 2014 was signed by the president on 4 March 2014 and came into force immediately.
Since it was an ordinance and the upper caste dominated BJP government hesitated to initiate measures for ratification in the next six months. However due to pressures from civil rights organizations a bill regarding this was introduced in the Parliament and passed on 4 Aug 2015.
Now on March 20, the apex court issued a slew of guidelines which had diluted the hard earned safeguards protecting the SC/ST people from atrocities. According to the new guidelines issued by SC any coercive action against public servants accused of hostility towards SC/ST people can only be taken with written permission from their appointing authority and in the case of private citizens accused of a similar crime, arrest can be made only after the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned allows it. Coupled with this, the court has also said there was no complete bar against granting anticipatory bail if there is no prima facie case or if, upon investigation, the case registered under this act is found to be ‘mala fide’ or motivated in bad faith.It was in other words dilution of the amended sections of the act.The Bharat Bandh was to express anger against the dilution by backdoor.
NCHRO demands a judicial enquiry on the police firing and stringent action against the delinquent trigger- happy police action the Confederation also demands immediate release of the Dalit activists now in jails.The government should take necessary care to argue effectively in the SC to safeguard the rights and dignities of the SC/ST people.