THE two months that have elapsed since the Bharat bandh of April 2 against the dilution of the Prevention of Atrocities against SCs/STs (POA) by the Supreme Court judgment have seen the most vicious and vindictive attacks on dalits in the BJP-ruled states of UP, MP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
They have displayed the deep anti-dalit bias of the BJP run state governments and the upper-caste chauvinism of the Hindutva forces.
At least eight dalits were killed during the bandh, some of them by RSS goons but no one responsible for their killing has been arrested or punished. Some of the families have received compensation under the PoA but the state governments have announced no compensation or aid to them.
Those who were openly firing at dalits or beating them brutally with lathis in Madhya Pradesh on April 2, are yet to be arrested. On April 3, when dalits taken into custody were produced in court in Gwalior, they were brutally beaten by lawyers but again no action has been taken. Similarly, in Rajasthan, on the 3rd, the homes of a BJP dalit MLA and a Congress dalit ex-MLA were razed to the ground by mobs but not a single person has been arrested. In UP, dalits were beaten, their homes attacked and one dalit activist was murdered just after the bandh after his having ‘been sentenced to death’ in a post on social media but there have been no arrests.
In Maharashtra, on April 2, dalits were attacked in Aurangabad and some were arrested but the government has revealed its casteist, anti-dalit bias by the way in which it has dealt with those responsible for the violence and arson targeting dalits after the Bhima-Koregaon celebrations on January 1 of this year. One of those accused of inciting the violence, Sambhaji Bhide, who is the prime minister’s ‘guru’ is still at large, spewing hatred; the main accused, Milind Ekbote, along with others, is out on bail.
In complete contrast, dalits have been subjected to unimaginable injustice.
In UP, the anti-Dalit character of the Yogi government has been apparent from the day it assumed office. It has encouraged upper-caste members to carry out attacks with impunity and it has imposed NSA on Chandraskhekhar of the Bhim Army along with two others to keep them incarcerated for more than a year. After April 2, dalits were attacked across Western UP forcing many to abandon their villages in fear. Dozens of dalit youth are in jail, accused unfairly of committing heinous crimes. Several minor dalit boys have also been sent to jail with the administration refusing to accept even Aadhaar card evidence of their ages and they are being held with adult prisoners. Let alone bail being granted, bail applications are not even being processed or admitted in the courts.
In Rajasthan, out of a total of 33 districts, 436 dalits and adivasis were arrested in twelve after April 2. An umbrella organisation of various dalit and tribal organisations including the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM), the Movement against Oppression of Dalits, Adivasis and Minorities took up the cause of all those victimised after the April 2 bandh. Apart from those in jail, many SC/ST government employees are also facing threats. As a result of its efforts, all those in jail have been released on bail. The movement is continuing its struggle for justice, against victimisation. Of course, no one responsible for the violence against dalits has been arrested and no compensation has been paid for the damage suffered by many dalit families.
In MP, in the three affected districts, more than 400 dalits are in jail and thousands face arrest and harassment because of the large numbers of ‘unknown others’ mentioned in the police FIRs. The regular interventions made by the CPI(M) and DSMM have ensured that only two or three arrests have been reported in the last month, but the harassment by the police continues unabated. All the bail applications moved in the lower courts have been rejected because the police refuses to furnish the necessary documents. Most unfortunately, the High Court has also refused to accept bail applications.
The BJP government of Maharashtra has recently arrested five activists who were involved with the campaign for justice for those attacked, killed and injured in the wake of the Bhima-Koregaon celebrations. They were initially accused of being ‘urban Maoists’ planning seditious and anti-national activity and now a further charge of plotting to assassinate the prime minister has been leveled. As a result, the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been used against them.
The hypocrisy of the BJP which talks of welfare of the dalits must be exposed. All these vindictive and unjust actions of these state governments must be strongly condemned. The fight for justice must continue and all democratic sections and organisations must come forward to support and strengthen it. No amount of repression can suppress the struggle for dalit rights as there is a new awakening among dalits, in particular the youth.
(June 13, 2018)