National Dalit Summit Calls for March to Parliament on Dec 4
A NATIONAL Dalit Summit was held in Hyderabad on August 26-27 where more than 300 delegates from various dalit, mass and social organisations from all across the country participated. The summit came out with a national charter of demands and a plan of action to build a mass movement in support of those demands, both with the objective of forcing out the BJP government at the centre and various state governments, in order to fulfill their constitutional duty of establishing a just and egalitarian India.
The declaration adopted at the summit notes that, despite some advancements in education and employment, as India marks its 76th year of independence, it remains evident that, in contrast to the vision set forth by Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar in the constitution, "landlessness and poverty persist, alongside deeply entrenched caste prejudice and discrimination" in India. This situation has deteriorated further since the ascent of the BJP-led government to power.
The declaration underscores that this reality is not unexpected, given that the BJP's parent organisation, the RSS, openly rejects the constitution and actively works towards establishing a society based on the principles of manusmriti.
The summit was attended and addressed by CPI (M) Polit Bureau members Subhashini Ali, Ramchandra Dome and BV Raghavulu and Central Committee member Vikram Singh. All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) general secretary and Party Central Committee Member, B Venkat, Dalit SHoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) president and Party Central Committee member and minister of social welfare department in Kerala, K Radhakrishnan and member of legislative assembly from Kerala, Shantha Kumari also participated in the meeting along with several other leaders, activists, scholars belonging to a broad range of Left and progressive political forces. It was also addressed by several ex-bureaucrats and academics such as Dr Raja Sekhar Vundru, IAS, Prof. Sukhdev Thorat, former chairman of the University Grants Commission, among others.
The summit was hosted by the Centre for Dalit Studies, Hyderabad. Its reception committee consisted of former IAS officer, K Madhav Rao (chairman), Malepalli Laxmaiah, John Wesly and Sai Balaji.
For two days, the delegates deliberated on the proposed draft concept paper having 17-point national charter of demands. During the discussion they pointed out the failures of the Indian state to fulfill the constitutional mandate of social justice and equality for dalits and highlighted rising atrocities committed against them.
The delegates noted how the BJP government has tried to tamper with the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (POA) by introducing legal provisions allowing the accused larger leeway to get away with the caste based atrocities. The BJP government’s persistent policy of privatisation of public sector undertakings including educational institutions and lack of new public sector jobs and educational opportunities have made the constitutional rights of reservation almost redundant and the dream of social and economic equality of dalits and other marginalised sections much more remote.
RESERVATIONS IN PVT SECTOR LAND FOR ALL DALITS
On the basis of the suggestions provided by the delegates and deliberations, the summit adopted a declaration and amended the draft of the charter of demands. The finalised charter of demands has a total of 32 points under nine different heads ranging from the livelihood of dalits and poor to atrocities committed against them by the dominant and upper castes.
It demands equal share for dalits in the common property resources in both urban and rural areas, a legal right to a standard of living for all with right to health and well being across the genders.
It demands proper land reforms with the objective of providing at least five acres of land for every dalit family and says “each dalit family should enjoy basic needs such as houses, roads, electricity, drainage” and other amenities.
The charter also demands the proper implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1978 and abolition of child labour.
The charter of demand raises the issues related to state financial support to dalit entrepreneurs and attempts to address the inequality between dalits and non-dalits in India.
It vehemently criticises the New Education Policy of the central government and demanded its withdrawal to save the right to education of the dalit and poor. The charter raises the issue of “free and high quality education for all dalits immediately” and in order to achieve that, establishment of proper and population based residential schools in all corners of the country.
It demands proper implementation of reservation in both education and jobs with a legal provision for reservations in all private sector undertakings. All the backlog vacancies in the public sector should be filled immediately and allocations for MGNREGA should be increased, along with wages (minimum Rs 600/day) and workdays (minimum 200 days/year).
The dalit summit demanded that the BJP government's attempts to distort the PoA act must be stopped and the Act should be implemented in its letter and spirit. It demanded that its better implementation is necessary for stopping the rising atrocities against Dalit women in various parts of the country.
The summit called for organising state level similar joint conventions of dalit, mass and social organisations highlighting the demand charter.
ONE CRORE SIGNATURES, MARCH TO PARLIAMENT
The summit also ended with a call to organise a campaign to collect at least one crore signatures from all across the country on the charter of demands. The objective of the signature campaign is to raise public awareness about the dalit issues and mobilise them behind the charter in order to force the BJP government to take immediate action.
The summit appealed to all the organisations participating and even those who could not participate for some reason to join the massive campaign to collect the signatures. The charter of demands along with signatures collected would be submitted to the president during a march to parliament on December 4, on the eve of December 6 mahaparinirvan divas of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar. The march will see a massive participation of people from all across the country who will gather in support of the charter of demands concerning dalits and to warn the BJP to desist from its attempts to undermine the constitution and promote the regressive casteist and communalist dictates of manusmriti.
At the end of the summit, a resolution was adopted condemning the ethnic violence in Manipur and indifferent role of the state and central governments, demanding immediate restoration of peace in the state and resignation of the chief minister of Manipur.
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