December 10, 2023
Thousands Protest against Dalit Atrocities and for Social Justice

Vikram Singh

THOUSANDS of enthusiastic activists working for dalit rights from Kashmir to Kanyakumari participated with their banners and placards at the mass Dilli Chalo rally on December 4 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi.

 The rally was organised by the Co-ordination Committee for Dalit Rights that had successfully held a Dalit Summit in Hyderabad in August this year.  More than a 100 organisations working on dalit issues participated in the summit and adopted a charter of demands.  The summit decided to carry out a massive signature campaign addressed to the president of India for acceptance and implementation of the charter.  The signatures would be carried to Delhi at the time of the rally and later submitted to the president.  The summit had called for joint conventions of various organisations at the state level to ensure the success of these programmes.

States like Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, have held successful conventions.  The response to the signature campaign was also very encouraging and lakhs of signatures were brought to the Delhi Rally. 

A presidium consisting of A Vijayaraghavan (president, AIAWU), Subhashini Ali (vice president, DSMM), N Periasami (president, BKMU), A Ramamurthi (AIDRM), M Lakshmayya (well-known dalit activist and scholar), Sri Ram Chaudhary (president, AILA) was formed to conduct the rally.  All the presidium members spoke about the charter and about the significance of this joint movement which had to be strengthened and taken forward in order to ensure the defeat of the Manuwadi BJP in the forthcoming general elections in 2024.

MPs belonging to opposition parties also addressed the rally – M Selvaraju and Benoy Viswam of CPI, John Britas and Sivadasan of CPI(M) and Manoj Jha of RLD.  They emphasised on the importance of a joint struggle to mobilise the most exploited and oppressed sections to fight for their demands and to see that the Manuwadi forces are defeated.  They assured the gathering that they would fight not only inside parliament but would join them on the streets as well.

Many leaders of organisations working and fighting for dalit rights addressed the rally.  Ramchandra Dom, B Venkat, GS Goria, VS Nirmal, Paul Divakar, Sri Ram Chaudhary, Rahul, Adhiyaman, Beena Pallical, Suryakant Paswan, Abhiramya, Devi Rani and Kurabi Vinay Kumar were among those who addressed the rally. Hannan Mollah from Samyukta Kisan Manch and Sukumar Dhamle from joint platform of Central Trade Unions extended their support to the rally and demands.

The issues of sanitation workers, landless rural poor and specially the terrible oppression and violence faced by dalit women were highlighted. The rally ended with a vote of thanks by Soma Prasad.  Slogans like ‘We will protect the Constitution from Manuwadi forces’; ‘We will strengthen our unity and our struggles’; and ‘We will remove BJP in 2024’ were raised enthusiastically by the participants.

Charter of Demands

  1. Enact legislation and enforce it stringently to enable dalits to have an equitable share in the appropriation and use of the rural and urban common property resources. 
  2. Protect the rights to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of women and men equally, including food, safe drinking water, clothing, housing, public health and medical care, social security and social services and access to all public amenities and spaces. Ensure a living wage and ownership of five acres of land to the rural landless; ensure that SCs are given possession of all land allotted to them.
  3. Enforce the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and abolish forthwith child labour.
  4. Ensure proportionate reservation for SCs in all government procurement and contracts.  Government and private organisations must implement supplier diversity and dealership diversity.
  5. Withdraw the National Education Policy and guarantee free, quality education for all SCs.  Ensure prompt payment of adequate scholarships. Reservation quotas must be implemented in all public and private educational institutions and a law against caste discrimination in educational institutions must be enacted.
  6. Reservation must be made mandatory in the private sector.  Backlogs in the government sectors must be immediately filled and reservation in promotions restored.
  7. The inhuman practice of manual scavenging and manual sanitary work must be eliminated and all those who do not comply must be prosecuted and punished.
  8. MNREGA must be implemented without conditionalities and hindrances. Pending wages must be paid immediately, workdays be increased to 200 and wages to Rs 600 per day.
  9. The SC/ST PoA must be implemented in letter and spirit.  Culprits must be punished in strict accordance with the laws and members of the administration who are found guilty of dereliction of their duties must be given salutary punishment. Offenders under the Act must be made non-eligible for getting bail from the police station itself. Fast track courts must be set up to ensure speedy justice.
  10. The funds allocated for SCs in the sub plan of the union budget must be utilised only for this purpose and similar laws must be enacted for the states. Budget allocations must be made according to the proportion of SCs and STs in the total population and diversion or non-utilisation of these funds must be made a culpable offense.
  11. A caste census must be carried out along with the general census.