Dalit idealogue and writer Chandrabhan Prasad speaks to The Sunday Standard on the anger and sense of betrayal among Dalits over the SC judgment allegedly ‘diluting’ the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act:
Do you see the government’s step to introduce a Bill to restore the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2015, as a serious effort to address the Dalit anger or as a political move?
Given the past record, I suspect the government’s intent. When the two justices delivered the judgment diluting the Act, the government filed a review petition. But it did not address the basic flaw of the judgment — that it was passed without giving any evidence. It is the duty of the government to go to the court and point out that it has defied the basic principles of jurisprudence. The judgment cited the high acquittal rate in these cases. Where are the acquittal rates not high in a country like India? The government approached the court in a casual manner. .. I suspect the intent of the government. Nevertheless, I welcome it.
Justice A K Goel who was part of the SC Bench that delivered the judgment on the SC/ST Act was made NGT chairperson (after his retirement). Do you see a contradiction there?
The way the government made him the NGT chairperson, it is clear that he was rewarded for diluting the Act. Now, people within the government, their own Dalit members, are protesting it and they might have calculated this can harm them.
Is the government’s decision to overturn the SC order on the Act a politically significant step?
For the first time, all the sub-groups within the Dalit community stood together during the April 2 Bharat Bandh. They (the government) are now worried that something else may happen again on August 9.
Is the government treating Dalits as mere vote banks?
Most of the attacks on Dalits have happened in the BJP-ruled states and the BJP is not controlling these incidents. Why is the government not serious in apprehending the culprits? What is the government doing in UP, Maharashtra, MP, Bihar and Gujarat?
What do you think of the Opposition stand on this issue?
The Opposition had spoken against the judgment and the government’s casual approach. Now, they have welcomed the government’s decision. How serious they are, nobody can say.
What will be the nature of the protest on August 9?
The April 2 Bharat Bandh was apolitical. For the first time, Dalits showed their power. Understanding Dalit anger is not the only thing, understanding Dalit power is also important.