[WSMDiscuss] On Social Justice- A Lecture and an Opinion Piece

Umakant uk4in at yahoo.co.in
Tue Apr 3 20:15:21 CEST 2018

Dear Friends

Greetings! Please click on the links given below towatch a video and also to read an opinion piece. The opinion piece is alsopasted below.  


Do pass it on to others in your circle/network. 


A NationWithout Social Justice Lecture Series- Dr. UMAKANT

April 02, 2018, JNU, New Delhi 





We mustremove inequality, Ambedkar said, or our political structure will bein peril

Dr. Umakant, Opinion, Indian Express, April03, 2018  



This protest was unprecedented because it waslargely led by ordinary Dalits and Adivasis, while political parties and theirleaders played a secondary role. Nobody had expected such a huge turnout


PrimeMinister Narendra Modimay hope to make Babasaheb Ambedkar’s India a reality, but he must realise thatmere pronouncements will remain meaningless if there is no sincere effort onthe part of the government and society at large to annihilate the Brahmanicalcaste system which is solely responsible for keeping Dalits and Adivasis a part,yet apart of the socio-economic and political set up that we have in India.


Therecent Supreme Court verdict on the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which diluted some of its provisions, hasled to an unprecedented protest across several states. It took more than tendays for the government to file a review petition in the Supreme Court. Theverdict, as well as the delay on the government’s part, created a sense ofdistrust among a large section of Dalits and Adivasis, which led to anoutpouring of anger onto the streets.


Thisprotest was unprecedented because it was largely led by ordinary Dalits andAdivasis, while political parties and their leaders played a secondary role.Nobody had expected such a huge turnout – one which has the potential to throwany political combination out of power in future.


Thisanger must be handled with a great amount of care and sensitivity, or else thesituation may go out of control. It would be instructive to quote Babasaheb DrB. R. Ambedkar, when he spoke on November 25, 1949, in the Constituent Assemblyof India, “From January 26, 1950, onwards we are going to enter into a life ofcontradictions. In politics, we will have equality, one man, one vote, one voteand one value. In society and economy, we will still have inequality. In oursocial and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economicstructure, continue to deny the principle of one man-one value.”


“Howlong shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall wecontinue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue todeny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy inperil.


“Wemust remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else thosewho suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracywhich this Assembly has so laboriously built up,” he had added.


Inthe light of the above caution as well as the experiences of Dalits and Adivasisin their daily struggle for dignity, equality and justice, is it fair to fiddlewith whatever constitutional safeguards that have been provided, which couldpossibly pave the way for an egalitarian society based on the notions ofliberty, equality and fraternity?


Itis worth noting here that our Constitution only abolished untouchabilityarising out of the caste system. It does not talk about annihilating the castesystem itself which has been and continues to remain responsible fordehumanising a quarter of India’s population.


TheUntouchability Offence Act, 1955, which was later amended and re-christened asthe Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1976, proved to be ineffective in dealingwith monstrous attacks on Dalits and Adivasis on an everyday basis. That is howthe Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989came into being.


Theterm “atrocity” was defined for the first time in this Act. Provisions weremade for more stringent punishments for committing such offences/atrocities.States and Union Territories had to take specific preventive and punitivemeasures to protect the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) frombeing victimised; where atrocities were committed, to provide adequate reliefsand assistance to rehabilitate them.


Apublic servant who does not belong to the SC and ST community and who willinglyneglects the duties under the Act can be imprisoned for six months to a year.This Act, along with the rules framed under it, has laid down elaborateprocedures for ensuring protection to SCs and STs by providing for specialcourts, special public prosecutors, prescribing deputy SP rank of policeofficers for investigation, fixing period for investigation, etc.


Therules also provide for setting up SCs and STs Protection Cells, appointment ofnodal officers in the rank of Secretary to the government at the state leveland a special officer at the district level, constitution of vigilance andmonitoring committees at the state and district level, besides payment ofrelief and traveling allowances, etc., to the victims of the atrocities andtheir families.


Personsarrested under the Act do not have the right to seek anticipatory bail. It isthe responsibility of the Centre to place an annual report before Parliament onthe progress of implementation of the Act. It was passed with a great deal offanfare, to give special protection to this vulnerable section.


Butthe facts on the ground tell a different story altogether. This Act was furtheramended in 2014 to make it more effective in dealing with the ever-growingcrimes against Dalits and Adivasis in the country. From 1990 to 2016, untilwhen National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data is available, it is clear thathundreds and thousands of reported and non-reported cases from across thelength and breadth of this country belie the claim of India being a moderncountry with a humanist Constitution.


Foryears together there has not been much on part of the central government aswell as the state governments to fully implement several provisions of thisAct. The question that needs to be asked is, “If government fails to implementwith full sincerity an Act like this, could the judiciary dilute some of itsprovisions on the grounds of misuse of the Act by its victims?”


Itgoes without saying while it is good to have a Constitution as well as laws,more importantly what is needed is due-diligence and accountability of thestate as well as of the non-state actors.




DrUmakant is an independent scholar based in New Delhi 


My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality. 
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