Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Atrocity Act is dividing the society!

Social atmosphere in Maharashtra is presently strained because of the Atrocity Act and some other social issues. There are massive protest marches in many districts, thankfully the protests are peaceful, but the underlying outburst is obvious. Superficially, it may sound that Maratha, a politically strong community of the Maharashtra is against this act, and may be true to some extent, at the least for present agitations, but many sections of the society as well are opponents of this law.

Though, in the rest of the country, people have not assembled on the streets in protests, the resentment about the Act brews almost everywhere. On the other hand, despite the law coming into the force since 1989, the atrocities against the Dalits are ever growing. There have been two amendments in the law, making it more stringent, since then, but the effect is minimal. For example, so called saffron cow protectors are committing many atrocities against Dalits and Muslims, but instead of addressing the right issue Modi Government has made further amendments to appease Dalits, attempting to assure them that the government is not against them. This is, in a way, brutal atrocity upon the law.

While introducing this law, the reasons were more political than social. Rajiv Gandhi Govt. passed the Act in 1989 just on the wake of general elections. The second amendment, of 2014,  too, found the same timing… general elections. Modi government too made further amendment for the same reason, eying forthcoming elections in UP. SC/ST communities always has been attempted to be used for the political gains. There never was any serious intention to curb caste based atrocities among all sections of the society. They had vile intentions while passing this Act in hurry, expecting no opposition, as no one risks being called “Anti-Dalit”.

It was forgotten while making such law that the root cause of the Dalit atrocities lies in our system. It was failure of our socialist system which could not uplift the deprived societies, educationally and economically, the way it should have been.The economic inequality leads to social inequality and in the country like India, caste became a major factor in strengthening the inequality.   We forgot that we need a united and liberal society where caste and religion doesn't become hindrance in the progress. At the least the laws should not be divisive. It was not intended by Dr. Babasaheb at all. I do not say that atrocities should not be punished heavily, but its ambit should be applicable to all the citizens. Then whoever commits atrocities on dalit or any other should be equally held responsible. This is only way to eradicate atrocities.

But the basic principles laid down by the constitution were violated while passing this Act, which we should take seriously. The Preamble of India assures us “EQUALITY of status and of opportunity”. Article 14 assures us that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.  Article 17 speaks about the eradication of the untouchability and provides stringent actions against “any person” of “any community” practicing untouchability or the offenses fall under untouchability. The article does not discriminate anybody based on the caste or religion. Article 35 too prohibits parliament to make any law, contrary to the directive principles of the constitution.

Here, without getting into legal jargon, let us understand how this Act is unconstitutional. It is claimed by the experts that the Atrocity Act does not have any constitutional ground because it has made special provision for only SC/ST communities and not for all the citizens of the country. In fact, it cannot go beyond the scope of the untouchability as prescribed in Article 17. It also violates the fundamental principle of the constitution that all the citizens will be held equally in the eyes of the law. Also provisions of this law violates the principle of the liberty that is the core foundation of our constitution. For example there is no provision for the bail to the accused even if the offenses under which accused is booked are of minor nature.

However, the fact must be noted that judgements, in bail cases filed under this law, are passed mostly based on the provisions of the Act. Constitutional validities almost remained unquestioned by them, because before them were the crimes in question  and not the entire law, upon which they had to decide whether bail be granted or not.

Now let us ask basic questions.

1.      Are the atrocities committed only by non SC/ST communities on the SC/ST Communities? Can’t it happen otherwise or SC committing an offense against ST or within the castes, those are listed in SC or ST communities?

2.      There are many castes, more prone to the atrocities, such as VJNT’s, (or De-notified and Nomadic tribes/castes) why they could not get shelter under the scope of the present law? 

3.      Within the so-called upper castes, there also prevails caste based hierarchy and social discrimination based on that. Many crimes listed in the Atrocity Act are indeed applicable to them too...but unfortunately the lawmakers had decided to neglect them completely. 

4.      There have been many additions, corrections in the lists of the Castes / Tribes, made by the National SC/ST Commission. This means that some castes/tribes were excluded from the ambit of the law while new were added. In future too, many are going to be added or excluded. Doesn't this mean that the definition of the SC/ST communities is ambiguous that makes this law too bad?

Here we can understand the “positive discrimination” in order to bring weaker sections and SC/ST’s in main stream by granting them special privileges for their socio-economic upliftment so that they mingle in the society with self respect. But this very principle cannot be applied to the criminal laws as a set principle is the crime has no caste or religion and the criminals should be punished irrespective of their caste or religion.

Rather the present act divides the whole society by placing SC/ST communities against the rest of the society. It is misconstrued in the law that the particular society only can cause atrocities on the SC/ST’s and such crimes cannot take place within the SC/ST communities. In a way this is the new Two-Nation Theory that has divided the whole society by creating enmity, hatred  and distrust between two societies. This is not at all helpful to build united India. It violates the principles of “Equality, Fraternity and Liberty” upon which our constitution is built.

The Swarna Bharat Party is against such discriminatory laws those divides India. Rather SBP says in its manifesto that create so much so opportunities by abandoning socialism, adhering to the liberal policies, so that every weaker section, including SC/ST’s, prosper and become the part of the mainstream. Discriminatory acts can never bring fraternity and equality within all the sections of the society. In fact SBP believes, if we want to eradicate the caste system in India, that has been haunting us since last one thousand years, we need to liberate the people first from the evils of socialist economy and open new innumerable doors to prosperity. Most of the caste based crimes finds its root in the poverty and illiteracy that the politicians have used recklessly eyeing their vote banks. This is why they have created this all dividing act to woo certain sections that has been proved useless in caste eradication and ending atrocities of all kinds.

SBP have decided to challenge this Act in the Supreme court to end any discrimination in the society. SBP demands that the crimes listed in the Atrocity Act be made part of the Indian Penal Code and make applicable to all the citizens so that the “All are equal before the law” principle is followed.

-Sanjay Sonawani