People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVII

No. 40

October 06, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

CPI(M) Organises All India Workshop on SC/ST POA Act

 

G Mamatha

 

THE All India Workshop on the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and its Implementation organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in New Delhi on October 1, demanded the central government to make suitable amendments to the POA Act in the forthcoming winter session of the parliament. The amendments are needed to strengthen it sufficiently to check the rising crime on SC/STs.

 

The workshop was attended by 49 members, including three women, from 15 states. It was presided over by K Radhakrishnan from Kerala. The chief guest of the inaugural session was eminent writer Kanwal Bharati. Brinda Karat and K Varadarajan, CPI(M) Polit Bureau members attended the workshop. Addressing the gathering, Kanwal Bharati said, the State and the governments do not treat dalits as equal citizens of the country. They make schemes and social welfare programmes which are meant to give only temporary relief to them and in order to check that there is no revolt coming up from these sections. They are not meant to build a casteless and classless society. Speaking about the attacks on dalits, Bharati said today wherever dalits are asserting their rights, they are facing attacks. Utilising the constitutional guarantees provided to them, if they have education and a job and slightly prosper and are therefore able to raise a voice against oppression, this situation is not being accepted by the upper castes and they are attacked. In all the attacks on dalits, their property is destroyed to see that they cant stand on their legs and go back to the status of dependence on upper castes.

 

Bharati said we have to face the twin enemies - Brahmanism and Capitalism that have a stranglehold on society. A big movement against brahmanism must be waged, he said. Clarifying that anti-brahmanism does not mean being anti-brahmin, Bharati said, Brahmanism is an ideology of hegemony of a system that enables a section of people to oppress another section of people and keep them in an inferior, inhuman status. Under capitalism, with the increasing privatisation and liberalisation, we see that the jobs for dalits are dwindling. Education is becoming inaccessible to dalits. An overwhelming majority of dalits are poor and they are the worst sufferers of capitalism. He said that it is unfortunate that a section of dalits do not understand this. Of late, there is a talk about dalit capitalism and how it can be a messiah for dalits. Bharati underlined that capital, irrespective of whether it is with dalits or upper castes, thrives on exploitation and on oppression. Profit making is its sole mantra. Bourgeois political parties have bought over a section who are championing dalit capitalism and have co-opted them into their ideology. He noted that dalit movement has been unable to go beyond reservations. Issues of land, basic needs of living etc, have not been taken up. Bharati concluded by saying that for the revolutionary movement to advance, we must launch movements against social oppression, movements to see that dalits are recognised as equal citizens, in practice, in our country and that is the only way we can face the identity politics.

 

Speaking next, Brinda Karat said unless we fight against casteism, we cannot achieve social transformation. Social change will not come about without addressing and eliminating caste oppression. Any anti-capitalist struggle has to be anti-caste and any anti-caste struggle has to be anti-capitalist. She said the issue of caste in India is not just confined to social realm, but it is intrinsic to exploitation. Caste is an instrument to extract surplus value from the vast sections of labour which is dalit and on which the modern edifice of the country rests. Brinda Karat emphasised that to confront caste, we need to have multi-dimensional ways and areas of struggle. She said, on the one hand we have to see that laws for prevention of atrocities are strengthened and amended suitably to curb crimes on dalits; and on the other hand we have to also see that the laws themselves are implemented properly. She expressed grave concern at the rising atrocities on dalits, on low rates of conviction and high rates of pendency of such cases and demanded that there must be speedy trial of such cases.

 

V Srinivas Rao, Central Secretariat member of the Party placed the report on the atrocities on dalits and the implementation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. He said the conviction rate of atrocities tried under the POA Act is much lower than that of the IPC. This clearly demonstrates that the purpose for which this Act was formulated has not been met. There is less political and administrative will to curb rising atrocities on dalits and suitably punish the guilty. He said the POA Act has to be strengthened by making the necessary amendments to check the rising crime on dalits. The SC/STs will be able to confidently face the challenges only if they are economically empowered. Providing them land, providing opportunities for jobs and creation of assets are some important measures to empower them to face powerful upper caste landlords. It is by fighting the feudal forces and dismantling their stranglehold on the society, that social oppression and atrocities on dalits can be curbed, he said.

 

Eighteen comrades participated in the discussions on the report and spoke about the experiences in their state regarding the implementation of the POA Act. Many comrades said that right at the beginning itself, dalits face many threats and are discouraged to file an FIR. Then, even if an FIR is lodged, it is not done so under proper sections. Delay in trials has led, in many cases, to pressurising witnesses. In some cases, witnesses had died, in the long number of years of trial as a result of which, justice got hampered. Compensation and rehabilitation of the victims is very tardy. In most cases, compensation has not reached the victims and rehabilitation is mostly taken care of by the community itself. The administration has failed to ensure relief in these aspects.

 

V Srinivas Rao, later speaking on the discussions, placed the demand charter of the workshop. The demands include:

 

Demands

        Amendments to the POA Act and Rules should be moved and enacted in the winter session of the parliament. New offences not defined in the Act should be included. Punishment for atrocities and attacks on SC/STs should be made more severe.

        Compensation to the victims should be increased. Measures have to be taken to rehabilitate the victims immediately after the incidents.

        More fast track courts should be established. Appoint more exclusive special public prosecutors for speedy disposal of cases within the time frame.

        Rights of the victims and witnesses have to be defined in the Act.

        All discriminatory practices should be treated as civil offences and tried accordingly.

        Strict action should be taken on the police officials who fail to take preventive measures to stop an attack on SC/STs. Action should also be taken on the administration that pressurises SC/STs to make a compromise.

        The provisions of the POA Act should be made applicable to all dalits and tribals irrespective of their religion.

        The SCSP and TSP should be given statutory status. The government of India should make a legislation on these as early as possible.

        Economic empowerment of the SC/STs should be ensured. All the backlog posts should be filled up. Reservations in the private sector should be implemented. Land should be allotted for every SC/ST family which is landless, along with other landless poor.

        Different monitoring committees should co-ordinate their work and suggest measures to curb rising atrocities on SC/STs. It should be ensured that monitoring committees meet frequently.

        Inter-caste marriages should be encouraged. Apart from the economic assistance, the administration should ensure the safety of the couples in such marriages. 

        A wide campaign should be conducted in a sustained manner against caste discrimination and attacks on dalits. There should also be a campaign educating the SC/STs about the POA Act and its provisions.

 

K Varadarajan, concluding the workshop exhorted the comrades to study the situation around them, take up local level issues facing dalits and organise struggles on them. He said without taking up social issues, we cannot advance the revolutionary movement. He called upon all the democratic sections of people to join hands together in the fight against social oppression. Varadarajan said that workshops on the implementation of POA Act would be organised at the state and district levels. A signature campaign would also be organised on the demand charter.