On Monday, April 9, nearly thirty Dalit organisations in Kerala participated in a hartal (protest), to condemn the violence on Dalit communities during the April 2 Bharat Bandh in various states across the country. The protesters also dissented against the dilution of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by a recent Supreme Court judgment.
Cheramar Sambavar Development Society (CSDS), National Dalit Liberation Front, Dalit Human Rights Movement, Kerala Cheramar Sangham, Social Liberation Front, are among some of the outfits that are supporting the protest.
Meanwhile, Congress party is observing a day-long hunger-strike today at various locations across the country against the atrocities meted to the Dalits and minority groups under the Narendra Modi’s rule.
The Dalit dissent against the ruling BJP-led NDA government has been unleashing in various parts of the country for some time now. The April 2 ‘Bharat Bandh’ unified many Dalit outfits in the country against one cause – the dilution of SC/ST (PoA) Act.
However, at least 11 people (9 Dalits and 2 Upper Caste men) were killed in Madhya Pradesh (8), Rajasthan (1) and Uttar Pradesh (2), mainly due to the upper caste violence and police firings on that day. According to numerous reports, only five persons – three Dalit men and two Upper Caste men died due to police firing. The remaining casualties – six Dalits – were allegedly killed by the Upper Caste attacks. All the killings took place in Madhya Pradesh.
In addition, hundreds of protesters were severely injured due to police action. According to the Dalit leaders, police have booked cases of arson, vandalism against hundreds of Dalits, in the BJP-ruled states, who had participated in the protest.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati issued a statement on April 8, that claimed that the Bharat Bandh was “largely successful” and that the BJP governments in various states are “torturing Dalits” by filing “fake cases” against the protesters. She claimed that “morphed videos” are being used as evidence to book Dalit protesters. “Because of the widespread success and anger within the Dalit and tribal population, the BJP’s central and state governments are now terrified and have started to feel the power sliding from their hands,” Mayawati said.
The Bharat Bandh saw counter protests in Rajasthan on April 3, in which two of the Dalit leaders’ houses, including that of BJP MLA Rajkumari Jatav and former minister Bharosi Lal Jatav, were set ablaze. This led to a high tense situation in the state.
One of the main reasons for this massive outrage from the Dalit outfits was the Central government’s delay in responding to the March 20 judgement of the Supreme Court on the SC/ST Act. It was only on the protest day, that the Centre announced and filed a review petition with the apex court in this regard.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the ongoing Dalit stir in his own absurd manner by directing his party MPs to spend at least two nights in Dalit-dominated villages, so that the faith could be restored in the community. However, dissent among Dalit leaders within the BJP party became public when the party’s five Dalit MPs, namely Udit Raj, Savitri Bai Phule, Chhote Lal Kharwar, Ashok Kumar Dohre and Yashwant Singh, raised “concerns” for the Dalit communities.
Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich MP Savitri Bai Phule had organised a rally of Dalits in Lucknow on April 1, raising the issues such as reservations and desecration of B R Ambedkar’s statues. Yashwant Singh, MP from Nageen, on the other hand, in a letter addressed to Narendra Modi, claimed that the BJP government had done nothing for the community in the last four years.