Just days after the Bharat Bandh – called by Dalits over the Supreme Court’s recent guidelines against the ‘misuse’ of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – various Dalit groups in Kerala have called for a hartal on April 9.
The dawn-to-dusk hartal will protest the injustices meted out to Dalits in the country and the dilution of the Act created to protect Dalits.
According to Times of India, organisations including Cheramar Sambavar Development Society (CSDS), Akhila Kerala Cheramar Hindu Mahasabha, National Dalit Liberation Front, Dalit Human Rights Movement, Kerala Cheramar Sangham, Social Liberation Front, Bahujan Samaj Party and Dravida Varga Aikya Munnani will take part in the hartal.
The Bharat Bandh ground life to a standstill in northern India as violent clashes broke out killing 9 people in all.
Dalit organisations in Kerala have reportedly put forth demands including that the killing of Dalits in Madhya Pradesh, UP and Rajasthan in the clashes, be inquired by a judicial committee. The other demands by the organisations are that murder cases be registered, compensation be given to the families of the deceased and that the SC/ST Act should not be diluted.
Human rights group Janakeeya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam also extended solidarity with the hartal.
Calling the Supreme Court's move as anti-Dalit, the forum said that the order issued for the purpose of preventing the misuse of the act, in fact dilutes the Act itself.
The Bharat Bandh was observed on April 2, to protest the March 20 Supreme Court order that changed certain provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act related to arrests and registration of cases.
On March 20, the Supreme Court said that the arrest of an accused under the SC/ST Act is not mandatory and recourse to coercive action would be only after preliminary inquiry and sanction by the competent authority. This was in contrast to the Act allowing immediate arrest of suspected offenders upon the registration of a complaint.
Activists slammed this move as retrograde, and said the court was now protecting the accused instead of the victims.
The Centre filed a review petition, however, the top court asked all parties to hand in written submissions. The petition is still in court.