By Sushil Kutty
Without doubt there are the twisted caste-oriented who are the scum of the earth and wouldn’t blink a jaundiced eye while committing atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is a centuries old practice and no doubts. Thirty years ago, realizing this, Parliament gave cover to the marginalized Dalit and Adivasi with the promulgation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
But man, no matter whether he is Dalit, Adivasi or Manuvadi, is prone to take advantage of a law to avenge perceived or real insults and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act has come in handy to beat the Manuvadi to the ground, drag him over the coals, in many cases rightly so but the odd one wrongly so. In the hands of an avenging ‘SC/ST agent’ the SC/ST Protection Act has become a no-holds barred weapon.
The human mindset is such and there are any number of “innocents” who have been hung by the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Taking that into account, the Supreme Court of India put some caveats and everybody in opposition to the ruling and the ruling party/alliance are out on the streets as if on Viagra, the blue pill to clear all blues. The Dalit is the all-time favourite for bestowed victimhood, a natural. So much so, the Dalit brain is addled – part victim, part rebel. Like the female TV news anchor who committed suicide in Hyderabad the other day, leaving behind a suicide note saying that ‘my brain is my enemy’, the Dalit’s brain is his enemy.
That being said, you can’t blame the Dalit. Centuries of oppression has left him perpetually cornered, robbed him of reason and logic. What did the SC order say? It banned automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of the SC/ST. Of course, it diluted the law but for valid reasons. The top court cannot stand mute spectator to a lacuna in law. Maybe in the zeal of passing the law in 1989, the then government and Parliament had not seen such a misuse of the law.
The anti-dowry law was another law that sent many innocents to jail because the law said ‘automatic arrest’ with little or no recourse to remedy. The SC/ST Protection Act is far tougher than the anti-dowry law and a heavier albatross. For example, and it’s an undiluted fact, Manuwadis in Mayawati-land are terrified of the law and will not step in the south-extensions of villages for fear of inadvertently stepping on a Dalit toe and inviting provisions of the SC/ST Protection Act.
The Dalit of today’s India is not the helpless person who backed twenty steps for a Manuvadi to pass uninterrupted by an upper caste shadow. In the one-horse, one-street villages of India, atrocities against the Dalit are latent in the afternoon heat and alive in the dead of night. A Dalit youth gets killed for owning a horse and Dalit women and girls fear to step outdoors to relieve in nature’s toilet for fear of molestation and rape by gaping gawking sneaking members of the upper castes. And Dalit men get nearly lynched for skinning a dead cow. That is like beating a dead horse to death.
Those are all realities. It is also a ground reality that President Ramnath Kovind, who is a Dalit, does not need protection and Jiten Manji wouldn’t have even thought about it no matter how many of his lowest of low caste – that of the lowly mouse – had become victims of upper caste oppression. Ditto Mayawati and Jignesh Mevani – the Ramvilas Paswan. These Dalit powerhouses, entrapped in upper caste trappings, are the ones who get into the act only after a single atrocity against the SC has the potential to ‘bandh’ the whole of India.
The court should have cast a wide eye and there should have been caveats within caveats. The Modi government, under siege from all fronts on an election year, is now going for a review of the Supreme Court order. And on April 2, India was ‘bandh’ for all practical purposes. At least the north of India, locked down shop shutters and blocked roads in Delhi/Punjab and Gujarat. Vegetable handcarts in Agra and Mathura turned turtle. Upset politicians jumping into the frame with seemingly sincere calls to withdraw the SC ruling to dilute or else…
Lalu’s son and RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav was out in the streets of Patna from early morning on April 2 and Congress President Rahul Gandhi has tweeted. ‘Dalit Politics’ is a completely different strain of politics. It is the only strain which gives even the crookest and most opportunist of politicians a feeling of content – of having done some good during his short stint on earth, shouting empty slogans defending the rights of the Dalit. The sad fact is the Dalit is also content to live on as an oppressed caste for as long as there are some among the upper castes thirsting for moksha. Contrary to belief, the politician-philanthropist is a devil in disguise. He uses his wealth and power and standing in society to perpetuate the lopsided structure rather than dismantle it – nut by nut, bolt by bolt.
The government can tell the apex court to review its order to protect the marginalised. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment can argue that the SC order weakens the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and that it will reduce the fear of law and may result in more violations of the SC/ST Protection Act.
But the Dalit in his blue Bheem cap is not doing himself any good by fighting for a law that in the short term punishes upper caste prejudice and crimes but perpetuates the oppressive caste system of India for the ages. No matter how strong the SC/ST Protection Act, the fact of the matter is the Dalit will forever breathe the foul and poisonous air of the manhole he is consigned to, i.e., unless the caste system is forever buried. The strict unwritten laws of Hindu society are the ones that need to be diluted. Tejasvi Yadav and Jignesh Mevani – Jiten Manji and Ramvilas Paswan – will never demand that. The Dalit in the caste-cauldron is boiled meat for all everybody including Cambridge Analytica with salt according to taste. (IPA Service)