A coalition of 150 Indian NGOs is demanding amendments to – and proper implementation of – the laws that are supposed to protect Dalits and Adivasis from atrocities. The campaign is gathering momentum.
In late November, it will be 63 years since the Constitution of India was adopted. To commemorate this occasion, about 63,000 Dalits and Adivasis – officially known as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – will take part in a mass rally in the Indian capital. Their aim is to pressure the Government to strengthen and enforce existing atrocity legislation, known as the PoA Act.
The rally forms part of a campaign conducted by the National Coalition for Strengthening the SCs/STs Prevention of Atrocities Act (NCSPA). This coalition, consisting of 150 NGOs from 18 Indian states, has had state level consultations over the past few months, and the campaign is now gathering momentum.
On 25 October, members of the NCSPA announced the upcoming rally at a press briefing in New Delhi. The coalition’s national convenor, Dr Prasad Srivella of the National Dalit Movement for Justice, stated that “the lot ofDalits and Adivasis in the country has not improved” since the constitution was adopted. He pointed out that the average conviction rate under the PoA Act during a 12-year period had been a mere 30 percent.
Speaking on behalf of the National Coalition, Manjula Pradeep, Executive Director, Navsarjan Trust, urged the government to put a stop to the heinous crimes committed against Dalits and Adivasis. “The time has come to review and assess the POA Act and strengthen the affirmative action policy of the state,” she said.
Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch, agreed that the POA Act needs to be strengthened by bringing in appropriate amendments. However, he also cautioned the government that “unless legal changes are accompanied by a change in attitudes of all those who enforce the law – the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the police – who investigate the cases, nothing is going to change for a large section of the socially excluded communities of Dalits and Adivasis.”
The rally will take place on 23 November at the Ram Lila grounds in New Delhi. It will make the following call: “End Untouchability; No more Atrocities; Annihilate Caste – Therefore Amend the PoA Act and Enforce effectively.”