The kind of anarchy which was on display during the Bharat Bandh on 2 April, called by different political parties and Dalit organisations, to protest the Supreme Court’s decision on SC-ST Act, meant to protect scheduled castes and tribes from exploitation and discrimination was to be seen to be believed. Public and private property worth thousands crores was destroyed, many people died and thousands of people travelling on roads and railways were inconvenienced. Ambulances were caught up in traffic jams which caused the death of three patients in Meerut district only.
The Supreme Court’s decision was godsend manna from heaven for the opposition parties who are leaving no stone unturned in cornering the Modi government on every issue, whether it concerns the government of the day or not.
It is indeed ironical that it was the Modi government which in 2015, did away with the lacunae in the original SC-ST Act but the Supreme Court’s decision to dilute the Act was laid squarely at the government’s door. The opposition parties grabbed this decision gleefully and turned into mayhem on the roads in a very well-planned manner.
One may very well ask as to what did they gain by this. The answer to this came by the evening when it became clear that most violent protests took place in seven states ruled by the BJP. Further, an investigative news channel dug out e-mails which pointed fingers at a political party which was decimated in the state and general elections in UP in the last five years. Hence, it was an exercise in consolidating the Dalits as a vote bank and all talks of the welfare of Dalits was a mere hogwash.
As has been discussed in these pages earlier, Dalits are being used as a pawn in the game of political one -upmanship. Though it’s a fact that Dalits have been exploited for too long and much needs to be done to be brought them into social mainstream.
In a democracy, everyone has a right to protest but violence cannot be condoned for the same. Also, anarchist politics in its name has to stop but it is our misfortune that we are living in such timeswhen most of our politicians think of their own self-interest and nothing else, least of all, their country.
The kind of violence and anarchy witnessed during Bharat Bandh was not only unprecedented but also shocking and shameful. This kind of violence cannot be imagined in a civil society which India has become by now. Now, it is difficult to imagine someone to resort to violence or anarchyin the name the welfare of one’s caste, class, creed or religion. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. The violent outburst of Dalits made one remember the violent Patidar movement in Gujarat, Bheema-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra and the violence by Karni Sena in Rajasthan.
The open exhibition of anarchy and violence in the name of protests for one’s rights is on a rise in the country and the only reason for this is the reluctance on the part of authorities to initiate strict action against the political and apolitical elements responsible for the same. It is very difficult to say if anything would be done this time but one thing becomes clear that if such anarchist protests are tolerated, it would very difficult to protect the rule of law.
What was the need for protests when the government had decided to file a writ petition against the decision of the Supreme Court? Are the political parties involved in the protests really committed to the welfare of the Dalits? It is not proper that when the protests against the Supreme Court’s decision should have been conducted in a dignified manner, just the opposite was done. For this, such rumours were spread through Whatsapp groups that the government was doing away with reservations for Dalits. This was the reason given by the protestors in Darbhanga. Some people were incensed by the reports of desecration of Ambedkar’s idols.
No doubt, the process of judicial reforms with time cannot be stopped just for the reason that it suits the agenda of some political parties but along with this, the scheduled castes and tribes need to be reassured that no kind of discrimination would be allowed to visit them.
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