The Congress on Monday accused the government of having brought the bill to restore the stringent provisions of the Scheduled Castes-Scheduled Tribes law after a lot of delays and that it did so now fearing a loss in elections.
“It has taken a lot of time to bring the legislation forward. I welcome the Bill and support it,” Leader of the party Mallikarjun Kharge said in the Lok Sabha while initiating a discussion on the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018.
He said the Supreme Court judgment in March had diluted the original Act, which Dalits around the country understood as “injustice”.
In the March judgment, the Supreme Court had struck down the provision that ensured the automatic arrest of a person charged with atrocities under the SC-ST law and also made it clear that any arrest of a government servant should be cleared by the competent authority and a civilian by an officer of the deputy superintendent of police.
“Protests took place across the country. People went to the jail and a lot of properties were damaged,” the Congress leader from Karnataka said.
He said the restoration of the provisions of the original law could have been done through an ordinance earlier.
“The Bill was nullified by the Supreme Court in March this year. And in the last four months, six ordinances were brought by the government. The government brought the ordinance to help the corporate companies first but did not bring the ordinance to stop injustice to over 24 percent of the population of the country. They could have brought the seventh ordinance also,” he said.
“The government thought that if we don’t bring this Bill now then we shall have to face its heat in the election,” he alleged.
Kharge said that even the dalit MPs of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had brought pressure on the government.
“Why didn’t you bring this Bill earlier? The Congress protested against the SC order on March 27, 2018 before the Gandhi statue in Parliament. If the answers were given four months ago, then this injustice to Dalits would not have happened,” he said.
Kharge said cases registered against the dalits who were part of the agitation on April 2 and 3 should be withdrawn and the protesters who were still in jail should be immediately released, he said.
He also said that the SC-ST law must be included in the ninth schedule of the Constitution.
Kharge also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that though he spoke about Kabir Das, from inside he believes in Manusmriti.
“The Prime Minister speaks about Kabir Das, (Dr B.R.) Ambedkar. He remembers Basavanna in Karnataka but inside you believe in Manu,” Kharge alleged.
Quoting Ambedkar, Kharge said, “I want all people to be Indians first, Indians last and nothing but Indians. And it was Congress who supported Ambedkar and his cause.”
Targeting right wing forces over attacks on dalits across the country, he said amidst objections from BJP members, “On the one hand you want to unite Hindus but on the other hand you are ill-treating the dalits. A person cannot have moustache, cannot ride a horse. He will be flogged, won’t be allowed to use public well…”
“You won’t understand till you were born in my caste,” he countered.
Pointing to the rise in the attacks against SC and ST people, Kharge said, according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), atrocities against Dalit are recorded every 15 minutes. “Eleven Dalits are killed every week and six Dalit women are sexually abused every day,” he said.
He also said that in the last four years there has been a rise of 35-40 per cent in atrocities against Dalits.
Slamming Union Road Transport and Shipping Minister over his reported remarks ‘where are jobs’, Kharge said, “No jobs? As many as 24 lakh government jobs are lying vacant.”
Kharge was referring to the Gadkari’s statement on Sunday that reservation will not guarantee employment as jobs are shrinking.
“About 10.10 lakh vacancies are there for elementary school teachers, 4.5 lakh vacancies for police, 2.4 lakh vacancies in railways, 64,000 vacancies in armed forces, 65,000 vacancies in para military forces, etc.”
“If Gadkariji asks from where the government should bring employment, then the government should fill the 24 lakh vacancies in the government jobs,” he said.