Ambedkar Jayanti : Resolve to Save Constitution, Save Social Justice, Save India

Shri B.R. Ambedkar in his office. (Source : PIB)

As we approach 14 April 2018 – the 127th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, his vision of emancipation of the oppressed and a secular democratic India is under an all-round attack by the BJP Government and Sangh Brigade. Today, it is an extraordinary situation for our country and democracy. Communal casteist violence has now become almost an everyday national phenomenon. In the BJP ruled states Dalit protesters were offered bullets for the “crime” of rising up against the dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act, a Dalit youth killed in UP was discovered to be a case of ‘marked and killed’ as ‘No. 1from a target list of 83′, an entire Dalit village was burnt by feudal goons in Yogi’s UP, a Dalit boy was killed by upper caste group for owning and riding horse in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Educational, job and other opportunities for the marginalized sections are systematically snatched away by decimating reservations, labour laws are thoroughly diluted, fighters of social justice are incriminated and institutionally murdered – while perpetrators of casteist massacres roam free. And our Prime Minister claims that his government had given the “maximum honour” to Ambedkar in the post – independence India. Is this the definition of maximum honour to Babasaheb? Friends, onwards to Babasaheb’s 127th birth anniversary, let us examine the reality of PM’s yet another audacious jumla of “maximum honour” to Babasaheb.

Massive Cut in Budgetary Allocations for Marginalized Sections

While the PM jumps to claim the so called highest respect to Babasaheb by his Government, the same BJP Govt shamefully diminish the budget allocation for the most marginalized social groups of the country, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. According to Census 2011, the population of SCs and STs of our country stood at 16.6 % and 8.6% respectively. Shockingly, the allocation for SCs is meagre 5.58% of the outlay for all government schemes; for STs it is mere 3.86% (The Telegraph, Feb 6, 2018). According to an exhaustive analysis done by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights-Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan (NCDHR-DAAA), the allocations in the 2018 Union Budget under Special Component Plan ( SCP) for SCs and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) for STs have fallen short by Rs 1,14,717 crores and Rs 54,676 crores respectively from the mandated requirements (The Newsclick, Feb 6, 2018).

Systematic Destruction of Educational Opportunities for the Deprived

The Post-Matric Scholarship scheme for SCs and STs is a key scheme to ensure access to education by students from marginalized communities. Today, over 51 lakh Dalit students and over 20 lakh Adivasi students across the country are facing massive crisis as more than Rs 8000 crore for SC and Rs 3,156 crore  for ST students have not been disbursed by the Modi government to the state governments over the last three consecutive years (The Newslaundry, Feb 17, 2018). This criminal apathy of the Government has resulted into massive drop outs of students from deprived communities.

At the level of higher education, the 5 May UGC Notification 2016, has meant massive seat cuts and consequent decimation of reservation in M. Phil-PhD courses across universities. In particular, mischievous use of its provision of uniform 50% cut-off for clearing the written exam without any relaxations for the deprived sections and final selection based on 100% viva has meant virtual decimation of reservation in admissions in M.Phil-PhD courses. For instance, in JNU’s M.Phil-PhD admissions of 2017-18, only 20% of its reserved seats were filled! And now in 2018, through yet another UGC notification on ‘Autonomy’, the govt has unleashed policies which will result into reckless fee hike, self financing courses and complete destruction of reservation in leading universities of the country like JNU, HCU, AMU, BHU, PU, JU and several others. This will make the best institutions for higher education in our country inaccessible for the majority of the students of the country, especially those from marginalized sections. To compound the crisis, UGC has issued a circular to universities and colleges to change the reservation-roster rules in faculty appointment, by making each department rather than the entire college/university/institution the basis for roster calculation, which will drastically reduce the number of reserved teaching seats.

Offensive on SC/ST Atrocities Act and Dubious Role of the Modi Government

In the time of systematic discrimination in the sphere of economic and educational policies for the deprived sections of country, the Supreme Court recently in a shocking judgment on 20th March has observed that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 which protects the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from casteist discrimination, has become an instrument to “blackmail public servants, to exact vengeance and even perpetuate casteism”! It is also important to note that this is the same ruling regime, which claimed to offer “maximum honour” to Babasaheb, did not challenge the notion of ‘false cases’ under SC/ST Act during the court proceedings – there are just three small paragraphs devoted for government’s argument in the entire SC judgment. The Additional Solicitor General representing the Govt failed to point out the obvious – that acquittal of accused persons does not make the case false! The Govt made no mention in Court of the Dalit massacre cases pending before the Supreme Court, in which all accused were acquitted thanks to the biased and irresponsible role of police and prosecution.

Communal Casteist Mayhem with Patronage of Govt Machinery Across the Country

The Supreme Court verdict has come at a time when the entire country is witnessing an unprecedented surge in casteist communal violence patronized by the saffron brigade – from Una in Gujarat to Shabbirpur in UP, from Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra to countless cases of fake encounters against Dalits-Bahujans-Minorities in UP. The Supreme Court made a travesty of Ambedkar’s words on the Constitutional values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, by quoting those words to suggest that false cases filed under the POA Act militate against these values and deter “integration of society”. The judgment is singularly silent on the fact that “integration” and fraternity” are actually hindered by untouchability, not by Dalits seeking justice against untouchability. According to the India Human Development Survey 2017, untouchability is still practiced by one in every four Indians, resulting in segregation of Dalits in schools, mid-day meals and restaurants, violently enforced segregation from community resources including water sources and burial grounds, and murders of Dalit men who marry non-Dalit women.

Nine Dalit protesters were killed during the nationwide protest against dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act – six of them in Madhya Pradesh; two in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan, all BJP ruled states. In Gwalior, for instance, one Raja Singh Chauhan, neither a Dalit nor a protester, is alleged to have opened fire with a pistol and killed three Dalits. Firing by a police officer is alleged to have claimed a life of a Dalit protester in Dabra near Gwalior. In Rajasthan, eyewitnesses saw the self-styled Rajput Karni Sena unleashed violence against Dalit protesters, while in Bihar, Bajrang Dal and ‘Hindu Putra’ outfits attacked and severely injured protesters. While hundreds of Dalit protesters have been arrested, the saffron violence was treated with kid gloves and there were virtually no arrests. Moreover, the claim that the Bandh caused the violence is belied by the fact that on the day after the Bandh, violent mobs have attacked Dalit slums, and set on fire the houses of both the sitting and the former MLAs in Hindaun town of Karauli district. Predictably, there have been no police firings or wholesale arrests to curb this wanton anti-Dalit violence. Protests against the dilution of the Atrocities Act have been met with more atrocities, and the victims have been branded ‘violent’ while the perpetrators enjoy impunity and are called ‘victims’ of false cases’.

These are few snapshots of the “”maximum honour” offered by the BJP government to Babasaheb. So much for the respect for Babasaheb, one Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde had the gall to say, “We are here to change the constitution” (Dec 24, 2017)! When a group of Dalit protestors blocked his convoy and raised slogans protesting his comments about secularism and changing the constitution, Anant Hegde likened the Dalit protestors to dogs by saying “When dogs bark on the road, we don’t care” (Jan 20, 2018)! One is also reminded of similar atrocious comments by another Union Minister V K Singh comparing Dalits to dogs! Are these just stray incidents where Modi Ministers repeatedly liken Dalits to dogs or these are reflections of the deep-seated casteism of those in power? Let us recall, how prophetically Babasaheb warned If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. It is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

Even as the ruling regime hands over our economy and natural resources to a bunch of crony corporates, spreads wanton privatization and decimates hard-won provisions of reservations, unleashes caste and communal frenzy using state power, and undermines the institutions of justice and accountability guaranteed by our Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar’s  ideas of annihilation of caste, emancipation of the oppressed, and principles of secularism and democracy enshrined in our Constitution are an inspiration and invaluable resource for all fighters for democracy, equality and dignity today.

On Babasaheb’s 127th birth anniversary on 14th April 2018, on behalf of AISA, we appeal to you to join the call of “Save Constitution, Save Social Justice, Save India”!

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