Move to reset SC/ST law helps BJP stave off Opposition
The LJP, headed by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, was at the forefront of protests recently, and had demanded a bill be brought before a nationwide protest given by Dalit groups on August 9.india Updated: Aug 02, 2018 00:02 IST
The Union cabinet’s decision to clear a bill restoring the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, takes the pressure off the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies ahead of the crucial elections, two leaders from the ruling alliance said.
The decision helps the BJP deflate the Opposition’s campaign about the ruling party being anti-Dalit and provides relief to some of its unnerved allies, the first leader said. “We have made a statement with the bill,” he said, requesting anonymity. “Our commitment to protecting their (SC and ST) rights is complete and total.”
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), an ally of the BJP from Bihar, had upped the ante and demanded the government take corrective measures to reverse a March 20 judgment of the Supreme Court that banned immediate arrests under the SC/ST Act. It was joined by others such as Union minister Ramdas Athawale and Upendra Kushwaha.
The LJP, headed by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, was at the forefront of protests recently, and had demanded a bill be brought before a nationwide protest given by Dalit groups on August 9.
A similar protest on April 2 had left nine people dead across three states. Dalits accounts for nearly 16% and tribals about 9 % of India’s population and have a sizeable presence in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where assembly elections are due later this year.
The Congress is looking to ally with Bahujan Samaj Party, headed by Dalit leader Mayawati, in these states.
The BJP declined to comment formally on the decision as Parliament is in session and party leaders said a formal announcement will be made in the House.
“There was clarity in the government that rights of the SC and ST needs to be protected,” a BJP office bearer said on the condition of anonynity. “Such a bill could have come only after certain legal and administrative procedures were complete. There was no doubt in the minds of the government or the party.”
A second BJP leader said the party was conscious of the anti-Dalit charge that the Opposition had levelled, and that a corrective decision was necessary. “Our allies who have support base among Dalits were at unease. It will provide relief for them too,” the second leader said on the condition of anonymity.
Paswan expressed happiness over the “historical decision” and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “No preliminary inquiry will be required before registering FIR in the case of SC and ST. No prior permission will be required to arrest the accused,” Paswan said, sharing details of the bill that, he said, will be brought in the current session of Parliament.
The LJP president also asserted that “all issues are closed” now and heaped praise on Modi for his several pro-Dalit measures and said his party’s planned protests on August 9 will now turn into a celebration
First Published: Aug 01, 2018 23:59 IST