-Alefiya Anis Rangoonwala
If you’ve been following the news lately, you would have noticed the number of protests being held across the country – Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, everywhere. More than anything you would have probably seen flashes of “Dalit Violence” all across your television or newspapers. But that wasn’t Dalit violence, it was a protest that turned into violence after the police intervened. What is really bad is that, the media is reporting it as Dalit violence, but not reporting what actually happened and how it started.
What started on March 20th 2006 when Bhaskar Karbhari Gaikwad, a storekeeper at the government Pharmacy College in Karad, filed a case against his upper class superior, Dr. Satish Bhise and Dr.Kishor Burade under the SC/ST act. The basis of the case was that Bhise and Burade left comments regarding Gaikwad’s conduct being improper and being inefficient at work, in an annual confidential report. Gaikwad believe this was actually because of his caste rather than his performance. 10 years later in 2016, after no action was taken against his original complaint, Gaikwad filled another FIR, this time, addressing the people who were responsible for not taking action against the unjust that happened with him. Among the few names, Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, Maharashtra’s director of technical education, who moved Bombay high court to have the FIR against his name nullified. When Bombay high court dismissed his appeal, Mahajan went to the Supreme Court.
On march 20th 2018, i.e. two years later, the Supreme Court’s verdict on Subhash Kashinath Mahajan versus the State of Maharashtra watered down the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. This verdict of the Supreme Court given by Judge A.K. Goel and Judge U.U. Lalit, has bought about much dismay in the Dalit and Adivasi community, as it was thought to weaken the Act in protecting scheduled tribes and schedules castes. And these judges ripped it apart so much that is actually makes it pretty impossible for a Dalit to register a complaint. In fact one of the amendments to the act actually states that before a petition can be registered in court, a full and clear inquiry must be made by the local governing authorities. This new alteration which is actually supposed to be for the prevention of hate crimes against Dalits and Adivasis, just adds more protection to the privileged.
There are no Dalit judges on the supreme court bench. One April 3rd, at the insistence of the government, the Supreme court had an open session to discuss the changes towards this act. This again resulted in the refusal to grant an interim stay on the March 20th verdict, which meant that nothing changed. During the last few days there have a lot of causalities, and clashes with police. The police chaukis were burned, public transport had screeched to a halt, and the internet services shut down in various parts of the country.
It’s unfair to call it a Dalit violence, as there has been a long list of injustices committed against Dalits over the years. What is happening with our country? Why do some parts of the country hate the other parts of the country so much? And why is there so much caste politics? This is something that has long gone unaddressed and now it has reached a state where things have escalated to dangerous heights.