A ‘Dalit Manifesto’ by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), a countrywide coalition of Dalit rights organizations, has listed abolition of inhuman practice of manual scavenging in the country within two years of forming the government at Centre.
It also highlights Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) reservations in the private sector, the abolition of manual scavenging and protecting the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by including it in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution.
According to the Indian Express the manifesto comprises demands clubbed under 12 broad categories including the right to justice; Dalit women’s rights; economic entitlements; access to education, health and jobs; and governance etc.
Ramesh Nathan, General Secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) – NCDHR said “we expect political parties to include all our demands. We will also be presenting our manifesto to all MLAs and MPs. We are behind by 50 years as compared to other communities and the manifesto has all our long-standing demands.”
The manifesto also demands the establishment for mandatory exclusive courts and calls for immediate measures to appoint public prosecutors of the victim’s choice.
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According to various media reports, Dalits continue to be oppressed and discriminated against in villages, in educational institutions, in the job market and on the political battlefront, leaving them with little ease. Despite constitutional safeguards and special legislation for the protection of the marginalized groups, violations of their fundamental human rights continue on a massive scale.
Experts say the failure of justice is a key obstacle to ending caste discrimination and the structural hierarchies underpinning an entrenched discriminatory mind-set. According to IDSN the violence and atrocities are often directly related to Dalit assertion of basic rights including land rights, freedom of expression, access to justice, access to education, water, food, decent work and equal participation in cultural and religious activities etc.
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Even seemingly minor signs of Dalit resistance have resulted in brutal retaliation by the dominant castes. Human rights defenders working on these types of cases report that it is very difficult to get the police to cooperate with them.
The Dalit Manifesto will surely grab the attention of the political parties and they will surely use it to grab votes. It remains to be seen whether, the plight of the Dalits will be addressed.