Maya makes dalit Act dance to her political tune

By Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN 19 July 2009

NEW DELHI: The implementation of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act seems to dance to the political tune of BSP chief Mayawati.

Her decision to revert to a strong dalit agenda after the Lok Sabha setback marks a strong return of the special law devised to safeguard dalits as seen in the action against Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

It is a break from two instructions issued by the Mayawati government to the police to ensure the law was not "used by dalits to harass upper castes". The directives on May 20 and October 29, 2007, diluted the law's implementation considerably. They even triggered criticism which went unheard as the BSP chief was riding high on `sarvjan'.

Joshi's fate rests on a police probe establishing that a case under the SC/ST Act is made out for her remarks against the CM while talking about rape. But the instructions from the state government are blamed for weakening the legal safeguards against the sexual crime, a move even protested by the National Commission for SCs (NCSC) headed by Buta Singh.

Just seven days after Mayawati rode to power on the `sarvjan' slogan, the state asked the police to file rape cases under SC/ST Act only after medical examinations proved the charge, and that the law be used only for heinous crimes like murder and rape.

To many, it turned the legal shield for dalits into a deterrent as even IPC does not require a medical probe to precede an FIR for rape.

Following protests from NCSC, UP amended its directives but appeared to further discourage SCs from filing cases under the special law.

The new order of October 29 asked the police to ensure that the law was not misused against innocent persons, adding, "If investigations found that a wrong case was lodged, action be taken under section 182 of IPC (providing false information)."

Even this move was resented as it was felt that the SC/STs victims would be reluctant to approach the police for fear of `a false or inconclusive probe' victimizing them twice. Many felt that a false case invites action anyway but its special reiteration in the context of the SC/ST Act would scare the poor away from police.

Observers feel if there appeared a refusal to undo a message that government was diluting the law, it was out of BSP's desire to assure non-dalits who weresceptical of it. Its strict implementation had triggered resentment in Mayawati's previous regimes, leading to flashpoints like in BSP-BJP coalition in 1998. No wonder, the two occasions where the Act has made an impact in the present BSP rule involves the CM -- cases against BKU leader Mahendra Singh Tikait and Joshi.

It is clear that the LS results turned the tide when the CM, intent to consolidate her SC base, directed the cops to display special sensitivity towards crimes against dalits. Many feel the law would again be implemented as in pre-sarvjan days.



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