In 2019, even if BJP gets 220-240 seats, Narendra Modi will run govt: Union Minister Ramdas Athawale

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SHALINI NAIR: In its March 20 ruling, the Supreme Court said there were ‘instances of abuse’ of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by ‘vested interests’ for political or personal reasons, and laid down guidelines for arrests under the Act ‘to avoid false implications’. It was only after protests from several quarters that on August 1, the Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the Act to undo the ‘dilution’ of the law. The government has faced criticism and anger from Dalits over the delay.
I agree that there is anger and resentment among Dalits. However, it is not in particular for this government. The Atrocities Act was first made in 1989 and before that there was the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, 1955, despite which atrocities against Dalits kept increasing — from 45,000 cases a year to 47-48,000 a year. People were murdered, houses were burnt down, women were raped and murdered. There were long debates in Parliament and MPs from all castes admitted to the atrocities against Dalits. The MPs agreed to a law to protect Dalits.
Under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, committing atrocities was a non-bailable offence. The Act was meant to create fear of law and worked as a deterrent. There was a person named Subhash Mahajan against whom one (Bhaskar) Gaikwad had filed a case under the Atrocities Act. Mahajan’s bail plea was rejected by the Mumbai High Court but he later went to the Supreme Court. In March this year, the Supreme Court judge observed that 90 per cent of the cases of atrocities were false, which led to unrest among Dalits.
After this, we all, including (LJP leader) Ram Vilas Paswan, met the Prime Minister on the issue. The PM then ordered a review and we also filed a review petition in court. That case is still pending. However, the Narendra Modi government kept the sentiments of the Dalits in mind and the Cabinet took a decision.
We do not agree with the court’s observation that 90 per cent of the cases are false. When Dalits are murdered, their houses are burnt, it is not false. In Subhash Mahajan’s case, the court could have said that the evidence does not show enough proof to say that an atrocity has been committed and that he should be set free.
SHALINI NAIR: The Dalit anger is not just directed at the court. There is anger over several issues, including the arrests made in the April 2 Bharat Bandh.
I feel if the government is doing good work, there should not be objections. There was a lot of bayaan-baazi (tall claims) during the Congress government’s rule. The Modi government follows the principle of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and has been promoting the ideals of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Narendra Modi has said that if it was not for Ambedkar’s Constitution.