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Rights of Scheduled Caste

The position of schedule caste and schedule tribe is always a question mark for the society .being a developing country we are saying that we are giving an equal status to them as compared with other caste but in reality, it is not like this. In modern time also they are facing problem but we can say that the extent of suffering ness is less as compared to previous time. For improving their conditions government are taking various steps like specific laws are being made for them, commissions were made only for their betterment and by means of reservation also, the government is trying to improve their condition.

Specifically, Our Constitution guarantees justice and equality of opportunity to all its citizens. It also recognizes that equal opportunity implies a competition between equals, and not 'un-equals'. Recognizing the inequality in our social structure, the makers of the Constitution argued that weaker sections have to be dealt with on a preferential footing by the state. A special responsibility was, thus, placed upon the state to provide protection to the weaker sections of society.

Accordingly, the Constitution provided for protective discrimination under various articles to accelerate the process of building an egalitarian social order In the research paper I just explained the condition of schedule caste and schedule tribe and what are provisions available to them under the constitution of India. These provisions are just like a helping hand for them to improve their condition. When all the sections of people developed then only our country will become a developed country.

The Dalits are Caste traditional India's principal category of social ordering and control is the most exhaustive and of noxious of all known exclusionary systems. The Hindu social order, particularly its main pillars, the caste system, and untouchability presents a unique case. As a system of social, economic and religious governance, it is founded not on the principle of the liberty (or freedom), equality and fraternity, the values which formed the basis of universal human rights, but on the principle of inequality in every sphere of life.

The social order is based on three interrelated elements, namely, predetermination of social, religious and economic rights of each caste based on birth; the unequal and hierarchical (graded) division of these rights among castes; and provision of strong social, religious and economic ostracism supported by social and religious ideology to maintain the order[1]. Among the Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes are socially, economically, politically, religiously, and culturally oppressed.

In the past, many Scheduled Castes embraced Christianity during the British rule in India, these converts were given free food, clothes, and education by the missionaries. Many of them got good educations and jobs[2].Some made an attempt, in the 19th century, to disassociate themselves from the traditional callings of the community. They began to imitate the dress and rituals of the Upper Castes[3]in order to avoid ill-treatment, Scheduled Castes have often preferred to change their religion.

With the legacy of Dr. B R Ambedkar, the Indian constitution guaranteed to all citizens the fundamental rights and equal protection before the law. It provides a number of safeguards to Scheduled Castes to ensure their all-round development and protection against all kinds of the discriminations in India. But most of the provisions of the constitution have remained only on paper because their implementation has been faulty, half-hearted and inadequate and inequality, discrimination, exclusion, and stigmatization can jointly contribute to the utter marginalization in India.

They account for 2 percent of Tamilnadu's population, and the Socio-economic and Caste Census has now found that Dalits households in rural Tamil Nadu touch 25.55 percent. However, Dalits in the state continue to be a receiving end; and there seems to be no in atrocities against them. “Historically, the political discourse in Tamil Nadu revolved around the Brahmins versus non-Brahmins question. Now, it has become Dalits versus non-Dalits.

International law:

  • Article 1, 2 of UDHR and ARTICLE 3, 5, 6 of ICESCR provide for equality and rights for all. The state should provide for the enjoyment of all economic, social, and cultural rights.
  • Article 23 UDHR and Article 7 ICESCR: Equality in employment and prohibition of discrimination in pay and working conditions.
  • Article 25 and 26 UDHR state should provide for the basic necessity of all.
  • Article 11(2): Protection in respect of conviction for offenses.
  • Article 18 freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.
  • Article 22 protection of interests of minorities.
  • Article 8 Right to Right
  • Article 10 ICESCR provides a right to marry and found family by one's own consent.

Indian Law:
Beyond these provisions in the Constitution of India some special provisions are made for the Scheduled Castes. Article 17 has abolished to the practice of untouchability. Article 330 and332 gave provided for the reservation of seats to appointments, Article 338 has made provision for the special officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards for the Scheduled Castes and Article 46 relates to special care about the educational and economic interest of the Scheduled Castes.10

National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: Article 338 of the constitution requires constitution of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for better protection of the rights of the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Caste Disabilities Removal Act 1950: The Act provides that when in a civil suit the parties belong to different persuasions, the laws of the religions of the parties shall not be permitted to operate to deprive such parties of any such parties of any property but for the operation of such laws, they would have been entitled.

Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955: By this Act, enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability has been made an offence punishable in accordance with the relevant provisions.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989: An Act to prevent the Commission of atrocities against members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for Constitution of special courts for trial of such offenses, and to provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims.

Protection of Human Rights Act 1993: The Act provides for the Constitution of a National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission, and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights.

The above provisions of International Bill of Rights and Indian Constitution ensure that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be treated equally and not be discriminated. It ensures that the state provides for measures to improve Socio-Economic conditions of SC/ST so that they achieve a minimum standard of living. The state is to protect Social, Economic and Cultural rights of them.


Honour Killing of Shankar:

The couple fell in love while studying at an engineering college in Palani and got married around eight months ago. However, the girl's family tried to take her away even when she told the police that she had married the man of her own free will.In a suspected honor killing, family members of a high-caste Hindu girl sent hired killers to murder her husband, a Dalit, in Tirupur on Sunday.

A gang of unidentified men, armed with hatchets and sickles, rode into Udumalai pettai town in Tirupur district, waylaid Shankar, 22, and hacked him to death in broad daylight. The youth died on route to the hospital. His wife Kausalya, who was with him at the time of the incident, was critically injured and admitted to the ICU later

 In a statement to the police, she blamed her family members for her husband's death and told the police that she had complained about the threat from her family earlier. Chinnasamy, the father-in-law of V. Shankar (22), the Dalit youth who was hacked to death in broad daylight in a suspected honor killing in Udumalpet on Sunday, surrendered before the Judicial Magistrate Court in Nilakottai, Dindigul district on Monday.

Indra Sawhney v. Union of India[4]
It has been held that caste is the determining factor for classifying a class as a backward class. However, the court held that the maximum limit of reservation cannot exceed 50% and there can be no reservation in promotion posts.

The Dharmapuri attacks:

In Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, an angry mob of approximately 1,000 Vanniyars, a social group who consider themselves 'superior' to Dalits in India's caste hierarchy, succeeded in looting and torching as many as 400 houses in three Dalit communities with police remaining as onlookers. The attacks took place in the wake of an inter-caste marriage between a Vanniyar woman and a Dalit man. Following the suicide of the woman's father, the mob ransacked the villages of Natham, Anna Nagar and Kondampatti over a period of two-three hours. The inhabitants sought safety in a nearby village.

Only when the villages had already suffered much destruction, did the police move in. Since the incident, 142 suspected attackers have been arrested. There are indications that the suicide was used as a pretext for carrying out an already planned attack, the purpose of which may have been to destroy the economic infrastructure of the Dalit communities. In recent years, the Dalits have become increasingly assertive, while the Vanniyars appear to have stagnated economically. Prior to  and following  the incident, political forces in Tamil Nadu that appeal to the Vanniyar vote made strong anti-Dalit statements.

The estimated 1,500 victims of these attacks have suffered numerous human rights abuses, including violations of the right to physical security; the right to be free from violence; the right to housing, the right to marriage on free will; and the right to fair access to justice. Even though the police knew about the risk of an attack, they did not take any action to prevent it. Following the incident, three police officials have been suspended.

Nallampatti Dalits want case registered against upper caste community: (Erode)
Dalit residents of Rice Mill Pudur Colony at Nallampatti on Sunday demanded the Thingalur police to register a complaint against members of upper caste community over denial of livelihood for the last one month. The Dalit community members wanted immediate action on a petition they had submitted a couple of days back complaining about what they termed as a socio-economic boycott by upper caste community members.

Police officials had reportedly told them that the case could be registered only after a consultation on the relevant Sections with legal experts. Police sources said there were complications involved in registering a case since the upper caste members cannot be intimidated into providing employment to Dalits in their fields. According to a police official, the cordiality in the relations between the two communities was being vitiated by some organizations claiming to champion the cause of Dalits.

Ever since a face-off erupted between the Dalits belonging to Arundathiyar sect and upper caste members a month back after the death under suspicious circumstances of a 55-year-old Dalit worker Chinnasamy, there has been an uneasy calm in Nallampatti. A week back, the affected Dalits had submitted a petition to the district administration pleading for intervention for their economic sustenance, citing a resolution adopted by upper caste members not to engage for farm work any Dalit worker from the Rice Mill Pudur locality.

They had asked for interest-free loans with subsidy component as a remedy. Earlier this month, a team from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) visited the Rice Mill Pudur locality and held inquiries. The Dalit residents had complained to the team that Chinnasamy was murdered by an upper caste group over his strident stand on a PCR (Protection of Civil Rights) case registered in Thingalur police station. The Dalit residents had also expressed unhappiness over the Police Department's handling of the case.

Devasam v. Union of India[5]

The 'Carry forward Rule' framed by Central Government was held invalid on the ground that the power vested in the State Government under Article 16(4)could not be so exercised as to deny reasonable equality of opportunity in matters of public employment to members of classes other than backward. In this case the number of vacancies which came to be reserved by virtue of 'Carry-Forward Rule' was nearly 68% of the total vacancies which was unreasonable an hence the rule was declared invalid.

Attack on Dalits in Coimbatore: National Commission for Scheduled Castes conducts inquiry:
COIMBATORE: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Friday conducted an inquiry with 29 families who were affected by a caste violence that occurred at Periya Thadagam in Coimbatore. A report detailing the incident and recommendations was submitted to the district collector.

On September 7, around 30 people were attacked by 17 caste Hindus for refusing to play the jamb, a musical instrument, during the Vinayaka Chathurthi festival. Six Dalits were injured and hospitalized. The Thudiyalur police had then registered a case against 17 caste Hindus but did not arrest them. As per the police records, the case was registered under sections 147, 148, 341, 294(b), 323 and 324 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 3(1) and 3(2) of the SC/ST Amendment Act.

One of the victims, S Nagaraj said for over 15 years, they had been facing such discrimination in the area. They said they learned to drum and were often called by the Hindu outfits. "For over three years, we had been playing the instrument for them during the festival. But this year, we decided to set up a statue at our temple and refused to play the jamab for them. They initially intimidated us and then threatened. On September 7, they attacked us and beat us up so badly that six of us had to be admitted to hospital. But 30 others were badly injured," he said.

The others attacked were identified as M Marudaachalam, M Poogodi, K Vijaya, M Selvan, and M Subbammal. Chandra Prabha, research officer of National Commission for Scheduled Caste and S Lister, an investigative officer of the commission met all the 29 families residing in the village. S Lister said the government had sanctioned a monetary benefit of Rs 50,000 to the six families after the FIR was registered.

"We have recommended that sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of Indian Penal Code be included in the FIR as they have mentioned in the FIR that the victims were attacked using wooden logs and iron rods. If this section is added, a compensation of up to Rs 4 lakh would be provided to them," said Lister. He further added that the Dalits still felt unsafe in the area.

"They wanted the government to relocate them to some other place near Thudiyalur and issue them patta," said Lister. Dalit activist Selvakumar said the Dalits in Periya Thadagam work in brick kilns and were daily-wage workers. "They do not have any basic amenities and they do not even have a home of their own. If the government issues patta to them, they will feel secure," he said. All these have also been included in the recommendations in the report.

Commission for Schedule caste:

Originally Article 338 of the constitution provided for the appointment of a special officer for scheduled castes to investigate all matter relating to the constitutional safeguards for the SC to report to the President on their working. He was designated as the commissioner for SCs and STs and to report to the president on their working. He was designated as the commissioner for SCs and STs and assigned the said duty.

In 1978, the government (through a resolution) set up a non-statutory multi-member commission for SCs and STs; the office of commissioner for SCs and STs also continued to exist.

In 1987, the government (through another resolution) modified the function of the function of the commission for SCs and STs.

Later, the 65thconstitutional amendment act of 1990 provided for the establishment of a high level multi-member national commission for SCs and STs in the place of a single special officer for SCs and STs. This constitutional body replaced the commissioner for SCs and STs as well as the commission set up under the resolution of 1987.

Again, the 89thconstitutional amendment act of 2003 bifurcated the combined national commission for SCs and STs into two separate bodies, namely, national commission for scheduled castes (under article 338) and the national commission for scheduled tribes (under article 338A).

The separate national commission for SCs came into existence in 2004. It consists of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and three other members. They are appointed by the president by warrant under his hand and seal. Their conditions of service and tenure of office are also determined by the president.

Traditionally, the different Scheduled Castes were employed in the various types of occupations and with their varying social and economic positions, were assigned different ranks in the overall ritual and social hierarchy of the caste system. One might think of these castes, not as part of the organization of a village society contrary that the Scheduled Castes were associated in certain ways with social organization but their touch either with a person or a commodity belonging to a Caste Hindu was avoided as far as possible.

Thus, there existed strata of castes on the basis of their farness from the clean castes. What governs the daily life of a Scheduled Caste is discrimination on the basis of caste manifests itself through visible practices such as a separate drinking water wells, segregated housing colonies, separate burial grounds, segregated places of worship, separate seating of children during mid-day meals at school, denial of taking food from scheduled caste cooks in mid-day meals at schools, prohibition of dressing like others do, prohibition of intercaste dining and marriages, or mounting a horse during a wedding, amongst scores of other forms.

Discrimination also manifests itself through non-visible forms in the shape of caste prejudices that can be heard in the spoken language through idioms and phrases. The failure of the Indian state and its instruments to cope with the problems arising in the process of socio-economic change in a society with adult suffrage and equality of opportunity and status, among other similar objectives provided in our constitution, has led to rising expectations on the one hand, and growing consciousness of the exploitation and indignity in social relations, on the other.

Such a combination has inevitably led to strong resentment expressing itself in violence. Unless these infirmities are removed and progress made towards the creation of a truly just society and non-exploitative social order, violence is not only likely to continue but may get aggravated.

  • Sukhadeo Thorat (2002), Oppression and Denial: Dalits Discrimination in the 1990s, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 6, p. 573
  • P.K. Misra (2012), Human Rights Acts, Status and Constitutional Provisions, Ritu Publications, Jaipur, p. 48
  • Ghanshyam Shah et al. (2006), Untouchability in Rural India, Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp. 32-33
  • AIR 1993 SC 477: 1992 Supp. (3) SCC 217
  • AIR 1964 SC 179, followed in B.N. Tewari v. Union Of India, AIR 1985 SC 1430

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