Standing up for the rights of Dalits and Adivasis in 2018

Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India
8 January 2018 6:31 pm

By Aakar Patel
Executive Director, Amnesty International India

Some of India’s best laws are observed in the breach. One such law is the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The law recognises that Dalit and Adivasi communities have historically been vulnerable and marginalised. 

In an effort to rectify this and ease the affected communities’ access to justice, the law classifies and addresses violence against these groups as ‘special crimes’.

Recent events in Maharashtra have occurred in the background of a demand to reverse the law, on the grounds that it is being misused by the affected communities. However, our work on the matter in 2017 indicates otherwise – the state is in fact reluctant to register crimes under this law.

In 2018, we at Amnesty International India will expand our gender based violence programme to highlight the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse perpetrated against Dalit women and girls, in order to gather evidence regarding the implementation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Through our business and human rights programme we will continue to look into the issue of wrongful dispossession of Adivasi land without free, prior, and informed consent, which is a crime defined under the same Act. 

The state is accountable to the individual. It fails us all when it is reluctant to implement with effectiveness the laws that have been democratically legislated.