Minorities have challenged existing injustices in several ways. Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and other marginalized groups have long claimed that because they are citizens of the country under the Constitution, they have equal rights that others must accept. The Constitution can be used to help poor communities win their struggles. It illustrates how specific groups’ rights are expressed in the form of laws to protect them from injustice.
Protecting the Rights of Dalits and Adivasis
When the higher caste discriminates against the lower castes, they experience a variety of emotional traumas; the Indian government implemented new laws protecting them from such discrimination.
The SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Law were passed in 1989 in response to Dalits and other marginalized populations’ concerns that the government takes seriously the ill-treatment and harassment they had experienced. Dalits and other poor groups were harassed at every turn. Although such treatments had been around for a long time, they became more severe in the 1970s and 1980s.
Following cruel treatment, a number of active Dalit groups (especially in South India) fought to reclaim their rights. They refused to carry out special caste tasks and demanded equal treatment. As a result, upper castes began employing violence against individuals who claimed their rights. Despite the fact that it is prohibited by the Constitution, untouchability was practiced in secret across the country. Dalits raised the issue of crimes against them and demanded new legislation to punish those who performed them.
The Act categorizes offenses on many levels:
To begin, it specifies the methods of humiliation that are both physically and deeply immoral, and it attempts to punish those who
- Force a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to drink or consume any inedible or disagreeable material;
- Forcefully removes garments from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe member, displays him or her nude or with a painted face or body, or does any similar conduct insulting to human dignity.
- Second, it includes behaviors that rob Dalits and Adivasis of their little resources or force them to work as slaves. Thus, the Act seeks to punish anybody who
- Illegally occupies or cultivates any land held by, or committed to,… a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, or who transfers the land allowed to him.
- At a better elevation, the Act recognizes that crimes against Dalit and tribal women are unique and, as a result, wants to severely penalize anybody who
- Assaults or uses force on any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with the motive of defaming her.
Another reason the 1989 Act is significant is that it helped Adivasis defend their right to occupy land that was previously theirs. Adivasis typically oppose the relocation and have been forcibly relocated from their land. Activists propose that anyone who has violated tribal territory violently be punished under this regulation. They have also stated that this Act just confirms what the Constitution already guarantees tribal people: that tribal land cannot be sold or acquired by non-tribal people.
Question 1: In what way did Dalit communities try for their rights?
A number of assertive Dalit communities (particularly in South India) came up to claim their rights. They refused to carry out certain caste responsibilities and asked that they be treated equally. As a result, people from the upper castes began using violence against those who claimed their rights. Despite the fact that it is outlawed under the Constitution, untouchability was practiced throughout the country in a secret manner. Dalits called attention to this practice and requested new legislation to punish those who committed atrocities against them.
Question 2: What is the punishment against the ST/SC Act?
The punishment against the Act is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months but extend to a year.
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