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Observe Ambedkar Jayanti as `Protect Constitution Day`, say Dalit leaders; ask Centre to restore SC/ST Act by August 15

NEW DELHI: On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti on Saturday, several Dalit leaders have called for 14 April to be observed as “Protect Constitution Day” across the country. Several Dalit organisations have demanded an ordinance to be immediately brought by the Centre to restore the status quo of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Dalit leaders are also urging the Centre to include the Act in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. The Ninth Schedule provides protection to legislation placed under it. A law placed under the Schedule is not open to judicial scrutiny.

At the meeting in Delhi on Friday, Dalit leaders announced that they will hold a unified action and observe 14 April as “Protect Constitution Day”. “The government should issue an ordinance to maintain and restore the status quo of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and put the Act in the Ninth Schedule on the Constitution. We have decided to hold a unified action on April 14 as Protect Constitution Day on Ambedkar Jayanti,” Srinivas Rao, Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch leader, said.

The Dalit leaders have threatened to hit the street if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not announce the government decision on August 15, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, to resolve their demands.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister on Friday asserted that his government will not let the law to prevent atrocities on SCs and STs to be diluted. Hitting out at the Congress, he said: “I want to assure the nation that the law which has been made stringent by us will not allowed to be affected (by the SC order)… Do not get trapped by the Congress and those parties who have surrendered to the Congress culture.”

The protests began after the Supreme Court on March 20 “diluted” the provisions of the Act, ruling that government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens, too, can be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.

Owing to the protests and the violence that followed, opposition parties have accused the BJP and the government of being anti-Dalit.

However, Modi defended his government saying that under his regime, several new crimes were brought under the ambit of the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

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