Liberty, equality, justice and human dignity are the basic principles of contemporary society. Although injustice, discrimination and inequality are social phenomena, their nature and extent differ from society to society. People who suffered subjugation, domination and faced exploitation, slavery or social, economic, political and cultural dominance always faced undermining their Dignity. At the same time, there have been constant efforts to fight these problems in human history. Indian society is no exception to this. However, injustice, inequality and discrimination in India exist in the worst form by way of social stratification and hierarchy that are directly linked to religion and caste. Caste plays its role in both ways, i.e., as a system and as an institution.
In 1948, United Nations adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Newly Independent India in 1950 declared untouchability and its practice unlawful in 1950. In 1955, Government of India passed The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, which was later in amended as Protection of Civil Rights Act 1976 to prescribe punishment for the preaching and practicing of ‘Untouchability” for the enforcement of any disability arising therefrom and for matters connected therewith.
In 1989, Government of India declared violence against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes a crime and new legislation known as The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The purpose of this Act was to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Despite clear constitutional and protection through specially created laws, the Dalits in India remain extremely vulnerable to violations from the entrenched Savarnas (so called upper castes) and indifferent and callous officials of the State Agencies. They currently face a unique challenge: assertion by the Dalits for their Dignity and Constitutional Rights often leads to conflict and entrenched groups resorting to violence. Denial of Dignity and equality is the common across the country.
While political empowerment remains indispensable for the socially, economically and politically marginalised all over the world, violation of the Dalit Rights as consequence of their assertion of equal dignity cannot be solely addressed by the political processes or political parties alone. There is a need for strong civil society initiatives to bring the perpetrators of violence against Dalits to Justice.
National Confederation of Dalit Adivasi Organisations (NACDAOR) consistently undertakes research, documentation and representation in cases where Dignity and Rights of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and Minorities are threatened or challenged. Prevention Of Atrocities Act 1989