Various parts of Northern India were plunged into extreme violence on Monday, during a Bharat Bandh which was called by Dalit groups to protest against Supreme Court’s March 20th verdict which sought to prevent the misuse of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The violence which including stone pelting and firing gunshots, resulted in at least nine deaths and a major loss to public and private property. This violence resorted to despite the Modi government filing a review petition against the Supreme Court order. Since then the apex court has stood by its judgement and observed that the rights of the innocents too need to be protected.
In this whole episode BSP supremo, Mayawati has cut a unique figure, with her U-turn in regards to the issue.
During the recent protest, Mayawati took up the regular opposition line by extending her party’s support to the protesters against the so-called ‘dilution’ of the SC/ST act. She also denied her party is responsible for the said violence. Though a BSP leader was arrested during the violence in UP, and the police had suspected him to be the main conspirator.
Such a stance by Mayawati though has led the journalist to go down the memory lane by publishing reports about how she herself had favoured curbing the misuse of the SC/ST act while being the Uttar Pradesh chief minister in 2007.
Mayawati had done so in form of two orders issued by the then chief secretaries, which sought to highlight that the act was being used to implicate innocents. The crux of the letters was that the action should only be taken against the accused after he/she is found prima facie guilty in an initial probe.
Part of the first letter dated 20th May 2007 sent by chief secretary Shambhu Nath, addressed the issue of police complaints under this act. The directive issued stated that complaint should only be registered under this act in case of serious offences like murder and rape and less serious offences should not come under its purview.
It was also instructed that in case of a rape allegation a case only should be filed after corroboration of the charge,s via a medical examination and their prima facie validation. The letter reportedly also stated that police shouldn’t initiate action on a mere accusation by an SC or ST as instances were recorded about it being misused for settling personal scores.
About six months later, another letter was sent by erstwhile chief secretary Prashant Kumar to the then DGP, giving a directive that if it was found that the complainant had wrongly accused an individual under the said act, necessary action should be taken against him/her under section 182 (giving false information to a public servant with an intention to cause harm to another person) of the IPC.
With the Mayawati government then taking such a measured view with regards to this act, the question might be raised as to whether a desperation to stay relevant following successive political debacles has prompted this U-Turn of hers?