PATNA: Former Bihar minister and senior dalit leader Ramai Ram on Wednesday threatened to raise demand of a separate ‘Harijanistan’ once envisioned by B R Ambedkar, if statutory rights of the members of Scheduled Caste were not protected by the Centre and different state governments.
“Prior to Independence, there were demand of separate Pakistan and ‘Harijanistan’. Pakistan was created, but Ambedkar agreed to forgo the demand of separate ‘Harijanistan’ and join the Nehru cabinet only after the country’s then top leaders assured that members of Scheduled Caste would be provided opportunity to live a life with dignity like other citizens and their rights would be protected through different constitutional provisions.
But today, certain statutory provisions which are meant to protect SC/ST members are being snatched. Members of SC can no longer live like a second-class citizen. If our statutory rights are not protected, we will revive the demand of a separate ‘Harijanistan’ like Ambedkar did before the Independence,” Ram told TOI over phone.
Ram, a senior functionary of Sharad Yadav faction of JD(U), also said that altogether nine members of dalit community were killed during the nation-wide protest against the dilution of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on April 2. “All those dalits killed during April 2 protest be declared as martyr,” he said.
To a question, Ram said he would put up the issue of dilution of statutory rights of SC/ST members before senior leaders of the grand alliance, comprising RJD, Congress and JD(U)’s Sharad Faction, and urged them to begin a joint campaign to protect the constitutional provisions meant for protection of the SC/ST.
He said the special provisions provided for protection of SC/ ST were today under threat. “If this trend continues, we will be forced to revive the demand of separate land for the members of dalit communities within the country,” Ram said.
Ram’s comment comes in the wake of Supreme Court’s recent order which allegedly dilutes the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled that the arrest of an accused under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is not mandatory and a recourse to coercive action would be taken only after preliminary inquiry and sanction by the competent authority.