New Delhi: No one is safe in Punjab as there is a complete breakdown of law and order in the state, National Commission for Scheduled Castes Chairman Vijay Sampla said as he cited “increasing” incidents of atrocities on Dalits.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sampla said the brutal thrashing of a minor Dalit boy in Sangrur district earlier this month was only one of the many incidents of attacks on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs &STs) people in the last one month.
“There have been at least 7-8 cases of atrocities on SCs & STs in Punjab in the last 25 days alone. Young Dalit girls are being tortured and murdered. The poor and those belonging to backward castes are wholly unsafe in Punjab,” he said.
Sampla, who took over as the NCSC chairman last month, served as the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in the Narendra Modi government in its first term. He is also considered to be the party’s Dalit face in Punjab’s Doaba region.
Sampla also said those committing atrocities on backward castes are enjoying state patronage. “The poor are scared and living in fear and those who are committing these atrocities are operating with impunity without any fear,” he said.
Sampla has just returned to Delhi after meeting the family of the Dalit boy in Sangrur last week.
On 7 March, four minors, including the Dalit boy, were thrashed and paraded 4 kilometres with their hands tied behind their backs in an alleged theft case in Sangrur’s Bhasaur village.
In a separate incident, two Dalit girls were murdered in Moga district on 18 March. The accused in this case, Gurvir Singh, is the son of a Congress-backed sarpanch (village head).
“There is a complete breakdown of law and order in Punjab. Even those belonging to the General category are not safe in the state. So how will those belonging to (SCs & STs) be safe?” Sampla said.
Speaking about the recent assault on BJP MLA Arun Narang by farmers protesting against three farm laws passed by the Modi government last year, he said even elected representatives are not spared in the state. “Even an MLA like Narang was not spared and he was attacked and his clothes were torn. People are scared and this will be reflected in next year’s elections,” he said.
‘Reservation policy has to stay until mindsets change’
While the Supreme Court sought to know during the Maratha quota hearing last week about how long reservations would continue in jobs and education, Sampla stressed on the need to continue reservation policy. “The idea behind reservation is to help those who have faced discrimination on the basis of their caste and ensure they are brought on par with the rest of the population. Reservation policy has to stay till we get an equitable society and everyone gets equal respect and opportunities,” he said.
“Every state has its own list of SC/ST depending on the condition of these groups in the state. For instance, there may be some who are SCs in one village, but considered OBC in the rest of the country. Even at the state level, they may be SC in three districts for instance but considered OBC in the rest of the country. So reservation is not just on the basis of caste alone but rather depends on the amount of discrimination that the group has faced,” Sampla added.
While the SC has asked the states to respond on whether there is a need to reconsider the 50 per cent cap on reservations according to the landmark Indra Sawhney judgment, Sampla said mere reservation is not enough, but a change in mindset is essential. “We have got cases where an IPS officer in Haryana asked for security for her wedding as her to-be groom had to come on a horse but in her village lower castes are not allowed to ride horses. In Tamil Nadu, a man came in a BMW to eat at a restaurant but he was beaten up because his key chain had Ambedkar’s photo. Their economic status, social status did not stop their discrimination,” he said.
“So SC should take such incidents into cognisance while examining if the cap on reservation must go. Reservation policy has to stay until we change mindsets,” he added.
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