New Delhi: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), which has remained headless for five months now, has stepped up online vigilance amid the spotlight on crimes against Dalits after the Hathras alleged rape and assault case.
According to sources in the body, the NCSC officials are looking at cases of violence and atrocities against scheduled castes which the body can take suo moto cognizance of.
The officials are checking for such cases in their network on messaging platform WhatsApp. The administrator of this WhatsApp group is Smita Chaudhary, who is the joint secretary of the commission. Officials of the NCSC’s 12 regional offices are members of the group.
“We have had this group for the last two years but it has become more active in the last two weeks since the Hathras rape case. Officials pick up clippings from local newspapers and share them in the group and the matter is discussed,” said a senior NCSC official who didn’t wish to be named.
“If found worthy the Joint Secretary of the commission, Smita Chaudhary, marks the concerned director and asks them to take action,” added the official.
Once the director of a regional office is handed over a case, they send a notice to the concerned authorities seeking a first action report. The NCSC sends these notices to the district magistrate of the concerned area, superintendent of police and the chief secretary of state. Usually a time of two weeks is given for a response, said the official.
The NCSC, a constitutional body appointed to safeguard the rights of scheduled castes in the country, has its regional offices in Agartala, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata, Lucknow, Patna and Thiruvananthapuram.
A second official in the panel said, “Till the time a commission with its members is not brought into place, the secretary and joint secretary of the commission are looking into matters of importance.”
The NCSC has not had a chairperson since May. The term of the last chairperson, BJP leader and former MP Ram Shankar Katheria, ended on 31 May. The ex-vice-chairperson, L. Murugan, had resigned in March after his appointment as the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit chief.
Apart from these two positions, the panel also awaits the appointment of three members of the main commission.
ThePrint reached NCSC Secretary Sushil Kumar for a comment via calls to his office but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
In the last one week, the NCSC officials have picked up several cases in their online group.
These include the alleged killing of Dalit leader Shakti Malik, who was shot dead in Bihar’s Purnea; an alleged sexual assault of a Dalit woman in Bhopal; and the attempted suicide of Kerala-based dancer R.L.V. Ramakrishnan over allegations of casteism in the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.
Last week, the panel sought an action report from the district magistrates and superintendents of police in Balrampur and Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, and the state chief secretary, in connection with the alleged gang rape and death of two Dalit women.
The Hathras incident, in particular, has drawn criticism over the state administration’s handling of the case, including a hurried cremation of the victim.