MPs unite to protest atrocities against dalits

TNN, Aug 31, 2010, 03.52am IST

NEW DELHI: In a debate that saw MPs from almost all parties
registering their strong protests over rising incidents of atrocities
against Scheduled Castes and Tribes, home minister P Chidambaram said
district judges needed to ensure proper and speedy disposal of such
cases in their jurisdiction.

Chidambaram pointed to a high pendency of more than 70% for cases
relating to dalits and tribals and said these were adversely affected
by delays, witnesses vanishing or turning hostile or indifference of
police investigators. The role of the district judge in holding
monthly meetings to assess progress of cases and pushing DMs and SPs
to ensure quick disposal was necessary, the minister said.

Replying to a debate in Lok Sabha on Monday, Chidambaram pointed out
that cases of atrocities against SCs/STs had risen over 2006-08 and
while this could be because of higher registration as these sections
assert themselves, 33,000 cases in 2008 was a matter of deep shame.
"Some of this crime is aimed at crippling SCs economically," the
minister said.

Though he refrained from naming states, he alluded to a recent
incident in a neighbouring state, clearly Haryana, where dalits had to
flee from the village they inhabited. He pointed to a circular issued
by the home ministry on April 1, 2010 outlining guidelines on how such
cases were to be dealt with, pointing out that the "will and intent"
of state governments was crucial.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was present through the discussions on
Monday as the home minister responded to MPs who said district
administrations often lacked the will to pursue accused, often
powerful local upper castes. "It is not a matter of pride that so many
cases are registered, it is deeply disturbing," Chidambaram said.

The minister also said there were some lacunae in the public order act
as courts did not take cognizance of a case until a magistrate
committed it to trial. He said some states had set up special courts
but these also looked at several other cases apart from those relating
to dalits and STs. "Often there is nothing special about these cases."
Some states had been better than others, like Andhra Pradesh has set
up 22 mobile courts, Tamil Nadu has focused on districts where caste
violence is severe while West Bengal has asked district judges to
double up as special judges.

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