National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) - NCDHR
A Brief History
- Historical Background:
Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are two of the most vulnerable communities in India in terms of discrimination and violence committed against them. Some of the worst forms of violence they face have been officially recognised as atrocities covered under the SC/ST (PoA) Act, attracting higher penalties in order to deter the occurrence of such crimes. These crimes occur on the basis of SCs and STs’ ascribed caste and ethnic identity respectively and because, inter alia, they are minorities; because they are excluded from full enjoyment of national and state level resources and power; and because the SCs in particular are considered ‘untouchables’ and hence denied social mobility within the caste system. Women from these two communities are particularly vulnerable to violence due to the intersections between their caste/ethnic and gender identities, and they often bear the brunt of atrocities directed at themselves, their families and/or their communities.
However, Dalit and Adivasi communities have been increasingly and powerfully asserting their rights and demanding the entitlements denied to them for centuries, as well as protection of the few entitlements they enjoy. This has resulted in a further increase in atrocities against them, with new forms of caste/ethnicity, class and gender based discrimination and violence emerging over the years.
On the other hand a very large part of the civil society, too, has been insensitive and indifferent to discrimination and atrocities faced by Dalits and Adivasis. Dominant caste led group massacres of Dalits, honour killings, systematic sexual violence against Dalit and Adivasi women, forcible denial of forest and land rights to Adivasis, alignment of dominant caste forces in the form of khap panchayats, forcible denial of effective political participation to Dalits and Adivasis within the decentralized governance system – all such happenings are indications of the dominant castes attempting to protect and perpetuate the hierarchical caste system and their control over resources and power. The collusion of state institutions and actors with casteist forces in denying justice to the Dalit and Adivasi victim-survivors by silencing them, or suppressing the facts, or bullying them into fear and submission shows how the law and order machinery can be made to bend to the will of the dominant caste groups.
- Birth and Progress of NCDHR :
The above worsening situation and wide spread caste based discrimination prompted many of the Dalit and Adivasis activists to call for an urgent national campaign to highlight Dalit Human Rights and to uphold that “Dalit Rights are Human Rights.” National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights was initiated in October 1998 by 78 Dalit activists from across India and launched on 10 December, 1998, on the International Human Rights Day. In the backdrop of the 50th year of Indian independence and the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it called for an urgent national campaign to highlight Dalit Human Rights and to uphold that ‘Dalit Rights are Human Rights’. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights is the first ever campaign to highlight and take up the cause of human rights for Dalits at a national level. It is a platform of Dalit activists, advocates, students, academics, employees - both women and men - as well as SC/ST trade unions and Dalit movements. Led by Dalits, many other progressive forums and movements of women, environmentalists, civil rights and human rights at the local and national level, who are also committed to Dalit Human Rights, support the Campaign irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
- In the first phase NCDHR concentrated on raising the visibility of Dalit issues at the state, national and international level. A key achievement during this phase was the signature campaign with 2.5 million signatures submitted to the Prime Minister in 2000.
- In Phase–II NCDHR worked to bring international attention and media coverage to make the world sit up and take notice of the injustice and oppression faced by Dalits. NCHDR was involved in the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR-3) in South Africa (September 2001), all World Social Forums, the 40-day Dalit Swadhikar Rally across India converging into World Social Forum in Mumbai (January 2004), the first public hearing on ‘The Situation of the Dalits in India’ at the European Parliament in Brussels (December 2006), and the first International Conference on the Human Rights of Dalit Women at The Hague (November 2006). The positive results of these efforts include the first-ever recognition of the Dalit Human Rights problem by the United Nations (August 2001), the European Union (May 2007), and the Congress of the United States of America (July 2007).
- Phase–III, beginning in 2003, was to hold the State accountable for not checking the impunity being enjoyed by non-Dalits in the criminal justice administrative system and justice delivery mechanism. The emphasis was on grassroots mobilisation, linking and strengthening campaigns, alliance building, and systematic monitoring and advocacy of atrocities against Dalits to pressure the criminal justice system to act.
- Thematic Areas of NCDHR :
(a) All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM):AIDMAM is a forum of Dalit Women committed to challenging the nexus of patriarchy, caste, culture and class oppression, exploitation and marginalization of Dalit Women. AIDMAM has membership and solidarity of Dalit & non-Dalit women, Dalit men and other human rights defenders committed to the cause of protection and promotion of the rights of Dalit Women under the leadership of Dalit Women.
(b) NationalDalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ): NDMJ involves in the criminal justice administration systems to address issues of access to justice for those affected by atrocities and violence. The main vehicle is the SC/ST POA Act and NDMJ advocates to strengthen survivors and victims as they use the law for access to justice - both penal and pecuniary. It work with the executive, the judiciary and the policy makers and peoples representatives in bringing the voice of the survivors and victims and to ensure effective implementation of existing acts and measures.
(c) Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan (DAAA): DAAA looks at the various economic rights of Dalits including education and entrepreneurship. It uses the Union and state Government budgets as the main vehicle to tracking schemes and entitlements of Dalits. It involves in advocacy with policy makers and executives in strengthening the existing policies and tracking it for accountability and transparency.
(d) International Advocacy: NCDHR advocates internationally in three areas. It focuses on UN mechanisms to use them to address Caste Based Discrimination through several treaty bodies and charter based mechanisms. It participates in the Human Rights Council and other process for relevant interventions. It works with International Human rights Organisations during grave atrocities as well as campaigns for strengthening the Criminal Justice Administration. It supports several Dalit solidarity bodies initiated in over 6 countries to advocate for Dalit rights in UN as well as in the EU.
(e) National Dalit Watch in Disaster Risk Reduction: Monitoring Disaster Response and Preparedness for Inclusion & Equity, working towards developing tools and methods to map, document and mitigate caste-induced vulnerability and discrimination in disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and rehabilitation for inclusion of Dalits in disaster management.
National Dalit Movement for Justice
The National Dalit movement for Justice (NDMJ) is a democratic, secular, non-party movement of Dalit survivors, defenders, academics, organizations headed by Dalits to initiate advocacy and involve in mass action to address the issues of caste based discrimination (CBD) and violence (primarily untouchability and atrocities) to ensure dignity, equality and justice. It is one of the four movements that comprise the National Campaign for Human Rights (NCDHR). It has presence in 17 states across India to organize, educate and mobilize the Dalit community, organizations and civil society to promote and protect civil and political rights of Dalits.
- Vision:A Dalit lead movement for Justice and freedom
- Mission:Organize mobilize Dalit community, organizations and civil society to promote and protect Dalits’ CPR for ensuring justice under leadership.
FDemand state accountability for the inadequate implementation of the SC/ST (PoA) Act.
FInsist on adequate political will to ensure state implementation of the Act in toto.
FCall for legislative amendments to the Act to expand and strengthen its scope and provisions, particularly regarding the rights of victims and witnesses.
FSpeak out forgreater gender focus in the Act.
FEnsureexclusive judicial mechanisms to ensure speedy trials so as to fulfill the deterrence purpose of the Act.
FClamour for inclusion in the Act the excluded marginalised communities: various tribal and ethnic groups in the country; SCs/STs belonging to religious minority communities especially Muslims and Christians; and SC/ST migrant workers.
FDeveloping assertiveness of the survivors as collective force to address issues Criminal Justice Administrative Systems – as Dalit Human Rights defenders
FNetworkingof organizations, networks, Advocates, activists, and other professionals working on Dalits’ Civil and Political Rights violations
FDeveloping mechanisms to promote and protect the rights of Dalit Human Rights Defenders
FIdentifying and networking with the Dalit Sarpanches of all the villages
FAdvocacy intervention with various commissions and officials for making the state accountable
- Spread of the Movement (NDMJ) :
FNDMJ is active at the national level (Delhi) and in 14 states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
FAlthough the intensity and the activities of NDMJ vary from one state to the other, based on the differing strength of the respective State Coalitions and their experience of monitoring atrocities for the last two decades of the PoA Act.
- What Has Been Done So Far- Key activities under taken so far:
Since the beginning, the NDMJ with the above thrust aimed to ensure better enforcement of the PoA Act and Rules by monitoring the mandatory accountability and monitoring mechanisms provided in the Act. This is primarily to take human rights monitoring beyond fact-finding towards activation of the various preventive and protective mechanisms laid down in the present PoA Act and Rules. Also initiated a campaign to strengthen the Act and Rules through necessary and critical legal amendments. Based on these following are some of the activities undertaken by the NDMJ at different levels:
- Monitoring atrocities and follow up
- Filing Public Interest Litigations
- Promotion of Dalit Lawyers Network
- Capacitation of Dalit Human Rights Defenders
- Promotion of State level Survivors Groups and support to survivors in meeting with enforcement authorities
- Public Hearings
- Advocacy and Lobbying on the Implementation of PoA Act and Rules
- Filing RTI applications on various periodic mandatory provisions under the Act and Rules.
- Activating constitutional and Executive mechanisms for effective monitoring of PoA Act and Rules
- Election Monitoring
- Networking with CSOs and Adivasis Organizations
- International Advocacy
- Developing Manuals and Handbooks
- Consolidating the lessons learnt and best practices of CSOs
- Monitoring Special Courts
Campaigning for bringing amendments to the SCs and STs (PoA) Act 1989 and Rules 1995
Very much disturbed by the non implementation of various provisions and procedural hurdles, as being still prevalent even after 23 years of the Act, the Swadhikar - National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), a wing of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), brought together around 500 Dalit and Adivasis from 18 States in India to analyze this sad plight and come up with concrete action proposals taking into account the experience of grassroot level Dalit and Adivasis activists, CSOs and community leaders . We then formed the National Coalition for Strengthening the SCs & STs Prevention of Atrocities Act (NCSPA). The single aim of the coalition is to campaign for amendment to the Act and to strengthen its enforcement. The campaign for amending the Act and Rules under the auspices of NCSPA is under process since 2009 and on 12.12.2013 based on the amendments proposed by the Coalition, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment introduced the bill of amendments in the Parliament and since the same was not passed in the Parliament we again did intensive lobbying and advocacy with the Parliamentarians. Same is now brought through an Ordinance to amend the SCs and STs (PoA) Act 1989 on 04.03.2014, promulgated by the President of India.
- Preparation of Amendments: The Coalition formed a Working Group consisting of experts and activists, who prepared a Position Paper and Draft Amendments to the PoA Act and Rules, based on the experiences of implementation of the Act over the last 20 years. They obtained suggestions from the National Coalition Partners and various civil society organizations, conducted advocacy meetings with the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and the Law Ministry, interacted with policy makers and advisors, and had consultations with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, before finalizing the proposed set of amendments to the Act and disseminating them among the wider public.
- Preparation of Report Card and translation into regional languages: The Coalition reviewed the implementation of the SCs and STs (PoA) Act for the past 20 years (1989 to 2009) and produced a ‘Report Card’ to document the status of its enforcement. This Report Card was translated into many vernacular languages such as Hindi, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi and Kannada, printed and then released through visible programmes in the respective States.
- Expanding the scope and use of the Act: Aware of the prevalent perception in certain areas/circles that the PoA Act is only useful for SCs and not STs, the Coalition has had a series of consultations with different Adivasi movements and organizations in order to elicit support for greater engagement in the amendments based on their experiences of atrocities, and in monitoring the enforcement of the Act. The Coalition has also started building alliances with organizations and networks working on different socio-economic cultural rights – education, health, employment, livelihood, etc. – by organizing consultations at national and state levels.
- Consultations with CSOs, Judges, Police Officers and Academics: Consultations were organized in various states with civil society organizations and movements and different experts to extensively discuss the proposed amendments before finalization for undertaking advocacy. The Coalition has also collaborated with different Academic and Administrative Institutions such as the National Judicial Academy (Bhopal), Mumbai University Law Department (Mumbai), Dr. K.R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit & Minority Studies (Delhi) and Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion &Inclusive Policy, Ambedkar University (Lucknow)in organizing various symposiums, consultations and public hearings in order to garner public support among the various sections of civil society towards the proposed amendments.
- Advocacy with MPs, MLAs, Parliamentary Committees and Commissions: Several consultations have been held with MPs, MLAs, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of SCs and STs in order to garner their support and, in the case of MLAs, to sensitize them as to their roles and responsibilities in properly monitoring and implementing the Act in their respective States. As a result, MPs and MLAs have raised various questions in Parliament and in the State Assemblies, based on model questions drafted by the Coalition, and specified the amendments proposed by the Coalition.
- Discussion with the Ministry of Social Justice &Empowerment (MSJE): Since 2009, the National Coalition has had discussions with the MSJE to share about the proposed amendments and findings of the Report Card. The Ministry agreed and prepared a concept note to amend the Act, which was sent to all State governments and commissions. Based on this concept note, we also made interventions with the concerned ministries at the state level and briefed them regarding our proposed amendments to ensure that they have their feedback to the MSJE along the same lines. Following are the details of relentless work done.
(a) Meeting with Mr. Mukul Wasnik Hon\'ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment
- The ministry appointed inter Ministerial Committee with officers to draft amendment bill. Hon\'ble Minister reiterated that he is aiming to introduce the bill.
- Joint Secretary of MSJE shared the feedback that they received from the state governments.
- The drafting team was given a month time to come out with a draft.
(b) Meeting with Ms. KumariSeleja, Hon\'ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment
- She was apprised with the categories of amendments proposed in the Act.
- The minister reiterated her commitment to introduce the bill as soon as possible in the parliament.
(c) Inter Ministerial Committee: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
- Two rounds of the discussions with Additional Secretary of MSJE , head of the Committee on our proposed amendments
- Primarily to understand the rationale for all the amendments that we proposed.
- They also compared the feedback they received from the state governments.
- Joint Secretary and Director of MSJE were also present in the meetings.
- Meetings with National Advisory Committee: Recommendations proposed on amendments
- In 2010, the National Coalition for Strengthening the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act concluded a comprehensive review of 20 years of implementation of the SC/ST (POA) Act. Detailed findings of that review fed into proposed amendments to the SCs & STs (POA) Act, which were discussed with the NAC Working Group (WG) on Dalit Issues. In this process we had 14 meetings with the members of National Advisory Council on the proposed amendments under the PoA Act 1989 and Rules 1995 In the meetings higher officials from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Home, Ministry of Law and Justice were also present. Discussions were held on the following categories of proposed amendments –
ü Amendments in Offences of Atrocities (Including new definitions, enhanced penalties, and expanded presumptions)
ü Institutional Strengthening- Proposing institutional measures to strengthen implementation of the Act, including Exclusive Special Courts and Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors
ü Enhancing Compensation- Enhancing quantum of relief and compensation.
ü Establishing Rights of Victims & Witnesses- Adding a new chapter on Rights of Victims & Witnesses.
ü Creating Anti-Discrimination Provisions- Adding a new chapter on Anti-Discrimination Provisions, as a preventive measure (with civil liability)
- Advocacy with the Media: In order to ensure that public opinion is kept alive, National Coalition partners have ensured that the (mal-) implementation of the PoA Act is being covered in the media at various levels, including cover stories of major national magazines and journals. Consequently, Frontline (2009, vol. 26, no. 24) and Hindi Outlook (2009) have brought out special issues on the PoA Act and Rules, which contained interviews from the concern ministries.
- Public Actions: Around 30 January 2010 – the 20th anniversary of the Act coming into force –the Coalition Partners organized public actions in various States to strengthen our demand for review and amendment of the Act.
- Monitoring implementation of the Act & Rules through RTIs and PILs, and Preparation of People’s Report:
- In order to widen the participation of the public in monitoring the implementation of the Act, trainings have been conducted for activists on the various monitoring mechanisms available under the Act.
- Major atrocity cases such as the Mirchpur carnage in Haryana have also been followed up at various levels including the court, media and Parliament, in order to understand the systemic discrimination and gaps in the Act.
- Numerous RTIs have also been filed with enforcement authorities to sensitize them as to their responsibilities, as well as to gather information about the enforcement of the Act’s provisions.
- Based on the responses to the RTIs, a People’s Report on Implementation of PoA Act (2009 to 2011) was prepared in line with Section 21(4) of the Act.
- In addition, the process of strengthening state accountability has been enhanced through the filing of public interest litigation petitions (PILs) in the High Courts of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and in the Supreme Court of India.
- We are also in the process of filing PILs in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
- The Dalit Adivasis Sammelan
- 25000 people from 18 states participated
- 15 Members of Parliaments together from cut across the party line extending the support for the amendments to PoA Act and annihilating caste.
- Even Ministers reiterates the support t o the call to no more atrocities and effective enforcement of the PoA Act.
- More than 200 young volunteers were trained. They will be huge resources to the community.
- Dalit Adivasi Delhi Declaration on 23rd November called upon al l the stake holders to end atrocities and annihilate caste. It has not only indicated sharply and clearly the vital issue of the right to life and security of two communities but, more importantly, it has placed the struggle of these two communities in a broader canvass, namely, that of telling the nation and elected representatives that the struggle is directed towards annihilating the caste on the one hand and making the Constitution’s principles of equality, justice and freedom real and relevant on the ground level on the other hand.
- Meetings with Parliamentarians- During this parliamentary Session of i.e, Februry, 2014 , whole month we, with support of the coalition members from different states met around 42 Parliamentarians, including some of the ministers demanding for tabling of bill of amendments in Parliamentary Session of Feb, 2014. Some of the dignitaries we met were - Mr. J.D Seelam, Minister of State (Revenue)-Ministry of Finance; Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Ministry of Rural Development; Mr. Malika Arjun Khadge , Ministry of Railways; P.L.Punia , Chairperson of National Commission of Scheduled Castes ; Kumari Selja, former minister of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; Mr. Kapil Sibal , Union Cabinet Minister, Law and Justice (Additional Charge); Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Cabinet Minister, Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj and Mr. Narayanswamy, Personal Affairs (PMO Office) . We also met the Chairperson of UPA Ms. Sonia Gandhi as a delegation at her office. The final outcome of all the relentless work done was introduction of Ordinance to amend the PoA Act on 04th March , 2014.