Ans. The laws which reserve seats in education and government employment for Dalits and Adivasis are based on an important argument- that in a society like ours, where for centuries sections of the population have been denied opportunities to learn and to work in order to develop new skills or vocations, a democratic government needs to step in and assist these sections.
Ans. C.K. Janu, an Adivasi activist, has pointed out that one of the violators of Constitutional rights guaranteed to tribal people are governments in the various states of India – for it is they who allow non-tribal encroachers in the form of timber merchants, paper mills etc, to exploit tribal land, and to forcibly evict tribal people from their traditional forests in the process of declaring forests as reserved or as sanctuaries. She has also noted that in cases where tribals have already been evicted and cannot go back to their lands, they must be compensated.
Ans. The existence of a right or a law or even a policy on paper does not mean that it exists in reality. People have had to constantly work on or make efforts to translate these into principles that guide the actions of their fellow citizens or even their leaders. The desire for equality, dignity and respect is not new. It has existed in different forms throughout our history. Similarly, even in a democratic society, similar processes of struggle, writing, negotiation and organising need to continue.
Ans. The 1989 Act is important as Adivasi activists refer to it to defend their right to occupy land that was traditionally theirs. This Act merely confirms what has already been promised to tribal people in the Constitution – that land belonging to tribal people cannot be sold to or bought by non-tribal people. In cases where this has happened, the Constitution guarantees the right of tribal people to re-possess their land.
Ans. Governments across India have their own list of Scheduled Castes (or Dalits), Scheduled Tribes and backward and most backward castes. The central government too has its list. Students applying to educational institutions and those applying for posts in government are expected to furnish proof of their caste or tribe status, in the form of caste and tribe certificates. If a particular Dalit caste or a certain tribe is on the government list, then a candidate from that caste or tribe can avail of the benefit of reservation.
Ans. The central government passed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
i. This Act is meant to undo the historical injustices meted out to forest dwelling populations in not recognising their rights to land and resources.
ii. This Act recognises their right to homestead, cultivable and grazing land and to non-timber forest produce.
iii. The Act also points out that the rights of forest dwellers includes conservation of forests and bio-diversity.
Ans. In 2003, the Safai Karamchari Andolan and 13 other organisations and individuals, including seven scavengers, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court. The petitioners complained that manual scavenging still existed and it continued in government undertakings like the railways. The petitioners sought enforcement of their Fundamental Rights.
The court observed that the number of manual scavengers in India had increased since the 1993 law. It directed every department/ministry of the union government and state governments to verify the facts within six months. If manual scavenging was found to exist, then the government department has to actively take up a time-bound programme for their liberation and rehabilitation.
Ans. Dalits asserted themselves in the following ways:
i. During 1970s and 1980s, in parts of southern India, a number of assertive Dalit groups came into being and asserted their rights – they refused to perform their so-called caste duties and insisted on being treated equally.
ii. Dalit groups demanded new laws that would list the various sorts of violence against dalits and prescribe stringent punishment for those who indulge in them.
iii. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Adivasi people successfully organised themselves and demanded equal rights and for their land and resources to be returned to them.
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