LJP issues ultimatum to BJP over ‘dilution’ of SC/ST Act

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 27, 2018 Published on July 27, 2018

Lok Janshakti Party leaders Chirag Paswan (left) and Ramchandra Paswan at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday   -  THE HINDU

Paswan’s party wants NGT chief sacked; threatens to join protests on Aug 10

After the Shiv Sena refusedto vote in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the no-confidence motion last week, the ruling BJP saw another partner issue a warning signal on Friday.

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) underlined that its support to the BJP was “issue-based”, as it sought the restoration of stringent measures in an Act designed to deter atrocities against Dalits and tribals. The Bihar-based LJP has also demanded that Justice (retd) AK Goel be removed as Chairman of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by August 9.

Goel was one of the two judges of a Supreme Court bench whose March 2018 verdict has been widely perceived as a dilution of the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He was appointed the NGT Chairperson earlier this month, immediately after his retirement from the Supreme Court.

The LJP said if its demands are not met, the party would join the ‘Bharat bandh’ being organised by Dalit groups on August 10 to press for restoration of the original provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They said the Supreme Court order had weakened the law and that the government should restore the original Act through appropriate amendments in the ongoing Monsoon Session or bring in an Ordinance.

Jamui MP and Paswan’s son Chirag, who also heads the LJP’s parliamentary board, said the patience of many within his party was wearing thin as a situation causing concern to Dalits and tribals had emerged of late.

Protecting the interests of these communities was at the root of the LJP’s decision to tie up with the BJP in 2014, he told a press conference here.

Meanwhile, the BJP asserted that “there is no question” of the Centre diluting provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

“The BJP and the Centre are committed to ensuring that the constitutionally guaranteed rights to the SCs and the STs are protected at every cost. We are very clear that the SC/ST Act will not be diluted. In fact, it was a State government led by Ms Mayawati, in Uttar Pradesh, in 2007, which sought to dilute the Act through an executive order. The BJP is committed to Dalit rights,” said party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi.

Chirag Paswan said that if the demands are not met, then the protests during ‘Bharat bandh’ could be worse than those of April 2, when Dalit outfits had given a similar call. More than 10 persons had died during the protest. He was joined by Ram Chandra Paswan, an LJP MP and the chief of the ‘Dalit Sena’, an outfit affiliated to the party. The Dalit Sena will be forced to join the protests on August 10 if the government does not take appropriate action, Chirag Paswan said.

He, however, stopped short of issuing any direct threats to the BJP, and said the LJP had faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his government had done a lot for Dalits. “We will cross the bridge when it comes,” he said, when asked if his party would consider walking out of the NDA if its demands are not met by the August 9 deadline.

Chirag Paswan said incidents of atrocities against Dalits had risen following the verdict, and FIRs were not being registered by police.

The LJP, which has six MPs in the Lok Sabha, draws its core support from the Dalits in Bihar and has often switched sides between rival alliances ahead of elections; Lalu Prasad has famously described the senior Paswan as a mausam vaigyanik (weather scientist). The party was a member of the UPA before it joined hands with the BJP in 2014.

Published on July 27, 2018
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