Dissent

Black Lives Matter Influences a Similar Campaign for Dalits, Minorities and Tribals in India

With increasing instances of atrocities against minorities in a number of states – lawyers, activists and others have come together to chalk out a plan to aggressively tackle the violence.

A demonstrator with Black Lives Matter holds up a sign during a protest in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

New Delhi: To counter the growing incidents of violence against the socially backward, poor and marginalised sections of the society in the name of vigilantism, including cow vigilantism, a group of lawyers working to uplift minorities in South Asia have decided to open chapters in states that have witnessed such violence on the lines of the Black Lives Matter campaign, currently on in the United States.

US campaign influences fight for rights in India

In India, the campaign has been christened Dalit Minority Tribal Lives Matter and it will not only provide support to victims, but also aggressively pursue legal cases against culprits and the police, who provide patronage and protection to them in an organised manner.

The initiative has been taken by South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association (SAMLA), which was formed with the aim of building an organisation of legal practitioners and other individuals interested in espousing the cause of weaker sections of society through legal and constitutional means.

State-wise groups to be formed

Though SAMLA is predominantly a lawyers’ association, the new initiative would seek to enlist the support of all like-minded people to end the chain of violence in the name of vigilantism. Talking to The Wire, its president and senior advocate, Mehmood Pracha, said: “The idea is to launch a campaign on the lines of Black Lives Matter (BLM) to cobble up a working group. In different states we will be conducting lectures by BLM. The states to begin with this are Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.”

On what the campaign seeks to change, Pracha said, “Till now whenever there was trouble related to vigilantism or attacks on minority groups, people used to raise voices but failed to provided any solution or relief. This caused heartburn in the affected communities. We will be taking up these cases aggressively. The need for this groups was felt to bring together the dispersed voices which arise whenever an atrocity is committed and to provide a platform to raise the issues more effectively.”

“During the time of the struggle for independence too, there was a ‘naram dal’ and ‘garam dal’. What we are going to provide is the garam dal, groups which would pursue the mission aggressively,” he added.

Lawyers to take on vigilante groups, police inaction

These groups will comprise a large number of lawyers in all the states and they will take up the cases aggressively by going after the real perpetrators to ensure that they are booked by the police. “In places where the police acts fairly, it is a different matter. But our role is to come in where police acts on the complaints of third parties.”

“In any case of reported vigilantism,” Pracha said, “we would ensure that the police does not act on the complaints of people who pick others from the roadside, thrash them or take them to the police stations. All these are criminal offences. Then if the police entertains them they are not doing their duty because first they should act against the vigilantes and ask them why they picked on these people and who gave them the right to do so.”

The hope is to deter violence in future

The groups will comprise lawyers as well as people from other walks of life. They will be formed along the lines of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group which has been helping Adivasis and other marginalised sections access justice in parts of Chhattisgarh. “We will fight for the victims aggressively. It is also hoped to be a deterrent to the vigilante groups as it would send across a strong message that those taking law into their own hands would not be allowed to go free,” said Pracha.

Explaining that BLM can easily be cited as a torch bearer for all oppressed people across the globe, Pracha said with the condition of Dalits, minoriites and tribals in India being more or less similar (if not worse) than that of African Americans in the US, the campaign for these communities in India will begin with a brainstorming session, organised at the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi on July 4. This is where the future course of action for the movement is going to be chalked out.