21.04.2024

Veterans of the Indian army and the farmers hold a joint protest

A mass strike was to be held in India this week. However, one of the main groups of protesters – the Dalits (untouchables), occupying the lowest place in the caste hierarchy of India – refused to participate in the strike at the last moment, writes Asia Times.

The protest was planned for 9 August, groups of Dalits, farmers and veterans of the army, to make some demands. It was expected that the strike would shake the government and force the authorities to answer important questions in the run-up to elections next year.

However, All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM) is an organization fighting for the rights of Dalits in the country, refused to protest, while two other groups took to the streets.

AIAM announced that it has cancelled the strike, since one of its key requirements – the recovery act scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (prevention of atrocities) 1989 was completed and the group wanted to give the government time to consider other requirements.

Act 1989 aims to protect Dalits (registered caste) and tribes from discrimination and atrocities.

In March, the Supreme court of India struck down a provision of immediate arrest of the people who are charged with crimes related to caste discrimination.

The activists said that the law of 1989 was weakened by the Supreme court ruling of 20 March, which removes restrictions on early parole for public officials and which States that a public servant can be prosecuted under this law only with the permission of higher authorities.

2 APR Dalits held nationwide protests against the decision of the Supreme court. The protests were accompanied by acts of violence, nine people were killed. After that, the lower house of Parliament adopted the bill on amendments to the law on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, restoring the original provisions of this document, as promised by the government.

Meanwhile, veterans of the army and the group of farmers also protest. Under the banner of “People for responsible management” they decided to hold sit-ins, hunger strikes and rallies.

This is the first case when military veterans joined the protests of other organizations and together they proposed to “put an end to the mob violence of hate”. All parties called for the speedy arrest and prosecution of persons responsible for crimes related to caste discrimination.

Together, the protesters demanded to abandon the ambitious government program of digital identification based on biometric Aadhaar and pass a bill that guarantees women 33% of seats in Parliament and legislative assemblies. The activists claimed that the Aadhaar program has “sown chaos” in the social security program, mainly designed for the poor.

Veterans of the army, were dissatisfied with the government of Prime Minister Narendra modi in many ways. But their main demand is a reform of One Rank One Pension (OROP). The reform suggests that pension benefits be eliminated for all categories of servicemen of the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of date of retirement. This should be automatic annual revision of pensions to military men, instead of the current policy for periodic review every five years. The government of India stated that such changes can’t be made.

Meanwhile, a group of farmers (All India Kisan Sabha) protesting against the bad conditions and the government’s agricultural policy.

Kisan Sabha has demanded to set a minimum guaranteed price at which the government procures grains to all cultures in 1.5 times above cost of production, and also guarantees purchase of crops. The group also advocated the distribution of land to landless farmers.

These claims were made after repeated protests by farmers across India affected by debt, low crop yields and climate change.

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