Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad has called for a Bharat Bandh on February 23 to protest the Supreme Court ruling on reservation in promotions. Azad also called for a march in New Delhi from Mandi House to the Parliament on February 16.
On February 7, a two-judge bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta, observed that it’s not a fundamental right to claim reservations in promotions. The bench also said that the Article 16 (4) of the Constitution is only an enabling provision.
Enacted as a remedy for historical discrimination, under this article, the state may make “reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward classes” if they are not adequately represented in public services. The apex court, however, observed that, “Article 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) are in the nature of enabling provisions, vesting a discretion on the State Government to consider providing reservations, if the circumstances so warrant.”
It began in 2012 when the government of Uttarakhand decided to appoint public servants without providing reservations to Scheduled Castes (STs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
“This [order] is not about reservation in promotion, this is about reservation in appointment. They are saying this isn’t a fundamental right,” Aazad observed. He pointed out that it was a right as per Article 16 (4-A) of the constitution.
“Sarkar ki daya pe chhod diya hai court ne aapko (Court has left you at the mercy of the government,” Aazad remarked. He asked people not to fall for false media narratives and read the order themselves.
The Bhim Army chief then talked about how discrimination exists at multiple levels across platforms. Whether it is law and order, bureaucracy or education, he described scenarios of how STs and SCs are evaluated in interviews.
Azad said reservation is the only means for people from backward to come out of misery and disenfranchisement. He said it was bizarre that a verdict by a nine-judge or a seven-judge constitutional bench is being changed by a two-judge bench.
“Hazaar baar galti hui hai cout se. Court sarvocch nahi hai, sarvocch janta hai (Courts have made mistakes a thousand times. The court is not supreme, public is supreme),” he said. “Yeh poora sharyantra ho raha hai humare adhikaron ke khilaaf (This is a conspiracy against our rights).”
He appealed to his supporters to come out of their homes and support the bandh. He said it will be a peaceful protest and cited Article 19 of the Constitution which allows peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
In 2018, another Supreme Court ruling had triggered a bandh called by various Dalit groups. The call led to widespread protests across the country, including incidents of violence in several parts of northern India. Dozens were killed in the violence. Dalit protestors had blocked trains, clashed with the police and set vehicles on fire. Such incidents were reported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.
On March 20, 2018, the apex court had diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act related to arrest and registration of cases.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was accused of influencing the changes to further its anti-reservation agenda. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also slammed RSS and BJP for its anti-Dalit mindset. The Sangh, however, called it a propaganda while terming the violence as unfortunate. Aazad accused the government and judiciary of taking the Sangh’s anti-reservation agenda forward.
“It won’t be violent this time. Everything will be within the constitutional framework,” said Bhim Army Spokesperson Kush Ambedkarwadi. “Support for this call is increasing. About 30 organisations who are part of the All India Bahujan Coordination Committee have come out in support.”
Kush also said that the protest is also against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
In his appeal, Aazad called these are attempts by the government to create slaves out of those Muslims and Bahujans who have somehow progressed and moved forward.
He praised his “Muslim sisters and brothers”, who he said understood NRC and CAA before his people.
“It is good that Muslim brothers and sisters are on the road to oppose this, but you should also come out and join this movement,” said Aazad.