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  • Police try to stop people belonging to the Dalit community as they take part in a protest during a nationwide strike called by Dalit organizations, April 2, 2018.

    Police try to stop people belonging to the Dalit community as they take part in a protest during a nationwide strike called by Dalit organizations, April 2, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 April 2018

The act was set in motion by India's top court as part of reparations for the community over suffering serious human rights violations.

Several protests led by 'Dalit' community, one of the most marginalized Indian communities, erupted Monday in India leading to a nationwide 'bandh' or general strike, blocking roads and shutting stores, to fight Indian top court's latest decision suspending Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, which had allowed authorities to arrest those accused of abusing members of the community immediately following the filing of a complaint.

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The 1989 act, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), or Prevention of Atrocities, was set in motion by India's Supreme court as part of reparations due to the community over suffering grave human rights violations for centuries with the aim of specifically addressing human rights violations against Dalit' community.

Those referred to as "Scheduled Caste," "Scheduled Tribes" and Dalits have a long history of suffering atrocities inflicted by the upper caste members on the social hierarchy for centuries. Relegated to the lowest rungs of the Indian caste system, they are often denied basic civil rights. 

Over the years, the privileged upper caste communities have attacked this affirmative action and the reservations in education and other sectors for the SCs, STs, and Dalits creating more friction for the marginalized communities. 

"I tell the government that you have troubled the Dalit people and they have tolerated your harassment enough, but now you are messing with [BR] Ambedkar's vision," Ram Singh Pradhan of Delhi’s Paharganj said referring to the father of India’s constitution and a Dalit icon, Ambedkar. 

"I am 88 years old, and I am ready if anyone comes forward.… This country was built by Ambedkar, this is our country. Let anyone speak against Baba Saheb Ambedkar and see the consequences. Jai Bhim," Pradhan told Al Jazeera.

According to French news agency AFP, by the end of 2016, nearly 90 percent of roughly 145,000 cases involving Dalits were still awaiting trial. 

Government numbers also indicate that less than 10th of the cases brought by Dalits in the year 2016 were proved false, which Dalit activists have pointed out to the top court. 

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A 2017 report, 'Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India' sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), stated there has been a sharp uptick in crimes against minorities. 

Indian author and human rights organizer Harsh Mander told IndiaSpend: "These are just the tip of the iceberg, what we have encountered on the ground are a much larger number of cases–many reported in the local papers–many not reported at all. But no doubt there has been an extraordinary rise in the number hate crimes across the country in recent years." 

On Saturday, news of a young 'Dalit' youth being killed by upper caste men in the north-west state of Gujarat for owning a horse was revealed. "My son's love for horses led to his murder," the father told the AFP. 

"About a week ago, when I was riding the horse with my son, one of the persons from the upper caste Kshatriya (warrior) community warned us not to ride the horse in the village. He said that people of Dalit community cannot ride horses, only Kshatriyas can ride horses. He also threatened to kill us if we did not sell the horse," the complaint read, according to the AFP. 

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