An the Introductory training on monitoring the monitors of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was conducted by HRF on 8 and 9 June 2019 at Chennai, India. There were 21 participants from 16 districts of Tamil Nadu and one participant from Puducherry, from 16 organisations, one state level network (Arundathiyar Human Rights Forum), one national level campaign (Safai Karmachari Andolan) and one iNGO (ActionAid).
In addition to the in-house HRF resource team, the participants were addressed by Advocate Mohan (a Special Public Prosecutor in several of the cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes), Dr S Venkataramanan (Consultant UNESCO) on the need for quality data for evidence based engagement and Kapil on the stages of implementation and the use of RTI in each. An Introductory Guide on Monitoring the Monitors of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was released and distributed to the participants and resource persons on the occasion.
Over the two days, the participants familiarised themselves with the law, especially what constitutes an atrocity, the remedial mechanisms, and the duties of the state mechanisms. They worked out the different stages of access to justice and what could be expected from the state at each stage.
It was felt that the information on monitoring and the Act and Rules should be taken to the village level, especially to the youth, so that they can spearhead its application at the community level. The grassroots training will be done by the local organisation and the existing networks. Those who received the training at the state level should be equipped to be resource persons at the district and village levels for the purpose of these trainings. The participants wanted support from HRF in the form of information and some finances to do fact findings, critical follow-up and basic support to victims and witnesses. Additional training and accompaniment in implementing this monitoring strategy, and organising quarterly review and reflection meetings, was also an expectation from HRF. The participants gave some suggestions for making the resource material more user friendly, including formatting and organising of contents.
The participants resolved to do the following in the next three months to strengthen existing work and networks:
a) Set up Citizens’ Vigilance and Monitoring Committees (CVMC) in each district that will include retired officials, media persons and lawyers.
b) Send right to information (RTI) requests to the district collector on i) Monthly report ii) Members of DVMC and their meetings (this will include the names of the SP, DM, SPP, DySP and the NGO members iii) Quarterly review of the performance of the DySP. iv) January and July performance review of each SPP.
c) Identify other organisations to anchor the process in districts that were not represented in this training.
d) Conduct training programmes at the district and grassroots levels.
e) Communication. HRF will i) Add the participants to the WhatsApp group set up for the purpose. ii) Inform about developments at the national (supreme court) level on the progress of the cases. iii) Post formats for RTI requests by the due dates.
HRF will organise the next meeting to review the progress. It will be around the 30th anniversary of the Act on 11 September 2019.