The struggle by the Scheduled Castes for their rights and equal treatment is now facing new challenges, said Prakash Karat, general secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), here on Sunday.

He was inaugurating a State convention of the Scheduled Castes’ Colony Association, which owes its allegiance to the CPI(M).

Mr. Karat said the plight of the Dalits in Kerala was different from that of their community men in other parts of the country. Many of the blatant forms of discrimination against the community in other parts of the country do not exist in Kerala. This is because of various reasons, including the presence of a strong working class movement and the Communist party in Kerala.

In Kerala, the development of the working class and the growth of the Communist party went side by side. This did not happen in many other States.

Though oppression of Dalits is a thing of the past in Kerala, the legacy of inequality is still found in the State because of the bourgeois set-up and compromise by the ruling class with the feudal system here. Therefore, the struggle against inequality should continue and the convention will discuss and chart out a movement to take the struggle forward, he said.

Pinarayi

Delivering the presidential address at the convention, the CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said that though the reformation movement was stronger in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu than in Kerala, it was because of the Communist intervention that the situation was different for the Dalits in Kerala. In other States, including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the Dalits continue to face severe oppression.

The Communist intervention in Kerala did not aim at creating a separate identity for the Dalits on the basis of caste. More such interventions are required now. This has warranted the creation of such an organisation for the Dalits, he said.

Demands

The convention constituted a Scheduled Communities Welfare Council. The demands raised by the convention include allocation of land to Dalits for housing and farming, reservation in jobs in the private and cooperative sectors, education benefits for Dalit students in the self-financing sector, free medical treatment, a master plant for the development of colonies and other areas where Dalits live, inclusion of all Dalits in the below the poverty line (BPL) list, and an end to the alleged harassment of Dalits in government service.

CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and M.A. Baby, All India Karshaka Thozhilali Union general secretary A. Vijayaraghavan, CPI(M) central committee member P.K. Gurudasan, CPI(M) State secretariat member A.K. Balan, Kerala State Karshaka Tozhilali Union general secretary M.V. Govindan, and the CPI(M) district secretary K. Rajagopal spoke.

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