Legal Aid

There are a number of government legal provisions that benefit the weaker sections of Indian society. But the Dalits and other disadvantaged groups, being illiterate, do not have any knowledge of legal matters.

It is paramount that they understand current legal trends and issues so that the rich and the upper castes cannot scare them by bringing false charges.

NASA is taking legal and police personnel to the villages and giving legal education/counselling and creating awareness on legal matters. The NASA legal Project Officer, as a member of Lok Adalath (the local Peoples’ Court), has settled thousands of false and baseless cases filed against the poor through providing legal education and representation.

Since many Dalits are entangled in legal battles with other castes in which they often lose due to lack of legal aid, it has become necessary to equip them with the knowledge to defend themselves. To emancipate the Dalits, NASA is working to make them self-reliant by imparting knowledge through training and awareness camps, specializing in the areas of health, environment, land development, social forestry, dairy farming, and self-help programs.

Kodavatipudi – Atrocity Case
Kodavatipudi village located in the “Kotavuratla” mandal of Visakhapatnam celebrates the village goddess festival every year. All the villagers will bring different food items for the goddess. Afterwards, Dalit families have to share the food which was given to the goddess and play the drums as part of the celebrations.

Recently upper caste men have barred some of the Dalits from participating in the festival and also beaten them. In 2007, all the Dalit community boycotted the festival by not accepting the food given to the goddess and not playing the drums.

The upper caste men retaliated by destroying Dalit houses and assaulting Dalit families: men, women and children. Dalit families filed a case against the aggressors under the Indian “Atrocities Act” relating to caste-based crimes against Dalits and tribal peoples. But the police did not arrest the culprits. All the Dalit sangams (associations) and their federation (DPIS) protested together with NGOs at the district collector’s office. Afterwards, the police arrested several suspects.

Social Discrimination
I. Nuka Raju and P.Lovaraju are residents of Srungavruksham village in Thondangi Mandal. One morning both went to V.Subdra’s hotel to have tea. She told them to leave the premises and served them tea in separate glasses from other customers. They asked her why she was discriminating like this and she replied: “You are Dalits”.

This practice of “untouchability” is outlawed by the Indian Constitution so both men argued with Subadra. Some upper caste men sitting in the hotel responded by beating them up. Dalit sangham federation (DPIS) leaders filed a complaint in the police station but the police did nothing. The DPIS protested the poor police action and, as a result, police arrested and charged the hotel owner and the assailants.

Immediately after the police action the upper caste people filed a private case against the two Dalit men, another seven men and the DPIS representative. These baseless charges were thrown out of court with the help of the DPIS legal advisor.