How India let down the dalits

The steady rise in crime against dalits shows that the law which protects them remains ineffective

rahul

Rahul Dass | August 1, 2016


#crime against dalits   #scheduled caste   #Dalits  
A TV grab of Aaj Tak showing protest by dalits in Gujarat
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Limp implementation of law seems to be the principal cause of the rising violence against dalits in different parts of the country with the situation now turning alarming.

“The machinery is biased, corrupt and lazy. Perpetrators (of crimes against dalits) do not hesitate to systematically violate the law,” BJP MP Udit Raj told Governance Now.

Condemning the attacks on dalits, an anguished Udit Raj said that these incidents will certainly have an impact on the upcoming assembly elections. Raj, who is also the national chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations, called for effective implementation of the law.

Four dalits being mercilessly beaten up by cow vigilantes in Gujarat, a dalit family being attacked in Karnataka over rumours that they had eaten beef and a dalit couple being hacked to death over Rs 15 in Uttar Pradesh are just some of the innumerable examples of how India has let down those who have been suffering since ages.

According to the 2011 census, there are about 200 million scheduled castes in the country and what this essentially means is that the rights of a sixth of the Indian populace is being repeatedly violated.

A quick scan of the national crime records bureau statistics show that crime against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has gone up. In 2014, a total of 47,064 cases were reported of crime against scheduled castes, which was up from 39,408 cases reported a year earlier. However, there was improvement in the chargesheeting rate which was 89.9 in 2013 and was 92.3 in 2014. The conviction rate too improved from 23.8 in 2013 to 28.8 in 2014.

With regard to crimes against scheduled tribes, a total of 11,451 cases were reported in 2014, which was nearly double of 2013 when the total cases were 6,793. The conviction rate, however, improved from 16.4 in 2013 to 37.9 in 2014.

According to the international dalit solidarity network, India’s demographic imbalance is reflected in the number of SCs of which there are 103.5 million males and 97.9 million females. More than three-fourths of India’s SCs are still living in rural areas, but since the 2001 census, there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of SCs living in urban areas. This figure is now approaching 50 million, while more than 150 million still live in rural India.

India’s scheduled castes are distributed across 31 states and union territories. The states with the highest total numbers of SCs are Uttar Pradesh, with more than 40 million, and West Bengal with approximately 20 million. The less populous Punjab has the highest proportion of SCs to its total population – 31.9 percent.

The Hindu, citing data from 2013, 2014 and 2015, reported that Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar lead the country in the number of cases registered of crimes against the scheduled castes.

It said that 52 to 65 percent of all crimes in Rajasthan have a dalit as the victim. This is despite the fact that the state's SC (dalit) population is just 17.8 percent of its total population. With 20 percent of India's dalit population, Uttar Pradesh accounts for 17 percent of the crimes against them. Bihar contributed 16-17 percent of the all India crimes against dalits with just eight percent of the country's SC population. While dalits form 15.9 percent of the state’s population, 40-47 percent of all crimes registered there are against dalits.

In 2015, the Hindustan Times reported that Gujarat saw a five-fold jump in crimes against dalits that year over the previous year.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 clearly states that it is an “Act to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

The act, in section 3, spells out a host of conditions under which it can be enforced, including forcing a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance; acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a scheduled caste, or a scheduled tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighbourhood; and forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity.

Read more about The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

Though the law is there, what is needed is its effective implementation so that the dalits do not continue to be harangued and tormented.
 

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