Karnataka : Dalit minor allegedly gang-raped multiple times, Rajasthan: Dalit family attacked, women beaten in Alwar, Uttar Pradesh: Dalit youth thrashed for touching food at wedding, Tamil Nadu: Six Dalit students allegedly made to clean toilet in government school by headmistress, Lakhimpur Kheri: Bodies of two Dalit sisters found hanging from a tree, Karnataka: ‘cow urine’ used to purify tank as Dalit woman drank water from it.
Ever scrolled through the news lately? Noticed these headlines about hate crimes based on caste? Yes, they’re there, sandwiched between the usual buzz about politics, sports, and the latest viral sensation. It’s become so routine that it’s almost like they blend into the background noise of our daily lives. But should they?
This isn’t just a historical artifact but a stark reality that continues to infiltrate our society, causing deep wounds and perpetuating injustice. These headlines, riddled with stories of discrimination, violence, and injustice based on caste, have slowly become a sad, familiar sight. They’re like that old wallpaper in your grandma’s house – always there, hardly noticed anymore.
Caste-based discrimination is a layered demon, haunting the country for centuries. It’s more than just a system of social stratification; it’s a web of biases, prejudices, and privilege, entangling millions in its grasp. Think about it: a society divided not just by economic status or location but by the circumstances of one’s birth. Your caste dictates not just your social standing but your access to opportunities, education, and even basic human dignity.
Historically, the British brought in the Caste Disabilities Removal Act XXI of 1850, trying to put a lid on caste-based discrimination. Then, the Government of India Act 1935 gave some extra shields to the SCs. States weren’t sitting idle either – between 1943 and 1950, they rolled out 17 laws aiming to scrap caste-based disabilities. But guess what? A national law didn’t kick in until the Untouchability (Offenses) Act, 1955. It got a facelift in 1976, got tougher, and transformed into the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCR Act). To really tackle the mess against SCs, they pushed in another law – the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) – hitting the ground in January 1990. So, have these laws turned society into a fairytale land where discrimination vanished into thin air? Or is the reality a bit more complicated than that?Let’s check out what the latest data is telling us.
The NCRB — a government agency which functions under the Union Home Ministry, responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data — released its latest report on 4 December 2023. The recent surge in reported hate crimes based on caste sheds light on a persistent issue that often simmers under the surface. From violent assaults to systemic discrimination and social exclusion, these crimes tear at the fabric of humanity. An analysis of this data between 2018 and 2022 revealed that even as cases of atrocities against SC,ST communities went up, the conviction and charge-sheeting rates remained abysmally low.
A total of 57,582 cases were registered for committing crimes against SCs, showing an increase of 13.1% over 2021 (50,900 cases). Uttar Pradesh (UP) with 15,368 cases has yet again earned the dubious distinction of recording the highest number of crimes against the Scheduled Castes, or Dalits, in India . Rajasthan with 8,752 cases stood second, whereas Madhya Pradesh (MP) with 7,733 cases was on number three.
It must, however, be noted that the crime rate (crime per lakh population) in Rajasthan was 71.6 — more than double that of UP which recorded a crime rate of 37.2. At the same time, Rajasthan’s charge-sheeting rate was 45.9 percent, which means that a charge sheet was filed in only 45.9 percent of recorded cases. In UP, the charge-sheeting rate stood at 84.9 percent.
A comparison of conviction rate also showed that while Rajasthan saw only 39.5 percent convictions, in UP, the rate was 80.2 percent. MP recorded a high crime rate (68.2) and high charge-sheeting rate (99.5 percent) but the conviction rate remained low (22.9 percent).
In these states, the job market heavily relies on tourism and traditional occupations maintain significant influence within their social fabric. The scarcity of metropolitan areas restricts economic mobility, making it challenging for individuals to venture beyond their traditional roles. This limited movement contributes to the preservation of segregated settings, potentially contributing to the sustained prevalence of caste divisions in these communities.
An analysis of NCRB data from 2018 to 2022 suggests that the conviction rates in crimes against people belonging to the SC category saw a spike in years before and after the Lok Sabha elections. For instance, the conviction rate in crimes against SCs went up from 28.5 percent in 2018 to 32.1 percent in 2019 and 42.4 percent in 2020. The rate then dropped to 36 percent in 2021 and 34 percent in 2022.This while the number of cases steadily increased from 42,793 cases in 2018 to 57,582 cases in 2022. The crime rate in this period also went up from 21.6 to 28.6.
However, according to the Human Rights Watch, these alarming figures according to the report only scratch the surface, as it has been reported that Dalits are often apprehensive to report crimes, due to reported lack of police support. This suggests that the true extent of abuses against them is likely far higher.
The National Coalition for Strengthening SCs and STs (PoA) Act (NCSPA) has analyzed the NCRB 2022 Report. NCSPA is a platform of more than 500 dalits and Adivasis civil society organizations, communities, leaders, and activists. NCSPA believes that despite explicit constitutional provisions and guidelines, the suffering of dalits and Adivasi communities across India remains the worst. This community is not only the victim of this scourge caste system but also faces institutional discrimination and social exclusion. The NCPSA believes that even after the amendments came into force in the year 2016, which generated hope for the dalit and Adivasi victims in accessing speedy justice, the implementation of the amended SCs and STs (PoA) Amended Act 2015 remains a challenge.
Regretful gestures by politicians may be spectacular, but seldom go beyond that. Responding to the public outrage over a video clip showing an upper-caste man urinating on a tribal man, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh invited the tribal man home, washed his feet and apologized to him. The act echoed the prime minister’s act of washing the feet of five sanitation workers in 2019. However, while these spectacles of remorse unfold, official data from the National Crime Records Bureau paints a stark reality: atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis have surged significantly from 2013 to 2022. Astonishingly, this surge hasn’t hindered the ruling party’s success in recent elections, hinting that social justice might not be a priority for voters. Sadly, it appears that society has grown tolerant of violence against marginalized groups, even embracing division. But the responsibility doesn’t just lie with the affected; every voter holds the key to demanding accountability from the government. The pressing question remains: should a system that turns a blind eye to such crimes be rewarded? It’s high time for each voter to contemplate this critical issue.
About the author …
I’m Rasik Bin Altaf, currently immersed in the academic exploration of international relations, diplomacy, policy, and governance. Pursuing a Master’s degree at MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, my academic focus revolves around unraveling the intricate interplay between nations, policies, and global governance mechanisms. Through rigorous research, I aim to deepen my understanding and contribute substantively to this dynamic field, seeking to uncover new insights and innovative perspectives within our globally interconnected landscape