|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Various safeguards for Scheduled Castes and tribes. Crime against SC and ST.
Conclusion. Way forward.
India is committed to the welfare and development of its people in general and of vulnerable sections of society in particular. Equality of status and opportunity to all citizens of the country is guaranteed by the Constitution of India, which also provides that no individual shall be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, caste or sex, etc. Unfortunately, despite the safeguards present for SC and ST, crime against them has not decreased.
Crime against SC/ST:
- Analysis of data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicated a sharp rise in crimes against Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and that the crime rates against the communities had jumped eight times (746%) and 12 times (1,160 per cent) respectively in the past decade.
- As many as 422,799 crimes against dalits or scheduled castes (SCs) and 81,332 crimes against adivasis (STs)were reported between 2006 and 2016.
- Key findings of the NCRB report:
- India has over 180 million Dalits. A crime is committed against a Dalit every 15 minutes. Six Dalit women are raped every day. Over the last 10 years (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crime against Dalits.
- A total of 40,774 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other sections of law over alleged crimes against SCs and STs in the year 2016.
- In the case of STs, there were 974 rape cases which constituted 14.8% of all crime against them, followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty with 12.7% (835 cases) and kidnapping and abduction with 2.5% (163 cases).
- Cow vigilantism has increased. Dalits and Muslims are at the receiving end of this vigilantism. Since Dalits are concentrated in the occupation of leather making from hides of the cow, they are invariably targeted by vigilantes.
- In a society like India, where caste structures are still dominant in the form of endogamy, honour killings are prevalent on a wide scale. In Lata Singh vs. the State of UP, Supreme Court has opined that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest as they destroy the caste system. Bhagwan Dass v. Delhi deemed honour killings in the “rarest of rare” category of crimes that deserve the death penalty. Unfortunately it turned out to have no deterrent.
- Identity politics, from leaders among Dalits themselves, began to express itself. Urbanisation and other opportunities followed by 1990 reforms lead to improvement in Dalits life. This resurgence was met with violent clashes among upper castes/OBCs and Dalits. But Dalits were at the receiving end of almost all these atrocities like Khairlanji massacre in Maharashtra 2008, Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra 2017 and very recent Una violence.
Reasons for Crime against SC/ST:
- Caste discrimnation still exists and not much has changed. It is taking new forms that has led to crimes against dalits from time to time.
- Another factor contributing to the spike in anti-Dalit violence is rising living standards of Dalits, which appears to have led to a backlash from historically privileged communities. A 2014 research paper showed that an increase in the consumption expenditure ratio of SCs/STs to that of upper castes is associated with an increase in crimes committed by the latter against the former.
- The increase in crime rates is also a reporting effect. More crimes against Dalits are being reported and registered.
- SC and ST are viewed as enjoying all the privileges through reservation, thereby leading to a feeling of hatred for them.
What needs to be done?
- SC/ST commission should start a national helpline number for any harassment on the basis of caste.
- Improving the training of police officers in dealing with POA cases so that they can solve the cases without any pressure or prejudice.
- Increasing awareness about several legal remedies and different rights available to the marginalised community.
- Use of audio-video recording to collect evidence.
- State Protection of a witness is a must in order to raise voice against atrocities.
Based on data it shows that it is mostly ineffective implementation of the act that is leading to atrocities rather than misuse. The most crucial thing for ending discrimination and improving fraternity is a consistent societal action to change the entrenched caste rigidity. The government should take proactive measures to improve the participation of people from SC/ST community in decision making and government functioning.