Untouched by justice
Rate of atrocities against Dalits and adivasis is frighteningly high even 65 years after independence
“Every day, four Dalit and adivasi women are raped while eleven Dalits and adivasis are beaten up in the country. Further, every week, 13 Dalits and adivasis are murdered, five Dalits and adivasi homes are set on fire and six Dalits and adivasis are kidnapped.”
These statistics came up during a national meeting convened by the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), a Jaipur-based think tank along with the National Coalition for strengthening the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Held just before the AICC chintan shivir, the meeting demanded a national action plan to end untouchability and manual scavenging.
The participants also proposed amendments to the SC&ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989. In the meeting, it was observed that in 2010, Rajasthan stood second in the list of top ten “Dalit atrocities prone states”.
“We are anguished that even after 63 years of Constitution and 23 years of the SC&ST (PoA) Act 1989, untouchability is rampant and manifests into various newly emerging forms of atrocities against SCs and STs,” says Satish Kumar, Director, CDR.
According to data available with the CDR, during the last 15 years (1995-2011), a total of only 5,58,103 cases of atrocities (4,71,717 against SCs and 86,386 against STs) were registered in police stations across the country.
During 2007 to 2009, there was a sharp increase in the crime rates against SCs and STs by 10.6 per cent.
In 2009, against the national average of 2.9 per cent, Rajasthan reported a 7.5 per cent rise in rate of crimes against Dalits and tribals. In 2010, this figure stood at 7.4 per cent for Rajasthan as against the national average of 2.8 per cent.
On the other hand, according to National Crime Records Bureau data (all India) for 2007 to 2010, 67 per cent of crimes against SCs and 81 per cent of crimes against STs were not registered under the SC&ST (PoA) Act.
In 2010, only 11,682 out of 34,127 atrocity cases were registered under the Act. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, over 95 per cent of the cases were not registered under the Act, but instead were registered under IPC and other legal provisions, according to CDR.
In 2001, the trial pendency rate of atrocity cases against SC/STs was 82.5 per cent. By 2010-end, Rajasthan had 86.6 per cent pending cases while many other states had more than 80 per cent pending cases.
Further, the CDR claims the conviction rate for SC/ST atrocity cases was abysmally low in many states, ranging from 0.5 per cent to 8 per cent, with Rajasthan recording a conviction rate of 4.8 per cent.
“While Rajasthan has the second highest number of registered atrocity cases against SC/STs (1995-2009), and has identified 17 districts as atrocity prone, it has not publicly declared even a single district/area as such,” says Kumar.
“Even after 65 years of independence, several concerns regarding the safety and equitability of Dalits and tribals linger on, including non-registration of cases, inordinate delay in investigation and trial leading to high rate of pendency, low conviction rate among others,” says SDJM Prasad of the National Coalition.
Over the past three years, the national coalition for strengthening the SC&ST (PoA) Act, comprising more than 500 Dalit and human rights organisations, activists and experts from various states, has critically reviewed the performance of the states and the realization of the objectives of the Act and has come out with measures and amendments required to further strengthen the Act.
“The coalition has submitted these proposed amendments to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and other bodies concerned,” says Dr Prasad.