Study conducted by Madurai-based NGO reveal Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Dharmapuri and Theni among districts topping the list

In the last 15 years, atrocities against Dalits touched their peak in 2012 across Tamil Nadu, with Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Dharmapuri and Theni among districts topping the list.

A comprehensive study conducted by Madurai-based NGO ‘Evidence’ recently reveals that except in the Dharmapuri incident, compensation and rehabilitation had not reached the victims across the State till date as per the laws.

The study team, which had taken up 370 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, last year alone, 106 figured on physical assaults and clash against the Dalits in different parts of Tamil Nadu. This apart, crimes grievous in nature and heinous ones accounted for 28 cases. Torching of dwellings stood at 36, executive director A. Kathir said.

Though Villupuram district accounted for the highest number of Dalit population in Tamil Nadu, towns such as Tirunelveli (which ranked seventh in Dalit population), Virudhunagar (14) and Madurai (28) witnessed several crimes.

As per official data, 2,048 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act were pending investigation at various stages in the police stations in Tamil Nadu, with Virudhunagar topping the list (176), Tirunelveli (141), Madurai and Villupuram (with 136 cases each). While 318 cases (out of 2048) were disposed at the station level, in 885 cases charge sheets had been framed and in 75 cases final reports had been prepared for filing in courts.

The findings showed that across the State, of 94 murder cases which were pending in trial courts, only in three cases conviction had been achieved. Moreover, it was all the more shocking that though 62 cases of sexual abuse against Dalit women had been reported from different towns/districts, not even a single accused had been convicted. When such was the real status of the Dalit victims, some political parties and outfits conveniently blamed the Dalits for causing confusion and even charged that baseless complaints were foisted against their community youth. This was nothing but a false campaign, Mr. Kathir said in a press release.

The only silver-lining in the study was that after 24 long years of enacting the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, the compensation for victims had been enhanced from a meagre Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

The Centre had listed as many as 22 types of atrocities as punishable, which include murder of a Dalit, sexual abuse of a Dalit woman, and so on. However, the team members found that the government had not rehabilitated the families of the Dalit victims in any manner, when there were options of providing jobs in government offices to one in the family, or offer a consolidated monthly pension of Rs 3000 or given them agricultural land with which they could survive and meet out their needs. Probably, less than one per cent of the victims’ families may have benefited from this rehabilitation.

The Evidence team has suggested as many as 17 recommendations to the government for implementation, which include stringent punishment to officials who failed to act in a fair and transparent manner in the event of a Dalit being victimised, to circulate the copies of Supreme Court directive on action against District Collectors/Superintendents of Police who failed to protect the Dalits, and to form core committees at taluk levels and identify villages which were prone for anti-Dalit attacks.