Madurai, Tirunelveli, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Theni and Dindigul recordeda higher number of crimes against Dalits

Over the past five years, Tamil Nadu has witnessed a sharp rise in atrocities against Dalits, especially in Madurai district.

According to a recent study carried out by Madurai-based NGO Evidence, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Theni and Dindigul recorded the highest rate of violence and crimes against Dalits, especially women, among the districts

The report reveals that, except for the Dharmapuri violence in November 2012, Dalit victims have not been compensated or rehabilitated across the State over a period of 18 years.

The NGO studied 124 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, between January 2009 and August 2013 in 25 districts of the State. The victims in all these cases were women. The cases included 45 cases of physical assault, 36 rape cases, 17 sexual harassment cases, eight attempt to rape cases and 16 murder cases. The findings showed that of the 16 murder cases, only one resulted in conviction. “After the Dharmapuri incident, 20 case studies were done by the NGO. In most cases, the government had blamed the victims for not reporting the crimes, whereas the victims blame the police for not registering cases,” said A. Kathir, Director, Evidence.

Mr.Kathir pointed out that a police officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police should conduct the investigation into any case of atrocity against a Dalit. Instead, many officers delegated the responsibility to their subordinates, the NGO director quoted Dalit victims as saying.

He pointed out that as per Section 4 of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, any district collector or senior police officer who failed to fulfil his duty could be punished. “A majority of the rape victims asserted that they were not subjected to proper medical examination,” he claimed.

Despite several representations made to the district collectors, superintendents of police, chief secretary, and officials of the Adi Dravida Welfare Department, no action had been initiated against the suspects in most cases, the report said.

The study found that the families of the Dalit victims were neither rehabilitated nor provided relief by the government. When there were provisions for providing a government job to one of the victim’s family members, or for offering a consolidated monthly pension of Rs.3,000 or granting agricultural land to the victim, less than one per cent of the victims’ families might have benefited from this rehabilitation.

The study recommends that those who intervene or interfere in cases involving atrocities against Dalits should be detained under the Goondas Act.

The other recommendations include appointment of a woman SP to probe into cases involving Dalit women, training programmes to sensitise police personnel to human rights and investigation of Dalit-related issues, formation of a grievance cell comprising Dalit advocates to deal with complaints of police inaction, a Government Order to initiate action against erring police officials, inclusion of syllabus on untouchability and equality for women in schools; and provision of job opportunities for Dalit women in rural areas.

The study also suggested the setting up of a monitoring committee comprising social activists, journalists and advocates in every district to deal with crimes against Dalit women, a directive to officials to take suo motu action in cases involving Dalits; and a minimum relief amount of Rs.10 lakh for victims of sexual harassment and Rs.5 lakh for victims of violence.

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