Dalits in at least 77 villages in Gujarat have been forced to migrate due to social boycotts, according to chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.
A team of the NHRC, headed by Justice Balakrishnan, on Tuesday completed a two-day visit to Gujarat for an Open House to hear the complaints of the backward classes. He rounded it up with a meeting with Chief Secretary A.K. Joti and some other government officials to discuss steps being taken by the government to attend to the complaints.
Talking to journalists at the conclusion of the visit, Justice Balakrishnan said nearly 100 complaints were also received by the NHRC on alleged police atrocities, particularly the police refusing to register their complaints, or showing total inaction in pursuing the cases after registering the complaints. Some of the specific cases, however, were promptly refuted by the government. It pointed out that the complainants might be unaware of it, but the police had filed FIRs on the basis of their complaints, and investigations were on.
Expressing concern at the low conviction rates — just 5 per cent — in atrocity cases in the State, Justice Balakrishnan said this usually happened because of improper investigation by the police, or due to the failure of the public prosecutors to present the cases properly. He said the attention of the State government had been drawn to the situation, and it had promised to take necessary remedial measures. The government had also agreed that henceforth the meeting of the vigilance committee for the backward classes would be held twice a year as required.
Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC was satisfied with the past performances of almost all State governments, as most of the suggestions and recommendations of the commission had been implemented by all States.
As far as social boycott of the Dalits by the upper castes was concerned, it was the outcome of the “mindset” of the people for centuries, which would take time to be removed.
Justice Balakrishnan was all praise for the Gujarat government, for formulating “innovative schemes” for the betterment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Describing Gujarat as a “model State” in this sphere, he said: “Many innovative schemes are being implemented, which are all working well. This is the State where the penetration of education among the SC and ST communities has reached 70 per cent,” he said in his opening remarks.