PUCL Bulletin, October 1993

Atrocities on dalits, A plea for remedial action
Justice A. Varadarajan (retd.) and Prakash Ambedkar, MP

According to the report of the Ministry of Welfare of the government of India for the year 1992-93, in the year 1991 the total number of criminal cases registered (for crimes committed against Scheduled Castes and Tribes) by the Government is 21,362. In the same year 1,067 Dalit women were raped, 731 Dalits were murdered, 645 incidents of arson took place, 1,890 Dalits were grievously hurt. Another 17,029 cases of offenses against Dalits were registered. In other words it amounts to this: every hour two Dalits are assaulted, every day three Dalit women are raped. Two Dalits are murdered, two Dalit houses are burnt. These figures refer only to the limited number of cases registered by the vulnerable people belonging to the SC and ST community who are bold to risk their lives to complain to the police. This number will be much higher if we include the crimes which are unreported because of fear and oppression of feudalistic forces operating in rural areas.

The crimes of rape were phenomenally high in 1992. The Criminal cases date from 1986 to 1991 and 1992 in part increasing to greater number. The nature of atrocities indicates the trend more toward group violence rather than individual hurt. The police seems to have acted than individual hurt. The police seems to have acted only on small number of incidents. There is significant "under-reporting" of crimes against SC and ST people. Police seems to be unaware of or not willing to enforce the provisions of special enactment's such as SC, ST prevention Atrocities Act. The percentage of acquittals is very high indicating the indifference of the prosecuting officials often because of the political factors of either understanding or misunderstanding between the Centre and the State Government. These crimes go unnoticed and unchecked while people suffer anguish and paid due to increasing violence on them, while politicians seem to ignore these issues.

On the development side we observe many rural areas where SC people are living. There is no facility for drinking water. In a few villages where there are some pumps for drinking water, more often they are not working. Scheduled Caste people are not allowed in several places to take drinking water from the common taps provided by the government in towns and villages, and they are assaulted and injured when they protest against the denial. They result in serious communal violence. When such incidents of violence are reported to the authorities, instead of taking action against the guilty, separate taps are provided for the Scheduled Castes, resulting in segregation. Lack of access to roads, street lights, are common scenario in rural Dalit colonies. The existence of separate colonies for the Scheduled Castes is perpetuation of the segregation of the people belonging to those Castes. This kind of segregation is perpetuated even by governments who build hutment's (houses) for the Scheduled Castes in separate places which are far removed from the other residential areas where other caste people reside, and there are no proper facilities like drinking water and sanitation in such segregated colonies. The hutment's are small and not suitable for convenient living and expanding needs of the Scheduled Caste families. The provision of separate schools for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes boys and girls instead of making them study in common institutions also leads to segregation of these classes of people which should be discouraged.

Social discrimination exists in rural areas where SC people do not have burial and cremation grounds. If there are specific cremation grounds, then they are not accessible by road and are more often reached through private lands, leading to communal violence. Urgent action is required by Departments concerned on these needs of the Dalit people.

Reservations: The short fall in reservations, as reported in the press, giving answers by the Ministers to the questions raised by Members of Parliament show the gap between the rules and the implementation of them. In order to find a remedy for these discriminatory issues we put forth the following proposals: 1. The Government shall appoint special tribunals to try the cases within the stipulated period of 3 months. These tribunals should have powers to punish the erring officials for the failure to implement the Government laws and rules. The statements made recently by the Welfare Minister in Parliament show that the officials are not favourably inclined to implement measures beneficial to the SC and ST people and that while they are slow or not inclined to implement the Mandal Commission recommendation accepted by the Government and held valid by the Supreme Court. They are anxious and quick to deny to the SC and ST people reservation in promotions taking umbrage under some observation made by the Supreme Court in the Mandal Case though that case relates only to reservation for Backward classes and any observation made regarding SC and ST people could only be obiter dicta, not enforceable in law against the SC and ST people. Immediate steps are required to be taken to remedy the situation. 2. Education on Human rights to remove deep rooted prejudices and to end discrimination and atrocities on the Dalit people as a preventive measure is urgently required.

In order to support the Governmental measures. We urge the Government to encourage voluntary bodies working for and with the Dalits to make representations to the State and Central Governments, which may set up a special cell for this purpose for taking remedial action.

(The above is a slightly abridged version of a memorandum submitted to the President of India).

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