Why crimes against SC communities should be a cause for concern this election season
Raped. Thrashed. Humiliated in Public. The horrors never seem to end for Scheduled Caste men and women. Thousands of Dalits across the country continue to fight for the basic rights they are entitled to under the Indian Constitution. Illegal khap panchayats and upper caste elders still continue to dictate the law in many of the country’s rural spheres and discriminate against Dalits. Needless to say, this election, caste and communal politics have taken centre stage across India.
What does NCRB data say?
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has comprehensively documented crimes committed against Dalits so far only till 2016. According to their report for 2014-2016, a total of 1,19,872 crimes have been committed against members of SC communities. The national average rate for such crimes is 20.3.
Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa and Bihar are the top four states when it comes to crimes committed against Dalits, having crime rates of 43.4, 42, 36.4 and 34.4. In the south, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala have higher crime rates than most.
Urban space is not necessarily safe for Dalits
Curiously, even in metropolitan cities, where the caste narrative is supposed to have little emphasis, nearly 4600 crimes have been committed. The cities under this list are Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kanpur, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Patna, Pune, and Surat. The top three cities among them to have the most number of crimes against Dalits are Patna, Jaipur, and Hyderabad. It can be noted that Bihar and Rajasthan similarly have some of the highest rates of such crimes.
The sorry state in Uttar Pradesh
On that note, Lucknow saw a massive leap in the number of crimes against SCs between 2014 and 2016. From just 61 in 2014, the number of such crimes in a year multiplied to 262 by 2016. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh as a state too saw a jump from 8066 in 2014 to 10426 in 2016 in the number of crimes against Dalits reported per year. The following year, in 2017, Yogi Adityanath came to power in Uttar Pradesh. Since then, the law and order situation in the state has reportedly only worsened.
Dalit women are ‘easy targets’
A lion’s share of the types of crime against Dalits constitutes rape and other crimes committed against women. Crimes against women include sexual harassment, use of violence, assault and causing harm to a woman’s modesty.
With the prevalence of sexism and misogyny, especially in rural areas, women are already vulnerable because of their gender. So, a Dalit woman becomes even more vulnerable in society. There have been many cases reported where women are targetted and harmed to ‘punish’ the husband or family.
Cow vigilantism and religious hate crimes
Although religious hate crimes are different from crimes committed against Dalits, it should be noted that a religious minority within a caste minority is very vulnerable. At a time when cow vigilantism is in the limelight, it is hard to ignore that Dalit Muslims are often the victims of mob lynching. The 2017 Alwar lynching case—when Pehlu Khan was murdered by cow vigilantes—is just one of many instances.
According to factchecker.in, between 2009 and 2013, the number of religious hate crimes reported by English media sources was in single digits every year with the total being just 22. However, since 2014, a total of 263 hate crimes have been recorded. Cow vigilantism was the reason for 24 of those crimes. Their data also shows that in such hate crimes, a majority of the perpetrators were Hindus and the majority of victims were Muslims. Over 100 people have reportedly died in India since 2009 due to religious hate crimes.