Right from Bant Singh, a Dalit Sikh, who was beaten up for asking justice for his daughter who was gang raped, to the Dalit family in Gujarat who were severely beaten up with an accusation of skinning a dead cow, crimes against Dalits have been increasing every day.
According to the latest data, most of the crimes against the Dalits were against the Dalit women with 6 women being raped every day along with sexual harassment, insult against modesty, stalking and so on. In the past 5 years, these incidents have taken only gotten worse ranging from 33,655 cases in 2012 to 40,801 cases in 2016. In the past ten years, the crime against Dalits have increased by a shocking 66 percent.
But, why is this happening? Here’s why!
Since the Independence of India, the government has brought in a considerable number of policies that were aimed at pulling the Dalits out of the situation they were in. Reservation in terms of educational opportunities and employment opportunities have played a big role in bringing Dalits out of their misery. However, such upliftment and progressive policies for the Dalits do not go well with the other communities. Which leads to increased bitterness and violence between the Dalits and other communities.
There are other policies related to equal land distribution amongst the Dalits which has been one of the main reasons for tension between Dalits and the other communities. For instance, the southern state of Telangana has witnessed a number of atrocities and violence against the Dalits by the upper class, Boya community. There have been a number of stories of murders over non-compliance by the Dalits to do what the Boya community asks them to. In 2015, the Dalits were driven out of their land and the Boya’s buried their dead to ensure the Dalits don’t come back again.
Over the years the Dalits have been voicing their aggression and opinions through protests, petitions, peace rallies, social media campaigns or even though books and novels. For instance, the Dalit women in Marathwada gave rise to a movement to claim their rights over land. Kantabai Ichake, a Dalit woman in Marathwada, took it upon herself to make sure that the community get the right they were promised. The women started ploughing the land and started agricultural activities.
This empowerment, of course, did not go well with the upper castes in the district, who immediately put a stop to it. From destroying the crops to attacking these women, the upper castes started a violent uprising in the district. So, if even the community tries to uplift themselves, the violence by the upper caste puts down all their efforts.
The laws and policies drafted for their protection are clearly not working. Those in charge to implement the laws themselves are corrupt and not concerned when it comes to violence against the Dalits. There have been incidents in which the police officer would let the accused walk out scot-free and surprisingly threaten to arrest the Dalits. For instance, recently a family in Greater Noida was stripped naked on the instructions of a police. Why? Because they demanded for a faster action from the police regarding the robbery in their house.
It’s not just the police, the justice too comes late for them or never comes. For instance, the conviction rate of Dalit rape victims is only 2% compared to the national convection rate of 25%.
For the many of upper castes and well-connected people who commit crimes against Dalits, it’s like beat and repeat. It is because of this attitude there is a gradual rise in crimes against Dalits. They have the guts to resort to violence because they know they will get away with it.
Not all cases against the Dalits are reported as they are downplayed by the members of the upper class or the ruling government. In fact, with their power and connections, they try and make the situation against the Dalits. They try to show that Dalits are the ones who are resorting to violence and bloodshed. Many of those who attack Dalits are those who are well-connected with the ruling party of the state and are able to get away with whatever they do. There have also been speculations of many blaming the BJP government for the increasing violence against Dalits.
The Indian Constitution banned ‘Untouchability’ years ago, but still, the Dalits are considered untouchable in various places of the country. They have complained of losing their jobs, just because they were Dalits. Even the plates and glasses they use are considered impure, even today. Dalits complain of being treated unequally in spite of being equally able. There is no top Dalit journalist and there have been only 2 Supreme court judges since Independence. The mentality of the society is still stagnant. People take pride in their caste rather than accomplishments. No matter how educated or well-doing a Dalit is, he’s still considered ‘untouchable’.
In light of all this, we know Dalits are being broken for nothing other than the socially constructed hierarchy of castes. What can be done? Is there a point of return? Yes, there is. The people should change their mindset first. Unless the people learn to ban the caste system, nothing is going to change. Moreover, the Government should take strict action against those who attack the dalits and implement the constitutional provisions properly.