Mention various atrocities that are still prevalent against SC/ST in India. Is the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act effective? What measures can be taken to make it effective?
Dalits (SC) and Tribals (ST) are the most marginalized sections of Indian society. Many atrocities have been committed against them since time immemorial. The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act protects them against discrimination and atrocities.
However, the SC/ST act can never be called a successful legislation. Dalits and Tribals still face discrimination. On the other side, there is widespread concern over misuse of the provisions of the Act against innocent persons. As per the Supreme Court of India, the SC/ST act has become an instrument of “blackmail” and is being used by some to exact “vengeance” and satisfy vested interests.
Various forms of atrocities against SC/ST
- The term “Cow vigilantism” is used to describe the lawlessness happening under the name of Cow protection.
- Dalits and Muslims are at the receiving end of this vigilantism.
- Since Dalits are concentrated in the occupation of leather making from hides of the cow, they are invariably targeted by vigilantes.
- Cow vigilantism has increased since past two years
- In a society like India, where caste structures are still dominant in the form of endogamy, honour killings are prevalent on a wide scale.
- Dalits are almost always at the receiving end of the violence.
- In Lata Singh vs. the State of UP, Supreme Court has opined that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest as they destroy the caste system.
- Bhagwan Dass v. Delhideemed honour killings in the “rarest of rare” category of crimes that deserve the death penalty.
- Khap panchayat – caste panchayat often acts as an arena for perpetuating atrocities against Dalits by ostracizing them from the society
- Ambedkar had recognized the atrocities meting out to Dalits in the form of social boycott. He had often fought against the practice
- Mahad satyagraha for the opening of community tanks for Dalits
- He proposed ananti-boycott law
- He recognized that discrimination occurs in multiple axes like boycott-stigmatization-segregation and try to fight it out on all these axes
- In rural India, OBC became dominant caste by ousting upper caste due to
- They were able to convert their numerical strength into political force once universal adult franchise came.
- Post-Indian rural development model was favourable to them: land reform , the green revolution etc.
Discrimination in universities
The suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad 2016
- Manual Scavenging: It is linked to the caste system where the so-called low castes were expected to perform this job. There are growing instances of deaths of manual scavenging while cleaning septic tanks and sewage treatment plants in several states of India.
Effectiveness of SC/ST act
- Increase in crimes:As per the NCRB report, 2019, Crimes against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities increased by 7.3% and 26.5% respectively in 2019.
- State-wise:Uttar Pradesh has the most number of cases of crime against SCs – 11,829 cases, which is 25.8% of the total such cases in the country followed by Rajasthan with 6,794 cases (14.8% of all cases), Bihar (14.2%), and Madhya Pradesh (11.5%).
- Conviction rate:According to a status report on the implementation of the PoA Act, released by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), over the decade prior to 2018, the average conviction rate under (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis remained at 25.2% and 22.8% respectively.
Measures to make it effective
- Registration of Cases: Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) should be developed for filing and investigating cases so that there is no confusion or doubt among the investigators about the procedure to be followed.
- Training and Capacity building of judges, lawyers, and policemen is required in these types of cases
- Prosecution: Successful prosecution of genuine cases by the lawyers must be rewarded.
- Research: There is a requirement for research into the types of punishment, as an alternative to imprisonment that can prevent future crimes by individuals or communities.
The Atrocities Act is proved to be a game-changer in fighting casteism but despite such a strong law, atrocities against members belonging to Dalit community continues to be reported far from misusing the Act, the majority of the members of the downtrodden community are yet to be informed about the law which provides them with the right to fight against their oppressors. The act only serves as a tool in removing discrimination and achieving equality rather than an end in itself.