For the record

Beyond Una: Narendra Jadhav's four action points to deal with atrocities against Dalits

Ambedkar's advice to annihilate caste in our country by putting explosives to Dharma Shastras may be too radical, said the Rajya Sabha's nominated member.

Excerpts from (nominated member) Dr Narendra Jadhav’s remarks in Rajya Sabha on July 21 during the discussion on the recent incidents of atrocities on Dalits

On July 11, four men, said to be tannery workers by police, were stripped, flogged with iron rods and paraded by cow rakshaks or self-styled cow protectors in Una in Gujarat. The cow vigilante then put up the video online as a warning. The protest against this incident across Gujarat has snowballed – one police man was killed in stone throwing and 12 Dalit men have attempted to commit suicide over the past one week, and several buses have been burnt.

This Una incident in Gujarat is the most despicable and horrific incident, and it is a national shame, and we need the strongest possible, the most stringent action against this incident, and that too, on a fast track.

I do not want to see this incident from a political point of view. To my mind, this incident is symptomatic of a deeper malady that has plagued our country for a very long time.

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What is the broad picture of Dalit atrocities in our country? The National Crime Records Bureau – NCRB – data is available only up to the year 2014. The number of crimes against Scheduled Castes in the year 2014, as reported by NCRB, were 47,064, and the hon. Member, Shri Punia, has now indicated that in the year 2015, the number had increased to 54,355.

What is interesting and important to see is the distribution of these crimes against Scheduled Castes across various States in our country, and for that, the best indicator is the rate of crime, that is, the number of crimes committed against Scheduled Castes per one lakh population. If you look at the State-wise distribution, you will see that this malady is across the entire country. In fact, in the year 2014, the top three States, where the rate of crime against the Scheduled Castes was the highest, happened to be Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.

Gujarat, on which so much attention has been paid now, actually has much lower rate of crimes against the Scheduled Castes, that is, 2.4% whereas Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan & Bihar are all in the range of 17% to 18%.

Basic reasons

What are the basic reasons for these atrocities taking place? To my mind, there are three major reasons why atrocities on Dalits take place.

The most important one is this. The dominant castes in our country tend to reinforce the hierarchical caste-based power structure and suppress Dalit rights assertions. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, way back in 1936, had described that the Indian society is based on the caste system. His words were:

“The caste system in India is a form of graded inequality with ascending order of reverence but a descending order of contempt.”

This indicates the mindset that is behind all these atrocities. Now, Dalits have been asserting for their Fundamental Rights which are given to them by the Indian Constitution and this is what is being resisted by the so-called upper caste and that has been leading to atrocities.

The second reason as to why the atrocities are taking place in our country is that the access to justice for Scheduled Castes is abysmally low. If you look at the general conviction rate in our country under the Indian Penal Code, it is 45%, whereas the conviction rate for the crimes committed against Scheduled Castes is very low. The national average is 22.4%. If you see the distribution of the conviction rate across States, what we find is that the minimum conviction rate – minimum is very bad –happens to be in Bihar and also happens to be in Gujarat. In Gujarat, the conviction rate is only 2.9% which means that it is way below the average and conviction is not taking place in Gujarat for a very long time.

The third reason for these atrocities is the severe lack of empathy on the part of the administrators, police and other authorities that tend to carry their biases and this is also a big mindset problem.

Four action points

Under the circumstances, what needs to be done?

If you look at the radical level, the recommendation was made way back in 1936 by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. He said in his famous speech that was printed as a book called Annihilation of Caste.

“The only way to annihilate caste in our country is to put explosives to Dharma Shastras”.

Now, that is at a radical level. One doesn’t want to go that far but within the Constitutional framework, to my mind, there are four action points that I want to say.

  1. The first one is the enforcement of the law, particularly, the Scheduled Caste & the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which was amended and passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in 2015. That is very important.
  2. The second one is the promotion of inter-caste marriages. Even today the honour killings take place which is a matter of shame.
  3. The third one is possibly thinking about in terms of promoting non-usage of the surnames because they identify you by the caste.
  4. And the fourth one is proper implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes SubPlan.

As you are aware, there was a reference made here that the share of the population of the Scheduled Castes in the overall population is about 16.8% and long time back, under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi, there was this policy of Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan – SCSP – that was introduced and it says that the allocations should be earmarked, the funds should be earmarked to the Scheduled Castes for their welfare in proportion of their share in the population. This was long time back in 1979. It was pointed out today that in Gujarat, and in the last couple of years, the proportion of allocation for Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan has come down, which is a fact.

However, I hasten to add that this is not what has happened now. Over the years, the proportion of the amount of money earmarked for Scheduled Caste SubPlan has never crossed 9%. This has happened in the earlier regimes also – and today also it is declining, which is a matter of grave concern.

I want to emphasise that the track record for all Central governments in terms of implementation of Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan has been uniformly bad; adequate allocation is not made; and then there is a massive diversion that takes place. So, in that case, there needs to be an immediate correction in terms of implementation of the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan adequately and effectively, and, at the same time, there is need for taking the most stringent action against the perpetrators of the heinous crime that took place in Una, Gujarat.

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