As violent protests continue in the Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat over the flogging of Dalit youth by upper-caste Hindu vigilantes, an IndiaSpend analysis reveals a conviction rate six times lower than the Indian average over 10 years for crimes against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the state.

In 2014 (latest available data), 3.4% of crimes against scheduled castes in Gujarat ended in convictions, against a comparable national rate of 28.8% – that is, one conviction for every eight across the country. Against scheduled castes, that conviction rate was 1.8%, against the national average of 37.9% – that is, one conviction for every 21 across the country.

Dalit unrest began on July 11 when four Dalit youth were tied to a car and gaurakshaks, or cow protectors, took turns to flog them as a crowd watched. The crime: Skinning a dead cow. Later, the upper-caste vigilantes posted a video of the flogging on social media as a warning of sorts to others – Dalits and Muslims. The video of another attack in May has also now emerged.

The Gujarat government has arrested suspects, but the gaurakshaks’ courage appears rooted in the failures of Gujarat’s criminal-justice system in addressing crimes against the lowest of Hindu castes and tribes. A similar failure is evident in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Low conviction rates

Over the decade ending 2014, the average conviction rate in cases of crimes against scheduled castes in Gujarat was 5%; in crimes against scheduled tribes, it was 4.3%. The national average was 29.2% and 25.6% respectively, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

This means that suspects in 95 of 100 cases are acquitted. Over 10 years, the lowest conviction rate in crimes against scheduled castes in Gujarat was 2.1% in 2011; against scheduled tribes, it was 1.1% in 2005.

The conviction rate for all crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code nationwide was 45.1% in 2014.

“If the conviction rate is low, people who can afford a good lawyer know that they can get away with their crime,” Supreme Court lawyer Kamlesh Kumar Mishra said.

The conviction rate represents how often cases filed by the police lead to suspects being declared guilty in court.

Karnataka and Maharashtra are on par with Gujarat, with a similar 5% conviction rate for crimes against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. In Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, about half of such cases end in conviction.

Widespread discrimination

“There is discrimination at each point in the whole chain of access to justice for Dalits and adivasis (indigenous or tribal people),” said Paul Divakar, Convener of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an advocacy group, pointing to flawed chargesheets and investigations.

Mishra said it was up to the Gujarat government to implement long-pending reforms recommended by various commissions to improve convictions and try pending cases. Lower courts in Gujarat need 287 years to clear pending cases, IndiaSpend reported in December 2015.

Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes endure widespread discrimination and lag the general population in education, jobs and income, IndiaSpend reported earlier this month. Crimes against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is also rising, IndiaSpend reported, a reflection of greater reporting of cases, and a consequence of upper-caste resentment against growing assertiveness.

“Society can now accept a Dalit crossing an upper caste area on a bicycle, but it still hasn’t accepted the idea of a Dalit riding a Royal Enfield,” Dalit writer Chandra Bhan Prasad said in this Mint interview. “Upper castes feel threatened as Dalits now feel equal to them and even confront them.”

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.