Dalit Lives

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The number of atrocities committed against Dalits across the country during the year 2017 has gone up,  according to the latest NCRB data.

NIHIRA RAM
SHREYYA RAJAGOPAL

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Amnesty International documented a total of 902 incidents of alleged hate crimes between September 2015 and June 2019, out of which 619 alleged hate crimes were committed against Dalits. According to the Human Rights Watch, around 165 million people in India face violence on the basis of their caste. The number of atrocities committed against Dalits across the country during the year 2017 has gone up,  according to the latest NCRB data. The number of atrocities committed against scheduled castes (SCs) during the year was 21.5  per cent with over 43,200 cases. The number of cases recorded are a rise from 40,801 during 2016 and 38,670 during 2015.

The Indian Express reported on Friday that a 27-year-old Dalit man was beaten to death and striped naked over suspicion of stealing Rs 5,000 after he was abducted by a group of men in a village in Banaskantha, Gujarat. On 27 May, Arvind Bansod, a Dalit social activist and a resident of Pimpaldhara, Maharasthra died amid suspicious circumstances. Despite there being evidence that Bansod was murdered by a group of men after they abused him with casteist slurs, the police initially treated the case as a suicide.

 

Other incidents include an attack on Dalits in Jagatsinghapur, Odisha, for using the ‘common rest area’ during the cremation of a farmer’s body at the local crematorium, an attack on a Dalit farmer by a gang of caste Hindus at Tippapura village for getting a borewell drilled, and the death of a 17-year-old Dalit boy, Vikas Jatav, killed by upper-caste men in Dhomkhera village, UP for entering a temple.

Many of the migrant workers who were forced out of cities belong to the Dalit or Adivasi community. Of the 395 million intra-state migrants in India, 62 million are estimated to be Dalits and 31 million Adivasis. The lockdown has made individuals from socially marginalized groups even more vulnerable to caste violence and atrocities, on top of unemployment and economic uncertainty.

 

Caste atrocities in Tamil Nadu have increased nearly fivefold in the lockdown as reported by Evidence, an organisation which works on Dalit rights.  Other states like Maharashtra have similar trajectories.

“Since the onset of this pandemic, disproportionate attention is being paid towards policing the masses and very little attention is paid towards the security of the Dalit, Adivasi communities in the state,”

—- Jitratn Patait, news editor of Prabuddha Bharat​

Most of the crimes against SCs reported are crimes against women, including assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and insult to modesty. Sexual violence has been used as a tool to perpetuate power and caste domination. Over 23% of Dalit women report being raped or faced with sexual violence, and on an average, 4 Dalit women are raped every day.  

 

“Dalit women make up the majority of landless labourers and scavengers, as well as a significant percentage of the women forced into prostitution in rural areas or sold into urban brothels. Landlords and even the police use sexual violence against Dalit women to inflict political “lessons” and crush dissent and labour movements within Dalit communities”.

Untouchability is still practised in many parts of India. Though formally banned in 1955, it continues in private social interactions and often the public sector. A study was conducted on the practice of untouchability, based on nationally representative data of 42,152 households, which were surveyed in 2011—12. According to this:

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