Crime in India 2017, the annual crime report which was published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) after a delay of two years, shows a rise in crimes against people from scheduled caste (SC) communities across the country.
According to the report, Uttar Pradesh topped the list of states where riots were organised against SCs, followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The number of crimes committed against SCs which stood at 38,613 in 2015 escalated to 40,743 in 2016 and 43,122 in 2017.
In Tamil Nadu, incidents of atrocities against SCs was 1,736 in 2015. Although the number saw a dip in 2016 (1,291), in 2017 it rose to 1,362. In 2017, 1,273 cases of violent incidents were filed under both SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and laws under IPC. Around 1,472 dalits were victimised in those incidents.
In 2017 alone, around 55 dalit women were subjected to rape, of which 26 were above the age of 18; 29 were minors.
“While the atrocities against SCs are on the rise, increasing incidents of rape involving minor dalit girls are alarming,” says writer and activist D Ravikumar, also a Lok Sabha MP of VCK from Villupuram.
Ravikumar says he has written to the Villupuram district administration, asking officials to reveal the data related to number of rape cases of minor girls filed under POCSO Act.
“Once we get the data for 2018, the number of rape victims will increase. The district administration has ensured to release the data after the bypolls in the state,” he said.
Activists say the rising number of atrocities against people from scheduled castes in the state portrays the present AIADMK government in a poor light.
While taking steps to implement the SC/ST Act effectively, it is also important to ensure whether the State and Central governments cast certain duties under Section 21 of Prevention of Atrocities Act, says Pandian, executive director, Social Awareness Society for Youths (SASY).
“Under this section, the State and Central governments should designate special courts to hear cases filed under SC/ST Act. In Tamil Nadu, we have six special courts. According to the Act, the cases heard in the special courts should be completed within 60 days. But, without having enough number of courts, we cannot achieve that. Also, the act says that more number of special courts should be established in the areas which witness a high number of caste atrocities. But the TN government till now not identified such areas,” he says.
Though the act says that the session courts in the districts can handle cases filed under SC/ST act, Pandian feels that the judges in those courts will treat the caste-related cases, just like any other criminal cases.
“They lack perspective on caste atrocities. But the judges in the special courts will approach the cases, with certain kind of exclusivity” said Pandian.
“We have been asking the government to set up special courts for hearing cases related to atrocities against SCs, for a long time. The High Court has also given a directive to the state to expedite the setting up of special courts. But the government is yet to carry out the order. It is also being reluctant to implement the SC/ST Act more effectively,” said Ravikumar, who had raised the delay in releasing the NCRB data in Parliament recently.