Caste Based hate crimes with special focus on Dalits: An unbridled evil amongst us

Caste Based hate crimes with special focus on Dalits: An unbridled evil amongst us
                                                                                                       Author: NauheerKalandhar Shakeel,
3rd year BA LLB,
School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be) University.

INTRODUCTION
The term “hate” can be misleading. When used in a hate crime law, the word “hate” does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context “hate” means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law. This bias is the reason that millions of people all over the globe are persecuted. The Bias is a deeply ingrained ideology which people fail to look beyond and commit offences based on what they believe to be the truth, but this bias which causes people to commit hate crimes is like two sides of a coin. Sticking to an Indian perspective people believe that crimes committed against the lower Scheduled Castes and Tribes such as the Dalits and the Adivasis although they are part of the same Hindu community but treated and viewed as two parallels who will never come to a common platform or footing. This has been the situation in India from the period after India gained her independence, there have been situations wherein the legislature has tried to make amends to this by-passing various legislation for the cause of safeguarding their rights but has failed on so many accounts. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was enacted in 1989 to tackle discrimination and violence against Dalits and Adivasi people but in recent times the strength behind the legislation has weakened and has not lived up to its objective. On 20thMarch 2018, The Honourable Supreme Court issued directions in the case of Subhash Kashinath vs. State of Maharashtra it was held that “Fair trial rights must always be defended. But the Court’s cherry-picking of statistics to reach the dubious conclusion that the Atrocities Act is being particularly misused is worrying, and ignores the everyday violence that Dalits and Adivasis face in this country.”[1] The steady decrease in rates of conviction and completion of trials in cases of crimes against Dalits over the last few years prove to show the misuse of the Act by those in power, which then leads to the subjugation of their rights to people in power thereby leading to the crimes not being reported by them due to the fear of reprisal by dominant caste groups and inefficiency of the police forces.
ORIGINS OF CASTE -BASED HATE CRIMES
The stigmatism, disadvantages discrimination and violence faced by Dalits made the Title of them being “untouchable” a part of how they were to be identified despite the constitutional prohibition on the same grounds and the criminalization of its worst manifestation[2].
Ambedkar had found the argument that castes were viewed as separate racial groups with distinct racial and cultural identities to be frivolous in nature[3]. Due to the varna system which began 3000 y
ears ago Dalits have been subjugated for a long period, they were not treated as part of mainstream Indian society which thereby made them to take up menial jobs for living such as playing drums at ceremonies etc, which was made to be done without remuneration in return. Untouchability since its abolition subsequent to 1947 would have opened up avenues and opportunities for the Dalits so one would be led to believe but in truth is on the contrary, the persecution and alienation of the Dalits has not stopped, owing to this most Indian states are segregated with the intent of keeping Dalits away from the higher castes.[4]they have designated places of habitat labelled “Dalit Street” which goes to show that although they have a place to call home they are never truly allowed to bask in the sun with all its glory, a constant reminder of their untouchability.
The origins caste-based atrocities begin from the deeply rooted notion of “Untouchability” which is engraved in the minds of the perpetrators in relation to the Indian context.[5]These Hate-crimes apart from the mental torture or turmoil also include physical aspects such as lynching, mob violence, forceful drinking or the intake of obnoxious substances and even sexual exploitation shows the plight which these Scheduled castes or Scheduled tribes face by the Non- Scheduled Castes (SCs).
There have been numerous cases of abuse against Dalits which have been on the rise in the past decade, the Author through some instances would like to point out a few. A Dalit youth who had said to allegedly eloped with a girl from OBC’s was burnt with kerosene in the Gir Somnath District in 2012. In 2016 in the district of Bhavnagar there was a notorious gang who identified themselves as the “Gulab gang who regularly raped Dalit girls and blackmailed them through threats. Another brutal incident of abuse hurled against them was in 2016 in the Una district of Junagadh, where 2 Dalit boys were tied to auto-rickshaws and were subjected to public assault and were flogged.
The above examples are the ones that the media covers but there are so many incidences where Dalits are brutally tortured and victimized on the basis of casteism but there are umpteen cases which are not covered wherein they suffer as they have all through their existence without anybody to lend a hand. They endure this with the only way they know and that is to endure.
CURRENT LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE PROTECTION OF DALITS
The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 was enacted to provide legal safeguard to Scheduled Castes such as Dalits and Scheduled tribes like the Adivasis. The main aim of this act was to punish offences committed against the Scheduled castes and tribes which were not punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) nor the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1995. The Act also seeks to provide special protection to the victims and also provides Special Courts and special public prosecutors for speedier completion of cases. The above mentioned are just a few salient features of the Act. This Act acts as the only legal recourse for Dalits to help their outcry. The Act after its enactment has helped Dalits have better educational facilities, the people from Scheduled Castes and tribes have been able to avail better educational and health facilities, but to every boon there is an also a bane that lingers on. It has been 30 years since the Act has been in place but there still lies the problems of low conviction rates in cases of their victimization, the numbers of rehabilitated victims are scarce and There are various States in India who have not implemented any concrete preventive measures to combat atrocities against the Schedule Castes and tribes that reside within them. These are the few out of many problems that highlights the shortcomings of the Act but the one which the Author would like to throw some light on is how the said Act is misused by people which degrades its merit. The First alleged Allegation of the Misuse of the Act was when The Supreme Court of India Ruled against the Dalits and said in the judgement given by a two-judge bench in relation to frivolous cases made against ‘innocent people’ and ‘public servants’ under the garb of victimization. This Included the Apex’s Courts controversial decision which said that First, itdirected that a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by a DSP-rank officer to find out whether the allegations qualify for a case under the SC/ST Act and whether the allegations are frivolous or motivated. To this the Then Chief Justice of India KK Venugopal said that it goes against what the Constitution of India stands for.[6]Subsequent to this the Supreme Court Ordered for a review of its judgement given on March 2018 and said In the verdict, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed
under the law.


It had said on “several occasions”, innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention against Atrocities) Act , 1989.

In view of the above decision By India’s Apex court, this tells the story of only one side of the misuse of the SC/ST POA Act of 1989, on the contrary many other eminent personnel think otherwise and that the decision rendered by the Supreme Court was incorrect and should have not portrayed the Dalits as the main perpetrators. Mr Sukhadeo thorat gave a detailed explanation into why Dalits were being subjected to such injustice, First he says that the SC/ST POA act fails to protect Dalits in the manner that since its inception it mainly focused on one main objective which was to prevent atrocities taking place against the victims, but even after its inceptualisation it failed to provide protection and hence this created agitation amongst the Dalits who probed for another legislation. As a result of that assertion, there was a reaction that was fairly widespread in the country. It is at that time that the Union Ministry of Social Welfare set up the Elayaperumal Committee, which recommended the need for a second Act to provide a legal safeguard against the violent response by high castes. This committee also recommended a change in the Untouchability Offences Act – it was renamed the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Second, he debunks the main contention which the Supreme Court dealt with in giving their judgement in March 2018 which was whether False cases or FIR’S were being lodged by Dalits by them playing the victim card. According to the research done by him, He submitted a report that suggested there is no evidence of false cases. What they found is that at the preliminary stage, before filing the FIR [first information report], the police will see if there is enough evidence to file the case. They came to the conclusion that only 6% of the total cases are rejected at that stage, rest of the 94% cases are considered by the police based on the evidence to be filed. So, this report completely rejected the charge that false cases are filed. This was in Maharashtra alone, so basing upon the above data he makes a very strong statement and says that “So it is against logic to say Dalits will file false cases. My answer also to the Supreme Court judges who have alleged that Dalits have misused the Act is that this is based on prejudice and not factually correct’’. [7] Third and most important to this particular Section of this paper is that he points out the loopholes in consonance with wilful negligence of the public officials who investigate the various cases of atrocities, some of the loopholes which the officials use to help their case can be mentioned , starting with the SC/ST POA rules 2015 read with the Act says that if the incident has happened, the police should immediately go to the spot and file the case within 24 hours. Also, while filing the case it should mention the caste background of the victim as well as the accused, provide medical support and rehabilitation and also that an officer not below the rank of DSP [deputy superintendent of police] should investigate, and the first information report should be read out to the victim. So, there are rules laid down for the implementation of the Act. But in truth and in reality, these public officials pay no heed to the procedural aspect laid down by the statute and it becomes very convenient for the defence lawyers to aid the accused because they have found loopholes in the Act which help their cause. This act of wilful negligence then creates a space for low-conviction rate which then these public officials bank on, in bringing up fabricated evidence for the filing of fake cases unbeknownst to them that this is because of the loopholes wilfully kept by officials to support the people of their social background. This continuous process continues and the Supreme Court judges also concur with the public officials and others in their conniving ways of disallowing Dalits the justice due to them. The justice system itself is against the Dalits which leaves them with no recourse and if the Supreme Court judges are making remarks such as “exacting vengeance” and “blackmail” then in terms of envisioning Dr. B R Ambedkar’s dream of them being socially equal is a farfetched concept. This then leads to anti-Dalitism which some people have coined it as and thereby finally giving in to casteism which idealistically means leaving nothing of concrete value to fight for.
INSTANCES IN INDIA OF ATROCITIES COMMITTED AGAINST DALITS
Dalits have been persecuted in India for a long time now and there has only been intermittent aid for them. There have been Two very recent instances which has been in the spotlight for some time now. The First one took place in Maharashtra where on the 1st of January every year many Dalit protesters take to the streets in victory and gather to mark the 1818 battle of Bhima-Koregaon, in that fight, two centuries ago, low-caste Dalits sided with the British army to defeat the upper-caste Peshwa rulers. The protest was carried out by The Ambedkarites headed by Prakash Ambedkar who directed it and was at the helm of things which the protest sought to covey. Although the protest was peaceful on part of the Ambedkarites in spreading their message of having equal recognition and hoping to move gradually towards an egalitarian society, it did not go down well with the upper castes Hindus. The protesters also spoke against the Hindu far-right and sought the arrest of those responsible for the violence at Bhima-Koregaon. The Ambedkarite movement has a strong undercurrent of gender justice and often sees a lot of women in the forefront of the struggle against the caste system itself. According to reports, more than 250 protesters were detained by the police,
many arbitrarily. Residents of Siddharth Colony told Al Jazeera that five members of their community, including Pramod Kamble, an Air India employee, were beaten up by the police after the night-time protests on January 2. At least two of them were admitted to a local hospital, where access to media workers was denied. There was a prevalent anger among protesters across the city against the mainstream media due to its lack of coverage of the upper caste attack at Bhima-Koregaon.[8]
Another similar incident where 17 Dalits were killed in Nadur village when a wall collapsed onto them. The Dalit residents and the TPK, a pro-Dalit party, had been demanding action against the house owner, since the wall that collapsed was the compound of his house. It was constructed by him with alleged ulterior motives since it had no pillars to support it, according to the party. Also, the wall had an alleged motive of demarcating his residence from that of SCs, and thus it was discriminatory, warranting action under the SC/ST Act, according to the residents.[9]
The failure of the media is the lack of coverage of the trauma the Dalits are facing and also the inability and the inefficiency of the police in registering FIR’s against the perpetrators, hopefully this sad and testing time for the victims should change for the better. 
Another major incident that brought widespread media attention towards it was the commission of suicide by a Dalit named Rohit Vemula. On January 17th, 2017 a young scholar at the University of Hyderabad triggered off a chain of events that still remain unresolved after the commission of such an unfortunate Act. Vemula a Dalit student and a PhD candidate, had been suspended along with four others after a complaint by the local unit of the Akhil Bharatatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP. He also penned a heartfelt letter which can be considered to be suicide note. The Contents of the letter bring out key points which have affected the subsequent working of affairs amongst the Dalit community. He first goes on to say that he does not specifically blame anybody for him taking his own life and then moves onto speaking about the aspirations he had of being a scientist like Carl Sagan, he was deeply interested in studying and learning about Science, the Stars and Nature. One line which has sowed its essence in many of the readers in the letter is when he says “My Birth is my Fatal accident” , this line reflects not only Vemula’s trauma and sadness of being a Dalit but the viewpoint of the entire Dalit community who have actioned towards fighting against this very cause from time immemorial. The casualness of the principal of the University who Vemula gave a letter containing the grave injustice done to him by the University/ABVP members and the fact that the principal did not find it important to take cognizance of the fact and do something about it. If the aforementioned situation is compared to the similar acts of Police officials who remain silent when atrocities take place against Dalits speaks volumes in terms of the position of members of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in the country. Vemula’s incident was one out of the plethora of cases of persecution and atrocities faced by Dalits in the Country which have been truly treated like sweeping something under the carpet.
ATROCITIES AGAINST DALITS UNDER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
In 1997 Human Rights Watch decided to prepare a major report on caste-based discrimination, something which activists had envisioned for a long time, the constant and repeated requests of Dalits for an international body to look into the injustice done in India was finally answered by the Human Rights Watch ( hereinafter referred to as HRW). The HRW took cognizance of the fact that major human rights violation was taking place in India.[10] A report on caste discrimination would be a major undertaking, hence the HRW needed all the local help it could get, it then got in touch with The Ford Foundation, an already well established entity which was long involved in India in relation to various poverty reduction programs, the idea of this particular link up was to nurture more effective national coordination among Dalit organizations, this led to the formation of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Officially launched on World Human Rights Day, 10 December 1998, the NCDHR linked dozens of formerly isolated Dalit civil society organizations in fourteen Indian.[11]This was the first attempt made to attract international attention to the problems faced by Dalits in the Country.
Subsequent measures also involved the empirical discussion of the conceptualization and measurement of the human rights indicators of economic, social and cultural rights. The main aim behind ESC rights are to impart a duty on the Government to respect, protect and fulfil citizens’ rights to food, housing health, education and work , if the government has the adequate resources to fulfil such needs.[12]The above mentioned requisites have been fulfilled to an extent such as the implementation of food programs undertaken by the Central Government in 1995 for the provision of mid-day meal Scheme. India’s Public Distribution system which is the world’s largest distributor of food also has various schemes for the wellbeing of the Dalits. The Central government implemented the National Health Policy in 1983 to prevent things like a high mortality Rate of Dalit Infants and also to provide basic health benefits and requirements but this was only enacted in 2002. Another recent aid provided for violations of human rights was in 2012, the EU provided support to a case study on addressing caste discrimination in humanitarian response and the development of specific recommendations for humanitarian actors. A comprehensive case study was undertaken by National Dalit Watch/National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and consortium of partners in India. A summary report “Equality in Aid” with guidelines was also published in 2012. [13]
Hence to bring to the forefront of the discussion, Although the above-mentioned schemes have worked, there can be so much more International intervention for helping Dalits deal with their Dire situation India, which can boost them towards an overall level of satisfaction
CONCLUSION
This paper has dealt with an array of issues involving Dalits and the atrocities faced by them. The Author has touched upon the current situation in the country in relation to them and has also dealt with the International efforts to meet their needs. The position of Dalits in India in facing hate crimes from all corners bears a testament to their ‘undying ‘will of the Ambedkarites and other members from the Dalit community, on the contrary speaking about the ‘dying’ will of a sense of Justice in relation to decisions given out by the Apex Court in India and the failure of the Police to safeguard the rights of the Scheduled Caste/Tribe members and instead terming them as the perpetrators has to change if the situation is to progress.
The Constant oppression faced by the Dalits from Higher upper-class Hindus which leads to the commission of various forms of ‘Hate Crimes’ against them is still prevalent. The current law protecting them from atrocities is termed to be misused by Dalits. The victims have been subjected to change in their position thereby becoming the perpetrators.
There needs to be an implementation of a new special law and the legislature must coin such a legislation which renders complete safeguard to the Dalits rather than against them. The Author truly believes that if there still looms an absence of a special law, to better the SC/ST POA, 1989 then the situation of the Dalits will not be resolved and the egalitarian India as envisioned by Dr BR Ambedkar will only be a distant dream and will hang in tatters.

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[1] Subhash Kashinath vs. State of Maharashtra (AIR 2018 SC 1498)


[2] Annapurna Waughray, Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights: The Case of India’s Dalits, 17 Int’l J. on Minority & Group Rts. 327 (2010)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sesha Kethineni & Gail Diane Humiston, Dalits, the Oppressed People of India: How are

Their Social, Economic, and Human Rights Addressed, 4 War Crimes Genocide & Crimes

against Human. 99 (2010).

[5] Hate Crimes, Crimes of Atrocity, and Affirmative Action in India and the US Samuel L. Myers, Jr and Vanishree Radhakrishna August, 2018.

[6] Ashitosh Mishra, SC/ST: Supreme Court recalls directions of March 2018 verdict, The Economic Times (India), October 1st, 2019.

[7] Smitha Nair, Interview: ‘It is against logic to say Dalits will file false cases’, Scroll.in, April 4th, 2018, ( last visited on 9th March, 2020), https://scroll.in/article/874328/interview-it-is-against-logic-to-say-dalits-will-file-false-cases.

[8] Al Jazeera, Dalit Protests : How Mumbai was shut Down, Al Jazeera, 10th January, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/dalit-protests-mumbai-shut-180110065159116.html

[9] Press Trust of India, Alleging Discrimination, Dalits in Tamil Nadu say they will convert to Islam, India Today (Coimbatore), December 26th, 2019. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/alleging-discrimination-dalits-in-tamil-nadu-say-they-will-convert-to-islam-1631488-2019-12-26

[10] Clifford Bob, “Dalits Rights are Human Rights”: Caste Discrimination, International Activism and a Construct of a new Human Rights Issue, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Feb., 2007), pp. 167-193

[11] Ibid

[12] Sesha Kethineni & Gail Diane Humiston, Dalits, the Oppressed People of India: How are Their Social, Economic, and Human Rights Addressed, 4 War Crimes Genocide & Crimes against Human. 99 (2010).

[13] International Dalit Solidarity Network, Aid, International Dalit Solidarity Network, 20th November, 2019, (last visited on March 9th, 2020), https://idsn.org/eu/aid/

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