Atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat have been rising steadily in the last two decades with the state witnessing a 72 percent increase in the number of registered cases between 2003 and 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat in eleven of these 15 years (2003 to 2014).
In 2018 as many as 1,545 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as compared to 897 cases registered across the state in 2003. Against this rise in cases, the conviction rate in atrocities cases is less than 5 percent in the three years from 2014-2016 where figures are available.
Table 1: Total cases registered in Gujarat from 2001 to 2017 under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
This has actually emboldened the perpetrators of violence against Dalits and Tribals in the state, said Jignesh Mevani, an independent MLA from Vadgam in Gujarat. Mevani has emerged as a strong Dalit voice standing up for the rights of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the state.
Speaking in a telephonic conversation, he said, "Atrocities against Dalits and Tribals are on the rise across the country. The chief reasons for the rise in crimes against the SCs and STs is the continued agrarian crisis and economic distress where people are channeling their anger towards the Dalits and Tribals. The rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) combine has strengthened the Brahminical ideology. They see the rise of youth Dalit leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad and me as Dalit aggression."
Violence against Dalit women have also seen a sharp rise in Gujarat. Cases of rape against Dalits and Tribal women have increased seven times from 14 cases of rapes registered in 2001 to 104 cases registered in 2018. In eleven districts in the state, cases of atrocities are particularly high. These include Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Junagadh, Banaskanta, Mehsana, Patan, Anand, Gandhinagar, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar and Kutch.
Table 2: Districts of Gujarat which registered highest numbers of cases under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
Banaskanta district with less than half the population of Ahmedabad district has almost 60 percent more cases of atrocities registered in the period 2001-2017. Similarly, both Junagadh and Surendranagar in the Saurastra region of Gujarat having less than one fourth the population of Ahmedabad district have 24 percent and 17 percent more cases registered than Ahmedabad district in the same period.
Commenting on the rise of crimes against Dalits and Tribals, Kaushik Parmar, a Dalit activist in Gujarat, said, “Since the Modi government came into power in Gujarat, Dalits are suffering and day by day they are tortured. Still their voices are not being heard; instead they are facing false allegations. The BJP government is trying to show love towards Dalits but till today, the victims of Una violence where four Dalits were flogged while being tied to a jeep, haven't got the justice."
Table 3: Types of offences against SCs registered under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act during 2001 to 2016
The Una atrocity case created a big furor in India when Dalit youth were beaten up in broad daylight in full view of the town after they were suspected of having killed a cow in July 2016.
Accusing the Gujarat government of being not serious about curbing crimes against Dalits and Tribals, Kirit Rathod, a Dalit activist who works with Navsarjan, an NGO fighting for the rights of Dalits in the state, said, "Though PM Modi shed crocodile tears on violence against Dalits post the Una incident, he didn’t show any seriousness in stopping crimes against Dalits when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. When three Dalit youth were shot dead in a police firing in Thangadh in September 2012, Modi (then the chief minister of Gujarat), didn’t visit the families or expressed sorrow over the incident.”
No action has been taken in the case even as the families wait for justice for their deceased youth.
Table 4: Conviction rate under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, during the period from 2014 to 2016
He also said that while Modi was the chief minister, the State Vigilance Committee met only six times between 2002 and 2014 though the act states that the committee should meet once in six months to review cases.
“The BJP government has not shown any seriousness in tackling violence against Dalits and Tribals and has instead aimed for samrasta (harmony) in society instead of social justice as enshrined in the Constitution. So, events like washing the feet of Dalits by PM Modi are just publicity stunts. BJP is only interested in the picture of Babasaheb Ambedkar and not the Constitution that he made which provided for social justice for Dalits and Tribals,” he adds.
Updated Date: May 01, 2019 17:42:04 IST