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If Governments ‘Champion’ SC/ST Causes, What Explains Increasing Crime Rates?

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In India, even after 73 years of Independence, the oppressed Scheduled Caste(SC)-Scheduled Tribe(ST) community are still awaiting their emancipation, as evident from the recent Government’s very own National Crimes Bureau (NCB) statistics of 2019.

The Ambedkarian dream still seems a distant reality. The State and its police machinery, which were supposed to be the tools of delivering social justice, became ineffective in removing the atrocities against the oppressed classes. State Governments across India have failed miserably as is evident from the recent NCB data. Especially, there are two states of India: Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh(UP), that are the primary cause of concern for the social conscience keepers of this nation.

In spite of the enactment of the Prevention of Atrocities Act since 1989 and despite their smaller population in the states, SCs in Rajasthan were the sub-caste groups who approached the police the most and the same is true for ST’s in UP in comparison to other states of India. Yet, the numbers are ironic and significant because different political parties are ruling these states. Rajasthan has the Congress government whereas UP has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

Prima facie, it does not seem to provide any special protection by State Governments to these caste groups but maybe these communities, the SC’s in Rajasthan and the ST’s in UP have begun to express their rights as a means to protect themselves from criminals, yet the law has been made ineffective by policing lacunas. The numbers tell a hidden story of several Hathras around India which are awaiting media and political attention to be heard. An analysis of the data of the two states reveals the following:

Rajasthan

In Rajasthan, atrocities against SCs in the year 2017 were reported to be 4238. In 2018, this figure increased to 4607 and further increased by 50% in the year 2019 to 6794 reported cases. Cases against STs too mirrored a similar trend which for the respective years (2017-19) were as follows:984, 1095, 1797.

But if we look at crime rate from the perspective of the total population according to the 2011 census, which was 122.2 lakh and 92.4 lakh of SCs and STs respectively (state population), the situation of SCs is grimmer. The role of the police is more suspected because out of 7374 cases investigated, the final report submitted by police closed 2905 cases as false cases. This is equivalent to the rest of India combined as in entire India (other than Rajasthan), only 2557 cases were classified as false. Similarly, 696 cases of STs too were closed by the police as false. Therefore, the Police in Rajasthan (49%) lags far behind Uttar Pradesh (81%) when it comes to charge-sheeting the criminals booked under Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Uttar Pradesh

From the perspective of Indian Politics, the state enjoys special importance as the BJP secured 2/3rd majority to form the local government. Not only is Uttar Pradesh the most populous state of India, but it has the highest population of SC community. Compared to other states of India, Dalit politics and identity are more salience here. A look over the NCB data here reveals that the number of atrocities cases have been constant around the 11,000 to 12,000 figure every year.

But the incumbent government has failed in decreasing the number of atrocities against the Dalit community. The Hathras incident throws light on the Government’s role which has increasingly become more suspected and questionable. The STs comprise a mere 0.5% of the total population of the Uttar Pradesh but crime against them stands at 63.6%(Percentage of total crimes against ST community with relation to rest of India combined) which is the highest in the country for any given state.

In the year 2017, the number of crimes against them stood at 88, which increased to 145 in the year 2018 and saw an increase of 400% in 2019 at 721 number of cases. Only a few out of the 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh have a substantial population of ST community, which makes it important for the State Government to take special measures to protect them.

Over the years, political opportunism has transformed the plying cause of both the communities as a major issue of electoral debate, yet nothing concrete has been done at the ground to address the issue.

A blind eye is shown to the real issue of ineffective policing of SC-ST Atrocities matter post-electoral promises. Their smaller population might be one of the causes of such neglect. But the NCB data raises a question on the delivery of social justice as promised by our founders.

The Constitution of India has made the Dalits capable and empowered to protect their interests as they have acquired the means to access the justice system. Hence, the number of cases seem to be constant across the state of Uttar Pradesh, yet it is the number of cases where positive affirmative action was taken by the police is a major concern.

The concern here is that whether such an increase is attributed to the government’s insensitivity to such crimes or it is a result of an increase in a number of such crimes against SC and ST community?  It is the duty of the State Government to remove all such suspicions, as the government claims to be the champion for the cause of this community.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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