The Dalit mobilisation that is gaining momentum in the wake of Rohith Vemula’s suicide reflects structural issues.
Reservations have given birth to Dalit entrepreneurs and a Dalit middle class benefiting from government jobs. because of this, anti-Dalit attitudes have been on the rise.
Cases of anti-Dalit atrocities :
The number of registered cases of anti-Dalit atrocities jumped by 17.1 per cent in 2013 (compared to 2012) according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Theincrease was even more dramatic between 2013 and 2014 is19.4 per cent.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the PoA act), gives a list of “offences and atrocities”. Which are,
Someone forces a Dalit or an Adivasi “to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance”
“forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him [sic] naked or with painted face or body”
Dispossesses him “from his land”,
Compels him to do “bonded labour”
Exploits her sexually
“corrupts or fouls the water” he or she is using,
Denies him or her “right of passage to a place of public resort”
Forces him or her “to leave his house, village or other place of residence”, etc.
Because of the detailed list the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar had already taken care of most of these issues.
Article 17 abolishes untouchability
Article 23 prohibits bonded labour and
Article 15(2) stipulates that no citizen should be subject to restriction with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of entertainment, the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort on the grounds of caste.
In 1955, the Untouchability (Offences) Act reasserted that Dalits should not be prevented from entering any public place.
Then, in 1976, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was passed.
All the above mentioned Acts failed to fulfil its purpose. In 1989, The PoA Act was made. This also doesn’t make a huge impact either. Evident from the figures mentioned above regarding crime against Dalit.
In October 2014, a 15-year-old boy was burnt alive by an upper-caste man in Mohanpur village (Rohtas district) because his goats had eaten his paddy crop.
In June 2015, two Dalit boys were killed because they were short of Rs 4in a flour mill of Allahabad.
In October 2015, two kids of three and eight were burnt alive in their house in Ballabgarh village (Haryana) after an argument with local Rajputs.Dalit women continue to be victims of violence and rape.
What has been the response of the state, lately?
A new law was passed , Last month. Existing legislation even more sophisticated. This law provides stringent action against atrocities against dalits.
Will that make any difference?
If the police and the judiciary do not change their attitude, No law will be effective. In spite of the fact that the PoA Act has introduced, special courts for speedy trials,
the conviction rate under this act has remained very low and has declined even — from 30 per cent in 2011 to 22.8 per cent in 2013 .And the percentage of “pending cases” has increased from 80 to 84 per cent.On average, only one-third of the cases of atrocities are registered under the PoA Act. The police is reluctant to do so because of the severity of the penalties likely to be imposed by the act.
Many Dalits do not know their rights anyway and cannot fight a legal battle that is costly in terms of time and money.
74 per cent Dalit live in rural areas
The per-household land area they own on an average is less than 3 hectare. Most of them are landless.
only 22 per cent of the Dalit households live in larger homes
only 34 per cent of them have toilets in their premises
More than 50 per cent Dalit households use firewood as their main fuel for cooking
literacy rate crossed the 66 per cent landmark.
Educated Dalits want more to join the university system.Some of them have succeeded in doing so, but they often face frustrating experiences when they are discriminated.