By Dr. Soma Marla
We are celebrating 75thyear of our independence and our prime minister proudly claimed that we are now in the cusp of Amrit Kaal. In these times of Amrit Kaal in Lakhimpur Kheri of UP, two Dalit sisters were raped and murdered, their bodies left hanging from a tree. In Rajasthan, a Dalit school student was beaten (who later succumbed to injuries) for touching a water pot meant for Upper caste Hindus. Atrocities continue unabetted. When such stories come in the lime light, they shock the nation, but nothing is done to stop them by the establishment.
These incidents are only a fraction when compared to the violence and oppression that Dalits are experiencing everyday even after 75 years of independence. According to data revealed (NCRB, 2021), since 1991, over seven lakh atrocities are officially registered with police. That is about five for every hour. These are only just the officially registered cases. But a large number of them routinely go unregistered out of fear from the perpetrators of crime generally belonging to higher castes. According to the data revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), recorded cases on atrocities rose from 45,961 in 2019 to 50,900 in 2021, and that amounts to an 11 per cent increase in atrocities against Dalits in the country.
During the last three years (2019-21), unfortunately almost all Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states reported significantly larger-than-average increase (except Gujarat) of crimes committed against Dalits. The states that recorded large number of atrocities include Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. There are also opposition ruled states that carry the feudal baggage like Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra where Dalits usually face atrocities. Interestingly during this period, the number of atrocities significantly declined in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
It’s widely acknowledged in academic circles that caste oppression is systemic and woven in the fabric of Indian society. It may get aggravated because of government negligence or even connivance depending on which party is in power. But of late, the upper caste-oriented ideology of the Sangh Parivar, including the BJP, is presumed to contribute to this worrisome situation of escalating violence against Dalits. Dalits are economically poor, landless and wage labourers, stigmatized and marginalized for centuries.
The crime rate for atrocities against Dalits in states with over 40 lakh Dalit population and higher than the countrywide average crime rate of about 25 cases of atrocities per lakh of Dali population.
It should be noted that the northern belt states ruled primarily by BJP are showing higher rates of crimes against Dalits. It should also be noted that the oppression of Dalits continues unabated and across the country whether ruled by Congress (Rajasthan) or Biju Janata Dal (Orissa).
Strengthening laws (Atrocities against SC/ST), their diligent and unbiased implementation through the police, state administration and courts are necessary to combat atrocities committed. Besides, fundamental change in the social and economic realms to improve status of Dalits in villages must be taken up immediately. Only through measures— like distribution of land to Dalit landless, jobs, education, housing, and medical care — can improve the material basis for their empowerment in rural India. This, of course, needs to be accompanied by a sweeping social campaign to break the practice of discrimination and violence.
The Brahminical social contract based on Hindu caste order of Manuvadi propagated by Sangh Parivar keeps away Dalits from active resistance using ‘Karma’, responsible chiefly for their daily suffering and discrimination.
There are 49.9 crores of landless in Indian villages (2011 census, GOI).The number of landless poor was 14.43 crore (Ashok Dalwai report, 2017), and estimated to have reached to around 17 crore by January, 2022.The landless agricultural workers are largely represented by Dalits and very backward sections. Despite 75 years of Independence, land reforms remained on papers. Almost 45.6 per cent of total cultivable land remained with 7.67 percent rich land-owning households. Strikingly compared to all others only 15.4 per cent of Dalits own land that too below 2.4 acres. Only by distributing cultivable land accompanied by sincere and committed efforts to improve housing, education and above all maternal health facilities will uplift socio, economic status of Dalits in villages. Improved economic and social status only help Dalit community to resist oppression and abate atrocities perpetrated by upper castes in rural India.
B R Ambedkar succeeded to inspire across all sections of Dalits, despite existence of different sub-castes in the community and capture their imagination to fight unitedly. Only through waging combined struggles in unity with all sections Dalits and rural poor in villages will help to successfully fight back atrocities and social oppression. (IPA Service)