Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe persons (SC/STs), who comprise 28% of India’s population, have faced discrimination in Indian society, socially and economically, for hundreds of years. Due to their weak social and economic background, they often lack the resources to navigate India’s legal system and fight for their constitutional rights.
Clause 3 of the CLPR Equality Bill,2020 prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics. Clause 2(oo)(i) mentions food preference as one of the protected characteristics. Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of food preference is refreshingly new in the Indian socio-legal context.
Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released the Crime in India Reports for 2017 and 2018 in quick succession, after drawing criticism for the inordinate delay in releasing these statistics. These reports are the primary source of data to track the incidence and reporting of crimes in India and the performance of the police and courts in investigating and adjudicating cases, including those related to crimes against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
On 27th January 2020, CLPR organized a workshop titled ‘Tackling caste discrimination through Law’, for activists, NGO representatives, and CSO representatives. The workshop aimed at enabling and facilitating a better understanding of caste discrimination laws such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and The Andhra Pradesh Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act, 1982.
On 21.06.2019, Pratap, a Dalit man in Gudlupete, Karnataka who went to fetch water from a temple, was tied to a tree inside the temple, brutally assaulted and paraded naked on the highway by the villagers, including a policeman. This incident yet again throws the issue of caste discrimination into sharp focus. It is a testimony to the pervasiveness of caste discrimination in India and the prevalence of the practice of untouchability.