The recent gruesome report of the beheading of a minor SC girl in Tamil Nadu for rejecting the advances of an upper caste male once again throws the issue of caste discrimination into sharp focus. Women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence due to the intersection caste and gender. Despite this, we note that crimes against SC and ST women are viewed as either caste based crimes or sex based crimes. Further, while data on caste based crimes is readily available in the NCRB reports, which we have analysed in our previous posts I, II and III, disaggregated data on crimes against women is not presented.
In this post, we explore how courts have performed in respect of crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. We will compare the data from Andhra Pradesh (AP), Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (TN) with the national figures for 2016.
Having noted that the number of reported crimes against SCs and STs is high, the next stage of the criminal justice process that demands study is the response of the investigating agencies. While a few independent reports have surveyed the response of the police to crimes against SCs and STs, NCRB reports remain the only comprehensive source of such data at the national and state level.
On 21 May 2018, The Wire reported the death of a Dalit man in Gujarat who was allegedly beaten to death when he protested the fact that his wife was asked to clean filth, free of charge. This reporting comes only two months after the decision of Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, where the Supreme Court diluted some of the protections under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (‘Act’). The incident is a striking example of the pervasiveness of caste bias and the prevalence of atrocities in India.