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Caste Crimes and the Law in Uttar Pradesh

G C Pal (gcpal@dalitstudies.org.in) currently serves as the director at the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi.

Over the years, caste crimes in Uttar Pradesh have risen to disturbingly high levels. In order to make arrangements for the protection of lower-caste groups from caste oppression, understanding the linkages between sociopolitical conditions and the implementation of laws in the state is a must. Evidence suggests that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has not been implemented in its letter and spirit because of sociopolitical compulsions of political parties and constant reviews of the scope of the act.

This article is based on a research study conducted under the international non-governmental organisation Partnership Programme Agreement of the Department for International Development, United Kingdom. The author would like to thank Sukhadeo Thorat, Sirivella Prasad and Anand Kumar Bolimera for research inputs, and Ram Kumar, Ram Dular and other officials and members from different organisations in the sample state for their valuable support in fieldwork.

In India, besides constitutional provisions, specific legislations such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) (PoA) Act, 1989, and the PoA Amendment Act, 2015 enunciate strategies to counter the violations of human rights based on caste identity. However, oppressive behaviours against lower-caste groups are on the rise in all parts of the country. Traditional caste norms continue to govern the thoughts and behaviours of some people, determine social relations between caste groups, and often create social conditions, wherein lower-caste groups continue to be at the receiving end of discrimination, oppression and violent behaviours.

What makes Uttar Pradesh (UP) distinct with regard to caste crimes? According to data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the state has the highest number of registered caste crimes amongst Indian states (NCRB 2002–15). It substantially contributes to the national figure. At the same time, UP has the highest conviction rate, noticeably higher than almost all major states in the country (NCRB 2002–15). Given the complex sociopolitical dynamics in the state, the increase in caste crimes raises many questions about the role of the state machinery.

Recently, the Government of UP proposed to set up more courts for the speedy disposal of cases (Singh 2017). This appears socially and politically significant in view of the considerably higher pendency rate in the courts and the sufferings of the victims of caste crimes during court trials. This complies with the mandate of the PoA Amendment Act, 2015, that is, establishing more special courts to enable speedy disposal of cases. However, a serious concern is that caste crimes in the state continue unabated, calling for arrangements for the protection of people from lower-caste communities from various forms of caste oppression, and in turn, the prevention of caste crimes against them. A success on this front, in fact, can ensure access to social justice, and can reduce the need for speedy trials in the aftermath of caste crimes.

Sociopolitical Context

As per the data provided by the National Sample Survey Office, UP has the largest Scheduled Caste (SC) population in the country, and their proportion is the second highest amongst the major socio-religious groups in the state (NSSO 2014). The caste complexity in the state is also manifested in the large number of subgroups among the SCs, as well as the Other Backward Classes (Srivastava 2012). There are numerous evidences to show that a strong caste tradition is deeply embedded in the social fabric of the state and a caste-based hierarchy largely governs the relationships between caste groups. Another issue is that caste has also been a dominant factor in politics. Unlike other states, in UP, caste identity-based politics has been more explicit, and the political role of caste identity defines relationships. As remarked, “In Uttar Pradesh, people don’t cast their vote, they vote their caste” (Srivastava 2012).

While the support base of caste groups has played an important role in terms of political power in the state, a rise in political and social consciousness among all caste groups has also created the grounds for division of people according to caste configurations. As Ali Khan Mahmudabad (2012) remarks, the persistent uses of caste in different political categories serve to exacerbate tensions between various communities. The manipulation of caste identities for political agendas fuels intercommunity antagonism. The perceived antipathy between caste-based communities very often gets entrenched in the continued political debates on caste.

Arpit Parashar (2011) observes that a few subgroups among the SCs, being economically well off, have emerged as assertive castes in the state, and have stood up to oppressive forces. All these changes have resulted in hostile attitudes among the dominant upper castes. As a result, lower-caste groups are systematically discriminated against and kept under submission. All these have also contributed to increasing violence against the lower-caste groups (Kumar 2008; Rawat 2011). Thus, caste identity in both social and political life, and perceived antipathy among caste groups, have created social conditions for a routine occurrence of caste crimes against lower-caste groups in UP. However, the rise in caste crimes in the state reflects negatively on the effectiveness of existing legislations, as well as on the accountability of the state machinery in providing social protection to those belonging to the vulnerable sections of society. This also raises questions on the role of the state leadership in dealing with such crimes. An understanding of the patterns of caste crimes in the state, the linkages between sociopolitical conditions and the implementation of laws in the state, and the responses of the state machinery to such human rights violations, would have implications for policy considerations.

This article aims to provide an overview of the patterns and trends of caste crimes in UP, trace the socio-political history of the implementation of the PoA Act in the state, map out the implementation gaps under the criminal justice system and explore the interlinkages between the responses of the state machinery and the persistence of caste crimes. Evidence is drawn from multiple sources, which include state-level registered crimes against SCs from 2002 (in view of the division of the erstwhile state of UP in 2000) to 2015 provided by the NCRB, state-level official documents, over 40 fact-finding reports of human rights activists, some case studies, over 400 media reports for two years, and experiential accounts and perspectives of 35 human rights activists from more than 50 civil society organisations working on the issue of human rights violations against lower castes in the state.

Patterns of Caste Crimes

Although, the registered cases of caste crimes in a state, for many valid reasons, are believed to be an underestimation of the actual prevalence of cases, the data, however, helps in promoting an understanding of the patterns of such crimes. The data provided by the NCRB indicates that during 2002–15, on an average, more than 6,000 crimes against SCs were registered in UP annually (NCRB 2002–15). These constituted about one-fifth of the total crimes in India. The crimes against SCs registered under the PoA Act, termed as “caste atrocities,” on an average, constituted about 45% of the total crimes against SCs in the state. The percentage share of these PoA crimes (atrocities), however, did not show a definite trend over the years (Figure 1). It increased steadily from 2003 to 2008, and then came down by 2013. But, there was an upsurge of the registered PoA crimes in 2014 and 2015. Almost all the registered crimes against SCs were found to be PoA crimes.

The percentage share of the PoA crimes in UP to the total PoA crimes in India during 2002–15 was almost similar to the percentage share of all the registered crimes against SCs in the state during the corresponding period. The rate of PoA crimes in UP, indicating the number of incidences per one lakh SC population, was also found similar to that of the national rate. However, the incidence of major crimes against SCs in the state was not uniform. During 2002–15, on an average, 363 cases of physical hurt/assault, 322 cases of rape, 269 cases of murder, 222 cases of kidnapping and abduction (K&A), and 45 cases of arson were registered annually (NCRB 2002–15). The percentage share of these crimes in UP to the total number of such crimes in India indicates that the state significantly contributed to the overall registered K&A and murder cases in India (Figure 2).

The changes in the various registered crimes in UP show that the number of registered rape and K&A cases increased considerably (Figure 3, p 61). According to data, the changes in the percentage share of various crimes in the state to the total crimes in India also increased considerably for the cases of K&A, rape and physical assault (NCRB 2002–15).

Disposal of Caste Crime Cases

The speedy disposal of cases is usually believed to be a reflection of the efficiency of state machinery to deal with crimes. The PoA Act, 1989 Rules underline specific provisions for the speedy disposal of caste crimes and ensuring justice to the victims. The official data on the disposal of crimes against SCs shows that while about one-fourth of all the registered crimes against SCs remained pending for investigation in the police station at the end of each year between 2002 and 2015, the pendency rate in UP was found less than half of the national rate, although it showed slight increase in recent years (NCRB 2002–15). However, the concern is that the pendency rate in the state has been higher for PoA crimes, than the overall crimes against SCs. Further, the average charge sheet rate in UP has been lower than the national average, and also shows a declining trend after 2005 (NCRB 2002–15).

The disposal of caste crimes by the courts in UP shows that the pendency rate has been quite high. On an average, over 80% of the cases remained pending for trial at the end of each year. Although the pendency rates for the PoA crimes as compared to the overall crimes against SCs were found higher across the states, it was distinctly higher in UP, along with Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (NCRB 2002–15). The disposal of cases by courts in terms of conviction rate and the reflection on the delivery of social justice reveal that for the overall crimes against SCs, on an average, in more than half of the cases that underwent final trial, the accused were convicted. This was considerably higher than the average national conviction rate of about 30%.

It is worth mentioning that the average conviction rate was the highest among the states (NCRB 2002–15). The conviction rate in UP over the years showed that from 2007 onwards, it was more than 50%, reached to the highest point of about 65% in 2010, but decreased slightly in the following years. Having recorded the highest number of cases of crimes against SCs, UP also had the highest conviction rate. The analysis of registered crimes against SCs in UP thus indicates that the state witnessed an increase in caste crimes despite the enforcement of laws. The persistence of caste crimes shows the continued vulnerability of SCs to the oppressive behaviours of “others” in the state. The following sections deal with the critical issues pertaining to the implementation of the laws related to caste atrocities in the state.

Implementation of the PoA Act

Given the changes in the political scenario in UP, particularly after 2000, this section deals with the question of whether the PoA Act was implemented in the true spirit by the state overnment represented by various political parties. The PoA Act, legislated by Parliament in 1989, was implemented in 1990 as a measure to protect the SCs and Scheduled Tribes (STs) from caste-based discrimination and atrocities by non-SC/ST members. It was adopted in UP in 1995, after the PoA Act, 1989 Rules were declared. This was in fact the time when the SCs in the state were gradually becoming politically active, and there was an upsurge of SCs in politics.

This act, therefore, provided an impetus to them to assert their rights. But, the upper castes perceived it as a potential threat. With the perception that it might be a dangerous development on both social and political grounds, the state government at that time did not display much enthusiasm for implementing the act. In fact, a sense of disapproval towards the act came from both the ruling and the main opposition parties. Some sections in the state publicly condemned the act. All these kept the implementation of the act in abeyance till 2000, even though it had been formally adopted by the state government earlier.

Following the division of the state in 2000, a significant political development took place. There was a shift of political power in favour of a party with a larger base of lower-caste groups and other weaker sections. This political development offered the lower-caste groups hopes for a better future. This also raised the prospect of the PoA Act being implemented in its letter and spirit. Contrary to the expectation of many, the situation became quite complex because the party had to enter into a coalition to form the government. The ruling party, despite pledging wholehearted support to lower-caste groups, was predisposed to water down the implementation of the act on account of political compulsions.

With an apprehension that the act was likely to be misused under certain conditions, and the government would be defamed under the guise of the act, it moved carefully on the implementation. In June 2002, the ruling government issued an order declaring that any complaints lodged by SCs/STs would be considered only after the verification of facts. For instance, cases of rape and murder would be applicable under the act subject to confirmation by a medical examination. Furthermore, cases of petty litigation would not be covered under the PoA Act. This provided a ground for a lackadaisical approach by the state machinery towards the implementation of the act. As a result, many complaints on caste atrocities could not be registered under the act. Despite the fact that the ruling party had the knowledge of atrocities being perpetrated against the lower castes, it struggled to make any headway where social justice was concerned.

However, the official notification raised some critical questions, particularly with regard to the legitimacy of offences under different sections of the PoA Act and the “jurisdiction of the judiciary.” The Allahabad High Court issued a notice to the state government on the earlier official order. Under the pressure of the court, the government finally had to withdraw the order. But, this led to a tug of war between the ruling party or the government and its main coalition partner. There were several political discordances between the coalition parties regarding the implementation of the act. Unfortunately, the power game led to the fall of the coalition government before the completion of its tenure. Thus, any hope for the effective implementation of the PoA Act was crushed.

With the fall of the government, the state immediately witnessed an unexpected political development. The main opposition party engineered a defection of some members from the earlier ruling party, and was successful in forming the stopgap government. This party tacitly was not in favour of the PoA Act. After assuming power, this government even moved one step ahead of the earlier order by the previous government. In May 2004, it issued a circular outlining the misuse of the act and the need for careful preliminary investigation and examination of atrocity cases against the SCs. The state government, thus, again disappointed lower-caste groups on the implementation of the PoA Act.

Fresh Political Developments

Interestingly, with the end of the term of this stopgap government, the ruling party of the previous regime (of the coalition government), with a stronger base of lower-caste groups, returned to power with full majority. It again raised the hopes and aspirations of lower-caste groups for justice through the implementation of the act, but these hopes were not to be fulfilled. It was strongly believed that this party had returned to power on the basis of its pre-election promise of Sarvajan Samaj (society for all). However, once it gained power, it preferred to avoid any resentments among the upper-caste groups against the government and/or social disharmony due to the act. Like with the previous regime, the implementation of the PoA Act was again diluted. The government issued an order that the act need not be imposed without the investigation of crimes, barring the cases of murder and rape against the lower-caste groups. This resulted not only in a sudden spurt of atrocities against the SCs, but also allowed the police leverage for non-registration of cases. Therefore, the PoA Act again became a victim to political compulsions and vested interests of the leadership. Expectedly, this led to greater discontent among the lower-caste groups.

This was a time when the country was moving towards another parliamentary election. The feeling of disgruntlement and alienation among the lower-caste groups could be sensed by the government before the election. This was also evident from the result of the parliamentary election. The alienation of the lower-caste groups forced the government to realise the consequences of the dilution of the implementation of the act. The order issued earlier by this government was consequently withdrawn. Moving one step more, the government even issued a fresh order declaring that the registration of crimes against SCs should be taken up under appropriate section(s) of the PoA Act, immediately after the complaint is reported to a police station. This resulted in an increase in the registration of crimes against SCs. But for the upper-caste people, this reversal of the order was seemingly against the “pre-election principle” of the ruling party and they strongly resented the order.

The opposition party took advantage of this antipathy among the upper-caste people against the government. It raised the issue of not only withdrawing the order but also reviewing the act. In the next assembly election, the party made it an election plank and took it up in an aggressive manner. It even went on to declare that all the cases registered during the preceding five years would be withdrawn, in case it came to power. Purportedly, it had a bearing on the election campaign, and helped the party in polarising the upper-caste groups. The consequence of this was also seen in the assembly election results as the state again witnessed a shift in political power in favour of this party. On assuming power, the party took up its pre-election promises in relation to the registered atrocity cases and a review of the implementation of the act. Given that this party continued to rule the state for a relatively long term, the scope and implementation of the act, explicably, remained under constant scrutiny for long. With the change in political regime in 2017, a lot is expected from the new government on the effective implementation of the act under the agenda of bringing reforms in the law and order situation, and ensuring social protection for people from all sections of society.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there were conflicting views on the implementation of the PoA Act among the ruling parties. The implementation of the act constantly led to a type of psychological warfare between the political parties in the state. Evidently, this caused political upheaval and instability. The consequence of this was visible from the persistence of caste crimes against the SCs. It might be noted that there had been an increase in the registered caste crimes, despite various attempts by political parties to dilute the scope of the PoA Act and leverage the non-registration of less serious offences against SCs under the act. The larger question therefore is whether political pre-eminence is enough to curb caste crimes at the social level. As one ex-senior police officer and human rights activist in the state said:

The reason for the high incidence of caste atrocities in UP even under a lower caste leadership is that unfortunately the laws relating to caste atrocities are not being implemented properly … There was non-application of the PoA Act to the crimes committed against lower castes under the pretext of its misuse. These atrocities thus remain unaccounted and uncared for, making the victims suffer haplessly. (Darapuri 2011)

The analysis of the manner in which the implementation of the PoA Act has been undertaken by the state government since its inception, represented by different political parties in the recent past, shows that the state government’s actions on the effective implementation of the act from time to time have been found wanting.

Implementation Gaps

Before a discussion on the implementation gaps in the context of the PoA Act, an attempt is made here to highlight some emerging issues on the changing nature of caste crimes in UP, to understand new dimensions of caste crimes, and also why sensitivity to the issue and judicious responses of the state machinery are critical to the implementation of laws. The analysis is primarily based on the information obtained from a large number of cases reported in the print media over two years. The results derived from content analysis of the media reports reveal that nearly half of the reported cases were from a dozen of districts. Conspicuously, a majority of these districts were atrocity-prone districts identified by the state a long time ago.

Despite precautionary measures in these districts as per the PoA Act, 1989 Rules, many of these districts still continued to witness high incidence of caste atrocities. It was observed that gender-specific crimes against SCs constituted a substantial proportion. This was also corroborated by the findings on the gender-wise disaggregation of the victims, showing a significantly higher share of women victims. It was also observed that the resistance of lower castes to caste discrimination and an attitude of revenge-taking and retaliation among the upper castes were major underlying factors that caused caste atrocities.

Although a realistic picture on the number of accused and victims was not available from media reports, a rough estimate indicates that the number of upper-caste accused was relatively higher than the number of lower-caste victims, suggesting that many of the caste atrocities were committed in a “collective” manner. Another issue is that in a majority of the cases, more than one offence, either as antecedents or as consequents, were committed, indicating a “combined” as well as “intense” nature of caste atrocities. The most disturbing aspect is that in several cases, the involvement of socially and politically “powerful persons,” either directly or indirectly, was figured in the perpetration of atrocities. In this context, the recent PoA Amendment Act, 2015, which made caste atrocities committed by persons in public services punishable under the law, would have higher significance. The following paragraphs under this section deal with the gaps in the implementation of the PoA Act.

The PoA Act, 1989 Rules prescribe specific provisions for the effective implementation of the act. These broadly revolve around time frames for filing the first information report (FIR), arresting of the offenders, carrying out investigation, filing charge sheets and reviewing of the atrocity cases at district and state levels, provisions of relief and compensation for the victims and provisions of special courts and special prosecutors to deal with the cases. Given this, the question that needs attention is—are caste atrocities dealt with as per the rules? An analysis of the functioning of the implementing officials based on the data collected from fact-finding reports, case studies, experiential accounts of human rights activists, proceedings of review meetings, and other official documents reveals that there is “negligence” by the officials, leading to many implementation gaps.

Refusal to Record Complaints

Under the criminal justice system, as a rule, the legal proceeding starts from the registration of a case at a police station and the filing of an FIR as for a cognisable offence. This can initiate an investigation by the police without an order from the court. From the experiential accounts of human rights activists, it was quite evident that in a majority of cases, the police did not heed the requests of the victim(s) to register the complaints on some pretext or the other (personal interview, 2012). The problems of “refusal to record complaints” and “undue pressure on the victim(s) to refrain from filing the FIR” were reported in about two-thirds of the cases that the respondents had dealt with personally. Similarly, an analysis of fact-finding reports and case studies shows that in about one-fourth of the cases, FIRs were filed after four days of the occurrence of the incident. Of these, in about half of the cases, FIRs were filed after 10 days.

As reported by human rights activists, the refusal to record complaints or delay in filing FIRs created a wide range of problems for the victims (personal interview, 2012). These included exertion of pressure to refrain them from filing the FIR and compromise, deeming the cases not serious enough for an investigation, infusing fear of the incident being repeated, issuance of threats, dilution of information/evidence, registration of the case under inappropriate sections of the PoA Act, refusal to give a copy of the FIR to the victims and others. These were further corroborated with the support-seeking behaviours of many victims who approached higher police officials, the state human rights commission, the state commission for SCs, local leaders, local civil society organisations and other community members to get the cases registered.

It was not just that the FIRs were not filed immediately after the complaints were made, even the arrest of the accused was delayed, despite the PoA Act, 1989 Rules stating that the offender should be arrested immediately following the FIR, in order to prevent any attempt to interfere with the investigation process or to use any pressure tactics on the victims. An analysis of the time gap between the filing of the FIR and the arrest of the offenders indicates that in about two-thirds of cases, the accused were arrested after two days of the filing of FIRs. Of these delayed arrest cases, in 36% cases, arrests were made after five days; in 30% cases after 10 days; whereas in 24%, it was done as late as after 20 days.

Another issue of concern was the time of investigation after the filing of the FIR. As per the PoA Act, 1989 Rules, investigation should be conducted by higher-level police officials immediately after the FIR is filed and should be completed on top priority within 30 days. Data based on fact-finding reports and case studies reveals that in one-third of the cases, investigation started after 10 days of filing the FIR; of which, in 22%, it was only after two weeks. The delay in initiating the investigation expectedly had larger implications for the submission of charge sheets within a stipulated time period. Another implementation gap was reported in the investigation of a few cases conducted by lower-rank officials than the designated investigating officers, thus indicating a careless attitude towards dealing with atrocity cases. Moreover, in many cases, the statements of the victims were hardly taken into account. Instead they were pressurised to enter into a compromise.

Delays

Excluding the cases of timely actions by the officials, an overall analysis of average time in the case of delayed responses at various stages of the criminal justice system, clearly indicates non-compliance with the PoA Act, 1989 Rules in the course of the implementation of law. Analysis reveals that on an average, there was a delay of about one week in registering the FIRs after the incident; and after the filing of FIRs, a delay of about 18 days in arrests of accused and about 12 days in the case of investigation. As a rule, after the completion of investigation, a charge sheet is filed in court as an evidential requirement. Due to the flaws in investigation, there was dilution of the provisions of the PoA Act in the charge sheets. Another area where the victims were at a disadvantage, as claimed by about half of the respondents, was the submission of the charge sheets in an inordinately delayed manner. This delay invariably led to a cascading delay in court proceedings.

As it is evident from official data, majority of the cases in courts are made to linger on, leading to significantly higher pendency rate in the courts. Human rights activists reported that a general trend of the postponement of the date for court trials involved a lot of burden on the victims, both economic and psychological (personal interview, 2012). Thus, they found themselves facing the ordeals of economic hardships, harassment and intimidation. The sufferings of the victims of caste atrocities do not end with the administrative dealings, but are extended to the court in their pursuit of justice. Such situations inevitably engender a sense of not only insecurity among the victims, but also mistrust towards the judicial system.

The state government implements the provisions of the PoA Act through different committees at district and state levels, which review the status of caste crimes periodically and also monitor the functioning of officials. At the district level, the District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) is required to review the implementation of the provisions of the act and assess the status of registered cases through quarterly meetings. Similarly, at the state level, the State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC) is required to review the status of caste crimes in the state periodically. The DVMC is also involved in monitoring the provisions of relief and compensation for the victims of caste crimes.

However, the district social welfare officer has the major responsibility of distribution, as per the norms prescribed under the rules of the PoA Act. As per the rules, compensation is to be provided to the victims at different stages of the criminal justice process. Section 12(4) in the rules mentions immediate relief after the incident, in the form of essential items as per the requirements of the victims. In cases of damage to property, the administration is required to either restore the property or provide full compensation for the loss incurred. There are also other allowances during the process of investigation and court trial. Evidence based on experiential accounts of human rights activists reflects a sordid picture of the process of payment of compensation to the victims (personal interview, 2012). In many cases, victims had to depend upon the wishes of the officials for receiving compensation and allowances. Moreover, distribution is subject to the filing of the FIR, completion of investigation and completion of court trials. As mentioned earlier, delays in filing FIRs, completion of investigation and filing of charge sheets were noticed in several cases, which implied an automatic delay in the distribution of compensation/relief.

Another issue is that when the provisions of the PoA Act are diluted during investigation and the submission of charge sheets, the victims sometimes receive less compensation than they ideally should, as per the nature of the offence. The tendency of postponement and the lingering on of court trials inevitably deprive many victims of their rightful and timely compensation. In the case of heinous crimes, a part of the compensation is provided only after conviction. When a majority of the atrocity cases end with an acquittal of the accused, receiving a full compensation remains a distant reality for many victims.

Concluding Observations

Despite significant social, economic and political transformations in UP, fraught caste relations and the political role of caste identity have created social conditions for confrontations between caste groups, resulting in caste crimes against lower-caste groups. Evidence clearly shows disturbing trends of increased number of caste crimes, a large proportion of serious or heinous caste crimes, higher vulnerability of women from lower-castes to various crimes, and an increased number of caste crimes of a “collective” and “combined” nature. Strikingly, majority of the identified atrocity-prone districts in the state continued to witness a higher incidence of caste crimes. Although the conviction rate in the state had been higher as compared to other states, the state machinery failed to prevent the occurrence of caste crimes.

Evidence also suggests that the state has not been able to enforce the PoA Act in its letter and spirit because of political compulsions, conflicting views on the act among political parties, and constant reviews of the act by state leadership, with the changes in the state’s political scenario from time to time. The purpose of the act was mainly subverted because of vested political interests. Despite specific rules laid down for the effective implementation of the law, there have been many implementation gaps. The lack of sensitivity among officials towards the gravity of caste crimes and their larger consequences on the social, economic and psychological well-being of the victims have always kept lower-caste members on tenterhooks and induced a sense of social insecurity, leaving them with very few avenues for self-protection.

Given the past scenario on the implementation of the laws on caste crimes, it is important that the state government reviews the procedural defects that have defeated the purpose of enactment of the law in the state, initiates strategic planning to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the PoA Act, and improves the accountability of the state machinery. As a part of support mechanism, the DVMCs need to assess the situation of caste crimes periodically, make special interventions to prevent them, ensure that officials respond to caste crimes on a priority basis, sensitise officials regularly on the areas of concern and strengthen the local administrative network to address the problems encountered by the victims at different stages of the criminal justice system.

All these need to go together with the speedy disposal of cases by the courts. The recent PoA Amendment Act, 2015 and its rules mandate every state to establish an adequate number of special courts and exclusive special courts in every district for the trials of offences under the PoA Act, and also provide a time frame for the completion of the trials of cases. Therefore, the state government should see that the existing special courts, many of which have not been functional, work properly; more special courts, as proposed, are set up; and cases are tried as per the rules of the act. A holistic approach to the implementation of laws can help in establishing a broader anti-oppressive climate in the state, restore the faith of the lower-caste groups in the government and judiciary, so that they can live a life of freedom and social security.

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