TISS Students take stand against inaction on caste-based atrocities
A rape incident in Beed district of Maharashtra brought some of us together to look into caste-based atrocities, particularly against dalit women, in this State. Many public meetings later, it was decided that a letter expressing our concerns and articulating our demands be sent to relevant government authorities in the State and the Centre as well as various commissions and the media.
Following is the letter, which has been passed in the GBM held on Saturday. Please do sign up for it on the posters that have been put up near both the dining halls and the new campus canteen.
We, the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, write this letter to you to condemn caste-based atrocities against Dalits, particularly Dalit women, across the State of Maharashtra.
The immediate context to this letter is the gang rape of a 15-year old dalit girl at the village of Ranjani at Georai taluka in Beed district, Maharashtra on August 23, 2009 by some upper caste men. The trauma of the rape apart, the girl was beaten up by the police and threatened against making a complaint. The FIR was registered only at the instance of the District Magistrate of Beed but even then the crime, clearly a caste-based atrocity, has not been registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. About a month into the rape, the accused have also not been arrested.
Incidents of caste-based violence in Beed District are not new and newspapers over the last few months provide evidence of this rising brutality. On August 24, 2009, a dalit man from Malaspimpalgaon was poisoned to death because he refused to beat the drum during the ‘Pola’ festival. Earlier, on June 25, 2009, another dalit man from Phulepimpalgaon at Mazalgaon was murdered by upper caste people. On January 17, 2009, in Shindi village, two Dalit college girls were severely beaten and paraded in the village because they did not respond to lewd remarks by upper caste people.
Organisations working with Dalits in Beed district – Rural Development Centre and Savitribai Phule Mahila Mandal – have found that out of the 247 cases, registered for offences against SC/ST between 2001 and 2008, over 70 such atrocities have been against women.
This data points to a larger incidence of increasing caste based violence against Dalits across the State. Government data shows that the number of atrocities against SCs in the state has gone up from 689 in 2004 to 844 in 2005, 1,001 in 2006 and 1,173 in 2008. (Indian Express; August 5, 2009)
The increasing violence also shows the complicity of the police with people from upper castes in perpetuating atrocities against Dalits, particularly Dalit women. This is clearly seen in the gang-rape of the 15 year old Dalit girl from Beed.
That women bear the brunt of caste-based violence is well documented. Even in this case, the girl was raped and then beaten up by the police when she went to file her complaint, not just because she is a woman but importantly because she is a Dalit. Violence against dalit women, we assert, is to perpetuate and sustain caste superiority. Rape of women from the dalit community is a tool of violence used by upper-castes to maintain their control over marginalized communities.
Therefore, to prevent atrocities and to strengthen security of Dalits, we demand that following action be taken:
1. The case must be registered under the SC/ST (PoA) act.
2. The P.S.I. of Georai police station should be suspended immediately and action taken against him under section 4 of SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989. The Sarpanch, Police Patil, S.P., D.M. should be held responsible in case of atrocity in their areas, under the same provision.
3. Police have been seen as complicit in caste-based atrocities. Efforts, in the form of training programmes, by the State Government are necessary to ensure that the police act as agents outside of the caste system and ensure safety of the marginalized. It must be ensured that the police do not make victims of caste-based violence more vulnerable.
4. Beed district should be declared as Atrocity Prone Area, a provision under section 17 (1) of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989.
5. A comprehensive review of caste-based atrocities in all districts must be undertaken and those areas which see a high incidence of such atrocities must be declared atrocity prone areas as well.
6. The State should undertake its duty of providing economic and social rehabilitation for victims of all caste based atrocities, as given under section 21 (iii) of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989.
7. A collective fine must be imposed on villages where caste atrocities have been reported, as provided for under section 16 of the Act.
8. In most caste-based atrocities, it has been seen that the police do not register cases against the SC/ST (PoA) Act. It must be made mandatory for the police to register them under this act. Action must be taken against those police officials who do not register it under the Act.
9. Investigation by a special committee on why the gang-rape case at Beed had not been registered under the Act should be undertaken since it could provide indicators to the visible trend of not registering caste-based atrocities under the Act.
10. Caste-based violence against women must be registered under provisions in the SC/ST (PoA) Act and the Indian Penal Code together. This reflects the understanding that violence against women is because they are vulnerable as women and also as members of the dalit communities.
Lastly, the State must explore initiatives to encourage collective action among Dalit women for their empowerment and to provide them a safe environment. We would like to add, that we intend to follow the proceedings of this case closely and will be awaiting an urgent response from you, to decide on further action. We hope that the above demands are considered at the earliest so that the confidence of Dalits and the general public in the State is restored.
Entry filed under: events.