The International Dalit Solidarity Network estimates that there are 260 million Dalits globally. Dalits dwell in South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) and in populations that have migrated from South Asia across the world. In India, atrocities and a crime against Scheduled Castes increased by 1.2% in 2021 (50900 cases) over 2020 (50,291 cases), including 2585 incidences of rape against Dalit women.
Dalits, also known as “Untouchables,” belong to the lowest caste in India’s ancient caste system. They have experienced social, economic, and political prejudice and marginalization for generations, resulting in widespread poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. Despite constitutional safeguards and affirmative action laws intended at encouraging social and economic participation, Dalits continue to endure systematic discrimination and violence, leading to an increase in crimes against this vulnerable minority.
The rise in crimes against Dalits is a multifaceted issue that cannot be reduced to isolated acts of violence or hatred. It is, rather, the outcome of centuries of institutional oppression and discrimination that has resulted in a profoundly established and linked network of social, economic, and political inequities. To obtain justice for Dalits, it is critical to investigate the underlying causes of these crimes and strive toward structural reform that tackles the community’s continued marginalization and oppression.
Although India’s caste system has a lengthy and complicated history, its essential principles have remained stable over time. This system divides society into castes based on birth, and individuals are assigned to a certain caste depending on their lineage. The lowest castes, especially Dalits, were deemed unclean and faced social, economic, and political marginalization and discrimination.
Despite India’s independence in 1947 and the adoption of a constitution that forbids caste discrimination, Dalits experience severe inequity and marginalization. Dalit activists and groups have undertaken several campaigns and movements throughout the years to raise awareness about the ongoing challenges of these minority people and advocate for change. Despite these attempts, prejudice, and violence against Dalits and other oppressed people continue to be pervasive throughout India. Rape against Schedule caste women (including children) accounts for 7.64% (3893 instances), with 2585 incidences of rape against Dalit women and 1285 cases of juvenile rape.
In addition to their continuous challenges, Dalits confront significant obstacles in getting justice. For example, they may face systemic prejudices within the court system, making it harder for them to seek legal redress. Furthermore, a lack of political will and inefficient execution of laws designed to protect Dalits can make it difficult for them to seek justice when crimes against them are perpetrated.
The Reasons Behind the Rise in Crimes Against Dalits:
Despite constitutional safeguards and affirmative action programs, prejudice and violence against Dalits are still prevalent in India. This is due, in part, to deeply rooted social and cultural conventions that sustain the caste system and its attendant prejudices and biases. Furthermore, the absence of political will and inefficient execution of legislation intended at safeguarding Dalits contributes to the community’s continuous isolation and persecution.
The Indian government and political leaders have frequently failed to take serious measures to safeguard Dalits and punish perpetrators of crimes against this minority responsible. This lack of political will, along with the inefficient enforcement of legislation designed to safeguard Dalits, has increased crimes against this vulnerable minority.
In recent years, India has experienced an upsurge in right-wing Hindutva nationalism, which has had a severe influence on the rights of Dalits and other oppressed tribes, with Atrocities and Crime against Scheduled Tribes increasing by 6.4% in 2021 (8,802 instances) over 2020. (8,272 cases)
Examining the Failure of the Justice System:
The Indian court system has always failed to offer proper protection to Dalits, and this remains a fundamental concern today. The difficulty of detecting and prosecuting crimes against Dalits is one of the most significant barriers to justice for them. Many crimes against Dalits go unreported or uninvestigated, and even when incidents are brought to the attention of authorities, they sometimes lack the means or inclination to investigate them effectively. Furthermore, the cultural stigma against Dalits, as well as the prevalence of caste-based prejudice in many regions of the country, can create a hostile climate for Dalits seeking justice through the judicial system.
Another key hurdle to justice for Dalits is the criminal justice system’s lack of accountability and openness. There are several incidents of law enforcement personnel, judges, and other criminal justice system members who have been accused of ignoring or intentionally undermining Dalit rights. Because of the system’s lack of transparency, it is sometimes difficult to hold those guilty accountable, which can lead to a pervasive sense of impunity among those who perpetrate crimes against Dalits.
Addressing the structural prejudice and bias that India’s Dalits confront in the criminal justice system is crucial. This necessitates a wide variety of reforms, including improved law enforcement training and instruction, greater safeguards for Dalits who report crimes, and enhanced openness and accountability in the criminal justice system. It also necessitates a larger cultural movement toward greater respect for Dalit rights and an end to the caste-based prejudice that persists in many regions of India.
The reasons for this rise in crimes against Dalits in India are firmly founded in the history of the caste system and the ongoing battle for Dalit equality and dignity. Despite some efforts to address these difficulties, there are still numerous obstacles to overcome before Dalits may obtain justice. The battle for Dalit justice in India is a collaborative endeavor that demands the participation of all segments of society. This includes addressing systemic discrimination and bias in the criminal justice system, as well as broader societal and cultural attitudes that contribute to the persistence of caste-based violence, while civil society organizations must work to raise awareness and support Dalits who have been victims of violence. The media may also play an important role in elevating Dalit voices and shedding light on the ongoing struggle for justice.