Crimes against Dalits in Gujarat are far lesser than what the Centre had reported earlier, says police data, but the bad news for the community is in the state’s poor conviction record in such cases.
A Right to Information reply by the Gujarat director general of police said 1,052 cases of crime against Dalits were reported in 2015. This is a sixth of the figure of 6,655 cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes in 2015, according to data circulated for a review meeting in the Union social justice ministry on Thursday in Delhi.
But the RTI reply still painted a grim picture for Dalits in the state, reporting a mere 8% conviction rate. This, however, may be an improvement by Gujarat’s standards. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the conviction rate for crimes against Scheduled Castes was just 2.5 % in 2013 against a national average conviction rate of 23.8%.
The RTI reply also reported more than 4,500 pending cases and the rape of a Scheduled Caste woman every fourth day. HT accessed a copy of the RTI reply that was released on June 4.
The data comes at a time when Gujarat has erupted in protests against the stripping and flogging of four Dalit youth by a cow protection vigilante group in Una for allegedly skinning a dead animal.
Prominent politicians have rushed to the poll-bound state and authorities have showered compensation upon the victims. But the RTI reply shows the four victims were part of a broader pattern of violence, in which three Dalit men are thrashed in the state every day. “Most of the cases don’t even reach the court or police station,” said Kaushikbhai Parmar of the Dalit Adhikar Manch, a local NGO.
These figures may give fresh ammunition to the Opposition, which has targeted the Centre for growing violence against Dalits and minorities. Congress has accused the government of unleashing “social terror”. Activists say the reason for the poor conviction rate is due to apathy by local police, which often don’t register complaints or collect evidence seriously. “Look at the Una case. Many relevant sections weren’t applied. Hence, when such cases come to court, there are loopholes and the public prosecutor loses,” said Parmar.