The July 11 case of Dalit atrocity in Una has triggered a campaign by civil rights groups and others against the Anandiben Patel government’s “lack of commitment on gender issues”.
“Dalit women have been the worst victims of caste violence. Twenty Dalits including women have been murdered and 45 rapes have happened each year from 2006-15, while 4,578 cases of SC/ST atrocities remain pending,” noted a report of Ahmedabad-based Navsarjan Trust.
The Gujarat government has itself identified 11 districts including Mehsana, Ahmadabad (Rural), Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar as being “atrocity prone”. Between 2006 and 2015, as many as 10,839 cases of atrocities were registered under the SC/ST Atrocities Act of 1989 and only about half of these have been resolved. Cases pending under the Act number 4578 and 522 of these have been pending since 2006”, official documents show.
“The gender aspect of caste violence has gone unheard despite the state having a woman CM. Not one meeting of the State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee has been called by her in the last two years,” said the trust’s executive director, Manjula Pradeep.
The SC/ST Atrocities Act recommends the state government to hold meetings of the state vigilance and monitoring committee every six months.
CPI(M) leader and All India Democratic Women’s Association general secretary Brinda Karat – who visited Samadhaliya and nearby villages last Saturday – also pointed at the gender concern. “For fear of upper caste reprisals, Dalit men are staying away from their traditional occupation (skinning dead animals) and there is increased pressure on women to travel long distances to earn a living as agricultural or mine laborers. This has increased the vulnerability of Dalit women”, Karat said.
“During recorded incidents of Dalit migrations from villages to nearby towns in past years, pregnant Dalit women have had to suffer the ignominy of a child birth in public and several of them have died”, said Chandrasinh Mahida of the Una-based Dalit Haq Raksha Ekta Manch. For the last four months, a Dalit family has been at a “dharna” outside the district collector’s office at Amreli to demand action the culprits in a case of a gang-rape of a minor girl.