Caste has no place in a modern democracy
Political dispensation has little impact on crime rates, highlighting the need for effective prosecution to combat caste crimes.
An enduring paradox of independent India has been crimes against Dalit communities – an unfortunate aspect in a democracy that has doggedly persisted despite the rising economic and political heft of caste-marginalised groups. Such violence spans the length and breadth of India, but regional specificities exist, as do differences in the strategies employed by various states to fight them. Any reboot of a national strategy to curb such cases will need to learn from these nuances. This newspaper reported one such learning on Tuesday, showing that Madhya Pradesh (MP) had the highest crime rate against people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) in 2021. The state also had the highest crime rate against SCs in 2020, and was ranked second (behind Rajasthan) in 2019. But data also showed that the rate at which charge sheets were filed was higher in MP than in most Indian states. Its neighbour, Rajasthan, was far lower on this aspect, highlighting that state police needed to do a lot more.
The data holds two takeaways. One, when it comes to crimes against Dalits, the political dispensation in power appears to have little impact. MP was ruled by two different regimes in the past four years, but this appears to have had little impact on crime rates. Similarly, there is no obvious correlation between administrations run by the BJP or the Congress, and a rise or dip in caste crimes. And two, while states should strive to prevent such crimes, the least they can do is to effectively prosecute them (as MP has sought to). Caste crimes are a result of impunity and deep prejudice. If social attitudes are sedimented, governments have a duty to spur change by effectively prosecuting such crimes, underlining that in a democracy, caste bias has no space.