The Nagaur perpetrators must be punished
The brutality against Dalits reveals continued social prejudice and lawlessnessUpdated: Feb 20, 2020 20:09 IST
On February 16, in Rajasthan’s Nagaur, two Dalit men were assaulted, stripped, and tortured on suspicion of theft in a vehicle service centre. Videos of the incident depict the brutal, almost unspeakable, nature of the violence, even as the men are seen begging for mercy. The police registered a first information report three days later once the video went viral. Seven men have been booked under a range of provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and five of them have been arrested.
The episode highlights two disturbing issues. For one, it reflects the continued threats faced by Dalits 70 years after the Constitution promised right to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of caste. While the crime may have had its roots in suspicion of theft, the element of caste prejudice in the violence is unmistakable. Indeed, reported atrocities against Dalits have only grown across the country. This is happening at a time when Dalits have begun finding a voice, and are more assertive in public spaces. This, in itself, has provoked a backlash by those who continue to hold on to hierarchical and discriminatory practices. A strong message that the State will not tolerate this violence and come down with all its might on such acts is essential to deter caste atrocities. The Rajasthan government’s commitment to take the case to a logical conclusion is welcome.
The second issue is the trend of individuals taking the law into their own hands. This has been witnessed in personal disputes, for political and ideological reasons, and in inter-community tensions. Rajasthan, in particular, has been the site of brutal lynchings in recent years, where the accused have often got away. This shows that the State is unable to maintain its monopoly over force; it is either weak or unwilling to act against crimes and establish a strong culture of deterrence; and justice has been elusive. This must change; Nagaur must not happen again.