Crimes against SC, ST see sharp spike in Karnataka
Between April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, there have been 2,327 cases of murder, exploitation and other cases on members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) community in Karnataka, according to data from the state government.
This shows an increase of over 54% from the previous year in which there were a total of 1,504 cases registered, which includes murder, exploitation, burns and other crimes against the members of the community, according to data from National Crime Records Bureau.
The sharp spike comes at a time when Karnataka has reported at least two cases of “honour” killings in the last 10 days and several others that involve name calling, denial of services and even skirmishes that often go unreported.
One of such cases reported by HT on June 24 was related to a hate-crime committed against two teenagers, wherein a boy belonging to the Dalit community and a Muslim girl were allegedly killed in Saladahalli village in Devara Hipparagi taluk in Vijayapura district, about 525 kms from Bengaluru, by the girl’s family and a few others who smashed their heads with rocks.
In another case reported from Baragur village in Koppal district, 351 kms from Bengaluru, a boy who belonged to the Madiga community was allegedly murdered by the family of the girl, on June 22 who was from the dominant Kuruba community, for being romantically involved.
“There are atrocities that take place and the ones that are reported (to authorities),” Clifton Rozario, lawyer and Bengaluru-based activist said on Wednesday.
“When we look at these figures, we have to keep in mind that for every recorded atrocity there are other atrocities that are normalised and routinized,” Rozario added.
While Karnataka is well known for its prowess in technology, startups, aerospace and other sectors, the dark underbelly of the state’s rural landscape often goes unnoticed.
While the number of cases registered are low, the conviction rates are lower, data shows.
In total, there have been 87 murders, 216 cases of exploitation, 2,024 other instances and 3 incidents of fire, according to government data. The government has so far allocated ₹284 crore as compensation for these crimes. Out of the 2,775 arrested persons and 2,945 chargesheeted for crimes and atrocities against SC/ST communities in 2019, only 50 were convicted and 1,513 were acquitted, data shows.
On June 6, two brothers from the Dalit community were assaulted, abused and humiliated when they approached two barbers for a haircut in Yelaburga taluk in Koppal, one of the most backward villages in the state and country.
But law enforcement authorities, whose duty it is to stop such practices and book those responsible, have also been accused of fueling and participating in such atrocities.
On May 10, a youngster was arrested after villagers alleged that he was responsible for marital discord between a couple. After being beaten up, he asked the police for water when the latter asked another person in lockup to urinate on the youngster and even forced to lick it.
The police sub-inspector, Arjun Gowda, has been denied anticipatory bail by a local court in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur district, calling the crime “heinous” and one that destroys the dignity of a person.
Sanna Hanumantha, a Dalit activist in Koppal district said that there are regular instances of members of the Dalit community refused entry into hotels, temples and even inside villages.
He said that members of the so-called upper classes waylaid and picked up a fight with two boys last week because they entered a hotel to drink tea. “They pulled up our boy and his friend (from a different community) because they had a sticker of Dr BR Ambedkar on their motorbike,” he added.
A Narayanaswamy, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament from Karnataka’s Chitradurga district, was denied entry into Gollarhatti village in Paavgada taluka in Tumkuru district in May 2019, indicating that the caste-based discrimination and prejudices that continue to dictate almost every aspect of life in rural Karnataka and other parts of the country.
Hanumantha said that the members of the Dalit community will undertake a march to the district headquarters on July 19 to highlight the growing instances of discrimination in Koppal, which falls in the Kalayana-Karantaka region of the state.
The social welfare minister, additional chief secretary and commissioner of Karnataka could not be reached for comment. “It is not that people are not aware of the atrocities. We cannot keep glorifying that more people are coming to the police station nowadays,” Priyank Kharge, Congress legislator from Chittapur constituency and former minister for social welfare told HT on Wednesday.
He added that the increase in all forms of social unrest was also due to the pandemic and that the pandemic has forced migration to and from villages, which has left a larger number of people without enough work to do and has led to friction.
Kharge said that those that migrate are people who are economically backward and this largely comprises members of SC/ST, minorities and other communities and that there are several instances where members of marginalised communities get caught in the crossfire between other so-called upper class caste-group fights.