Dalit women have been victim of upper caste atrocities for centuries, which still go unabated in various pockets of India. There were times dalit women in various parts of the country were not allowed to cover their body above waste, while some parts in Kerala, a tax called “breast tax” collected from Dalit women in accordance with the size of their breasts. Though the practice has been banned, Dalit women continue to face atrocities every day.
Every week 21 Dalits women are raped. 99% of Gang rape victims are Dalit women.
Do these women get justice?
The answer is sadly a ‘no’. The conviction rate is a dismissal 2% and very low in comparison to 24% in women belong to upper caste. Further conviction does not mean that the accused are punished for the heinous crime they commit. The police and judiciary, which are manned by upper caste people, always let the accused free.
Justice for Dalits is a complete farce in India.
Crime against Dalit women is not always because of lust of upper caste men but also a way to humiliate the entire community and remind them of their place. The forms of crime are rape, gang rape, parading naked, using filthy language and constant harassment.
There is a special law known as “The SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 Act” but it is rendered completely useless. You will not find a single prisoner in India who is languishing in jail under this act. The police don’t register case under this Act but under Indian Penal Code on various pretexts. The investigation is always shoddy and investigation officers deliberately mess up the investigation. The judiciary, which beats its chest of being independent, regularly gives biased judgment. Even country’s highest courts like High Courts and Supreme Court have demonstrated unexplainable bias in their judgments against the Dalits and Dalit women.
Consider the judgment in following few cases:
Bhanwari Devi Gang Rape Case
Five upper caste men gang raped Bhanwari Devi, a Dalit woman, in Bhateri village in Rajasthan. Her crime was that she protested against rampant child marriage prevalent among upper caste people. While deciding the case, the judge let all the accused go scot free. Among other reasons, one reason the he cited was that since the upper caste men practice untouchability, it is inconceivable that any of the five accused will touch the lower caste woman.
Bhanwari Devi is still waiting for justice. It is indeed very shameful the Judge deliberately ignored Article 17, which make practicing untouchability in any form is crime.
Kharilanji Murder and Gang Rape Case
This is one of the most barbaric caste crime committed recently. In Western Maharashtra in Khairlanji village on Septermber 26, 2006, four members of a Dalit man Suresh Bhotmange’s family were killed in barbaric manner. His crime was that he lodged a police complaint against an upper caste man of the village, who had forcibly occupied a plot of his land. The killed members include his wife and daughter, who were stripped, thrashed and paraded naked through the village before committing fiendish gang-rape. That was not enough to those barbaric wicked animals. They thrust knives, iron rods, spikes of bullock cart wheel into the private parts of the women.
Navalagi Gang Rape Case
A 15 years old Dalit girl in Navalagi village in Karnataka, gang raped by four youth when she went to collect fodder to nearby field along with his nephew of 13 years old. There were eye witnesses of the case and the forensic test confirmed rape. The evidences were heavily stacked against the accused. While deciding the case the Karnataka High Court acknowledged convicted the accused of rape but dismissed the ‘caste’ angle of the victim and held that the incident is “a lustful act of misguided youth”. Consequently, the PoA, 1989 was not applied.
Kewad Gang Rape Case
This happened in Kewad village in Maharastra. A dalit woman belonging to Pardhi caste, was dragged from her house by three men of upper caste and was gang raped. There was no rivalry nor any disputes. Her crime was that she refused to obey the summons of the accused, who wanted her to satisfy their lusts.
This case was fiercely fought by victim and went to the Supreme Court. Shockingly, the apex course convicted the accused of rape but ignored the caste factor apparent here. The so-called higher court observed: “The mere fact that the victim happened to be a girl belonging to a scheduled (lower) caste does not attract the provisions of the (PoA) Act.”
The Dalit women are suffering a lot both because of the fact that they are women and also belong to lower caste. Their body have been stigmatized, which the upper caste men feel can be used for recreational (pleasure seeking) or for punitive purpose.
Noted writer and activist Arundhati Roy talks of “Project Unseen”. Whenever a crime is committed against Dalits, the entire state machinery including judiciary and media collaborate to serve the interest of upper caste people. The media don’t publicize the issues or don’t report the fact that the victim is a Dalit.
The modus operandi of legal system in “Project Unseen” as follows.
- When a crime is committed against a Dalit, the police usually don’t register the case either through persuasive means or coercion.
- If registration cannot be avoided because of public hue-cry or some other reasons, the police register the case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not under PoA (prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.
- The investigation is done in very shoddy manner and in such a way to establish no direct connection between the crime and caste. Vital evidences are left out and the ignorance of Dalit victim is fully exploited. In majority of cases, even medical evidences are tampered and no forensic test is done.
- When the matter reach to the court, the court usually give two type of judgments:
- Accused are let free with usual excuse of “lack of evidence”. This happen in 99% of the cases.
- When evidences are too strong and cannot be ignored, the court gives lighter sentence under Indian Penal Code and not under provisions of PoA. The judges give reasons like “personal dispute” and “personal revenge” in murder related cases and “unrequited passion” and “exploration of sexuality” in gang rape/rape cases.
Since the victims lack resources, they don’t pursue the cases beyond the lower judiciary. Even they pursue the case they have no hope that higher judiciary will deliver justice. The media play their part by refraining from publishing the issue or justifying the judgments or diluting the truth.