Dalit victims of violence depose before national tribunal
10 December 2014
The recent chilling murders of three members of a Dalit family that created shock-waves across a nation that still discriminates on the basis of caste is a grim reminder that such atrocities against the Dalits will increase and the modus operandi will be even more hi tech. “The bodies were cut into small pieces so that the parts could be thrown into a borewell, making the murders even more gory,” said Henri Thipagne, a human rights activist, who was on the jury of the National People’s Tribunal on Atrocities against Dalits organised by the National Dalit Movement for Justice – National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights was aimed at building a concerted discourse on caste-based violence.
Other jury members included former bureaucrat PS Krishnan and prominent woman activist Dr Fatima Burnad.
The Jadhav family lived near to the dominant Wagh Maratha caste in the village. Sunil and an adult woman from the Wagh families may have been involved in a relationship, which may have led to the murders. But it is disquieting to find that it has become the norm to assume that illegal relationships are at the root of all Dalit murders. Horrifyingly enough, the murders may have been committed by something as petty as a fight over their dogs by the Jadhav and the Wagh families.
Almost two months after the gruesome murders at Avkhed Khalsa village in Pathardi taluka of Ahmednagar district on October 21, the accused have still not been arrested. Jury members said that a special investigation team should be formed, which is not from the area or the community, to properly investigate into the case and the area should be declared atrocity prone.
From murders to rape! A public sewer dispute led to the torture and rape of a Dalit woman Mamta who tried to open the sewer running along the dominant caste Jat neighbourhood of her village Kahanor in Haryana. The perpetrators hammered two pins on her buttock, kicked her private parts, broke her feet and upon her becoming unconscious, they gang-raped her. They even tried to prevent the treatment of Mamta and her husband, who, too was beaten up. Finally, the intervention of the media and the Women’s Commission allowed them to be admitted to a hospital and treated.
“We are shocked at this continuing spate of violence on Dalits, especially on Dalit Women. It is further shocking that proper access to the entire Criminal Justice Administration System is barred to the Dalits in most of the cases. We have also observed that Article 17 of the Constitution of India, which states that “Untouchability is abolished”, has no relation to the prevailing situation in these states, where untouchability practices are rampant. Furthermore, we are equally pained to observe that the SCs and STs (PoA) Act, 1989 and Rules 1995 that are in place to protect the rights of Dalits, are not adequately implemented to secure justice to the Dalit victims’” observed Jury members.
All the members of Jury strongly recommended that the enforcement agencies and the judiciary who form the criminal justice system are sensitized to address the issue of caste and gender based discrimination against Dalits in accordance with international human rights law. The officials who neglect their duty to protect the rights of the Dalits should be punished with enhanced criminal measures. Also, enact and implement measures to increase protection from caste-based crimes and to tackle impunity and discrimination in access to justice for Dalits including amendments to the SCs and STs (PoA) Act.