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Crimes rise against India's Dalits, tribal people

Data from National Crime Record Bureau shows lesser crimes against women during Covid lockdown and restrictions
Dalit leaders and activists in the national capital protest against the alleged rape and murder of a minor Dalit girl, in New Delhi on Aug. 3, 2021

Dalit leaders and activists in the national capital protest against the alleged rape and murder of a minor Dalit girl, in New Delhi on Aug. 3, 2021. (Photo supplied)

Published: August 02, 2022 11:57 AM GMT

Crimes against tribal people and Dalits or former untouchables in India are steadily increasing, which Church leaders and rights activists say should get serious social attention.

Crimes against tribal people increased 26 percent between 2018 and 2020, while offenses against Dalit people increased by 17 percent a minister told parliament quoting official figures.

Ajay Kumar Mishra, federal junior minister of home, told parliament last week that crimes against Scheduled Tribes (STs), the official term for tribal people, rose from 6,528 in 2018 to 8,272 in 2020, a rise of 26.71 percent. He was quoting data collected by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

In the case of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the official term for Dalits, the figure rose from 42,793 to 52,291, an increase of 17.5 percent in three years.

The highest numbers of offenses against tribal and Dalit communities were registered in northern Uttar Pradesh and central Madhya Pradesh states, the minister said.

“The report presented by the minister is worrisome and alarming. The government and civil society should intervene to arrest the slide,” said Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Tribal Affairs.

Father Barla said the ignorance of the law among the tribal and Dalit communities was being taken advantage of by their traditional oppressors.

“Most of the time the crimes don’t even get reported to the police,” Father Barla said.

Bezwada Wilson, a Dalit Christian activist and winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award, said the crime graph continued to rise over the years. “Irrespective of the government at the helm in New Delhi or the provinces, nothing changes,” he said.

The poor and marginalized people cannot afford the services of a lawyer to fight their cases.

Mukti Prakash Tirkey, editor of a weekly newspaper in New Delhi, said “people have no fear for the law. Unless the mainstream society changes its attitude toward the weakest amongst them, nothing would change.”

The rise in crimes against the STs and SCs stood out in stark contrast to the overall trend of drop in crimes during the  Covid pandemic period, especially due to the 68-day lockdown across the country, beginning on March 25, 2020.

Overall, recorded cases of crimes rose by 28 percent in the country but this was largely due to cases related to violations of Covid restrictions being registered by the police and administration.

Crimes against women went down by 8.3 percent with incidents of rape dropping 12.4 percent and abductions down by 19.3 percent.

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