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Caste Based Violence And Statutes In India With Suggestions

India is a country of diversity which is the habitat of people belonging from various religions, languages, cultures and varied historical backgrounds. With the beauty of this diversity also comes the disputes arising out of inconsistencies and uniformities. Even after 75 years of Independence it has been the ground for long-drawn battles among people of different religions, castes and cultures.

This paper talks about the community-based violence on caste basis and reasons hitherto by exploring historical background and the constructed system of prejudices and discrimination which has lasted for centuries. It also discusses what legislations are in action to control such violence and discusses their effectiveness in dealing with the issue of 'community-based violence from a caste perspective'.

Introduction:
Even after 75 years of independence in India we still have not been able to completely solve the problem of caste discriminaton, untouchability and segregation. Caste based violence is a product of an ancient practice which is centuries old. The hierarchy created by these caste systems and segregation has put a barricade between humans with prejudices as the reason for which the people belonging to lower caste are sub-human.

Inspite of the popular belief of the urban populace that caste-based violence is an old phenomenon and it doesn't happen in today's modern world, we still see various cases of caste based violence committed on people belonging to the lower part of the caste pyramid.

History of casteism:
Caste system is a thousands of years old system in India where people are divided into different sects according to their prescribed profession. These sects were created not only for a particular populace but for their next generations too meaning the profession of the kids shall also be limited to the profession of their ancestors. Not only in work but also marriages are restricted among these sects. While upper castes enjoyed various privileges lower castes were subjected to inhumane treatment of untouchability and outcasting.

This categorical discrimnation over centuries created various prejudices and social backwardness of people belonging to lower castes which converted into a vast economic inequality. Such barbaric practices of untouchability, social exclusion are still practised in modern india. In cases where there is an attempt to reform the dynamics of such ancient inhumane social construct it is often retaliation with even more inhumane violence.

Caste based violence in modern times:
The perception of urbanears that caste based violence is an old phenomenon which doesn't happen in today's world can be credited to the modernity among metropolitan cities which has not reached semi-urban and rural areas of the country. In fact on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data it was found a spike in atrocities committed against people of lower caste communities by 12 times.

Such a spike in cases even though may be partly credited to the increase in reporting of the cases, it is to be noted that a lot of crimes still go unreported which gives us an estimate as to how many violent crimes are committed on the lower caste communities. A recent case of murder of Lakhbir Singh is a latest example of caste based violence. Lakbhir singh was killed by nihang sikhs for the reason that he picked up a religious book of the sikh religion. In a brutal event leading to his killing he was beaten and his hand was cut off by the culprtis.

Caste based violence on women:
Women of lower castes are subjected to various forms violence by the higher castes. They often come as soft targets to men of higher caste communities whose entire families are socially and economically dependent on the higher caste men. Women are often raped and harassed by the men of higher castes and the fear of violence only prevents them from even reporting such complaints. In many cases where the disputes arose among castes the women are stripped, raped and killed as part of such violent conflicts.

SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989:
This act protects the people belonging to SC/ST communities from the atrocities and ill treatment by higher caste. The act provides provisions for various atrocities and defines what shall amount to atrocity. It also provides provisions for punishment for the same. It also provides for the arrest of persons committing atrocity where there is prima facie evidence for the same. However as per NCRB the conviction rate under this Act is 25.7% only.

Such a less conviction rate can be accredited to various reasons which are discussed in later parts of the paper. As a reason of low conviction rate under the Act it was alleged that the Act was being used to implicate innocents falsely into the legal battles hence a judgment in 2018 amended the provisions of such act which required arrests on prima facie evidences and anticipatory bail was allowed in cases where there was no prima facie evidence However it was again changed back its original position after various protests country wide by amending sections 18(1)(a) and 18(1)(b). It was again held up by the supreme court in 2019.

Literature review:
A Human rights watch report 'BROKEN PEOPLE-Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables"'written by Smita Narula explores various forms of violence against people belonging to lower castes in India. The arrangement of social and economic structures in rural India are such that there is a high level of dependency for lower caste people on the higher caste in any particular village. And whenever there has been an uprising among the underprivileged lower caste to fight for their own rights they were oppressed by the use of influence of political and executive mechanism which is majorly at the disposal of the influential higher caste people with huge lands and ancestral wealth.

The retaliation often takes a violent turn where the people are either beaten badly to make an example out of them and in many cases the entire population of a particular population are wiped off. When such victims make any efforts to opt for judicial mechanisms they often end up in the puzzle of judicial mechanisms which they are not accustomed to. This makes them very vulnerable and helpless at the hands of influential higher castes.

Hence they rather adjust with whatever they have rather than to dare to fight the atrocities they are being subject to. Even women of these lower castes are not spared of these atrocities. In fact they are used as weak points who are vulnerable as easy targets on basic self respect. In such conflicts the women are taken away and raped by men of higher caste. The irony is untouchability fades away conveniently when it comes to rape for such people out of their lust.

There also have been reports of various castes who sell away their women and consider satisfying the needs of the higher caste men as a profession in the name of devadasi. The women are even taken away forcefully from any place and raped by groups of higher caste people. The astoundingly worse thing is that these rapes are not even reported in the police stations out of fear of riots. Even in cases where such things are reported they are not supported by police mechanisms at all as the police are often under the control of influential higher castes who are in politics.

In 'Final Reports' under Sec-498A and the SC/ST Atrocities Act' written by STHABIR KHORA discusses the allegedly false complaints cases filed under The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 on the basis of a study conducted on a sample from various state from where of such cases where the complaints were set out to be false.

The false complaints filed under SC/ST act have affected the credibility of the complaints filed under it over a period of time. However even though in some cases the cases may actually be false it is to be taken into consideration that complaints are declared false in some cases by judiciary due to failure in the active role to be played by police who form a major part in the investigation on the basis whose reports such cases are declared to be false.

In this study conducted by the author some of the major reasons that came out to be the reasons for such complaints to be false are police and courts taking cognizance of delay in complaining to the police and sticking to the mechanism of procedures to be followed otherwise which the cases are declared to be false. The oppressed social structure due to which the people fail to complain out of fear is often not taken into consideration.

In some other cases the complaints filed are declared to be lacking in proper evidence as the public insults in the name of caste are only taken into cognizance. However with unreliability of witness testimonials of the incidents and pressure on witnesses from the upper caste people make the subside and revert from their original testimony out of fear of being subject to violent acts or social outcasting.

In some other cases the police settle the matters outside court by counselling and conciliations and declare the case to be falsely filed which reflects to be false on record. In some other cases the cases are actually falsely made to implicate some other person. It is to be noted that even in these cases it is the upper caste people who take advantage of the law to settle their scores among themselves by using people of lower caste people for such purposes.

In the journal paper The Unchanging Caste Mind: Cycle of Violence against Dalits -Today and Tomorrow written by Venkateswaran, C. & Madaswamy, it is discussed how the caste system is still prevalent in rural parts of India. The atrocities committed against the lower caste communities have only increased in the recent decades in spite of enactments of legislation in relation to it.

The increasing trend shows a crime is comitted aginst dalit every 18 minutes. With this kind of increase in the trend of crime against dalit there is only a limit as to a better tomorrow hence there needs to be law reform to get the situation under control. Such a trend can be credited to the unchanged minds of the people for which social reforms are also equally important.

In the paper Caste-Based Violence: The Indeterminacy In The Law written by Sai Ramani Garimella discusses the lackings in the law relating to the SC/ST atrocities ACT where there are indeterminacies in the legislations. The legislation does not take into consideration the economic backwardness of the victims of atrocities and it provides no protection either for the complainants nor the witnesses.

Even though the Act states about the establishment of special courts, only 9 states have so far established special courts which can help in speedy expedition of such atrocity cases. There also needs to be special and clear prescriptions for procedures to be carried out in the cases under this Act as these cases are socially special in nature as compared to other forms of crime. Also a specialised legislation shall be made to suit the ground realities of these cases by including experienced prosecutors into such legislation making to identify problems at ground level.

Methods:
  • Stricter implementation of related enactments such as SC/St atrocities Act and adding more provisions to make the procedures more flexible.
  • Setting up a statutory body which reviews the allegedly false cases to review on ground level on a case to case basis.
  • Creation of more legislation to keep even the atrocities committed against some of the lower rung communities of the OBCs also in check.
  • Educating and spreading awareness in rural areas as to why caste discriminaton is an evil and connecting the people of all communities together.
  • Creating an alternate body to file complaints and report to in cases where the policemen do not register the complaint.
  • Stricter punishments to false complainants where the complaints are found to be fled with malice intention by an independent authority after a thorough investigation.
  • Protection to the complainant and witnesses after the case is filed under SC/ST atrocities Act.

Results:
It has been noted in various cases that even though the enactments are in their place they have been ineffective to major extent because of loose implementation of the Act where many people get away with the atrocities by using loopholes in the procedural system which is often obscure to the uneducated lower caste people. A body when reviews the false cases on case to case basis shall find was there a genuine filing of a false case or was the case declared to be false on procedural grounds or witnesses turning hostile.

It is to be noted that there are no active substantial legislations for atrocities committed against people belonging to OBC categories on caste basis. Hence there is a requirement of such legislation whereby they are also protected.

Nothing can replace the education and awareness creation for prevention of such atrocities. As it is always in the best interest of people to change instead of legislation forcing them to behave humanely.

It has been noted that in many cases the policemen do not cooperate with the victims in registering FIRs by either threatening or counselling the victims instead of taking action as they are either muscled under the influence of higher caste people or they favor a certain higher caste. Hence there is a requirement of an alternate body solely for such purpose in cases where the complaint is not entertained by the police.

These acts which are made solely to prevent inhumane atrocities are in challenge today because of false complaints filed by some people in such communities for their personal motives. Even though these allegedly false complaints are true in a large number of cases there have been incidents where the cases are filed truly with malafide intention. Hence such cases are to be investigated and false complaints must be punished seriously to protect the integrity of the objective of the Act.

However there also needs to be a thorough investigation in such cases and utmost care has to be taken to not create an adversarial situation for innocents filing complaints for justice as the upper caste influential people have often used the loopholes in the mechanisms for their benefit.

In most of the cases the complainants of such atrocities are people of socially and economically backward background. Hence they are vulnerable to violent attacks after the complaint is made. There needs to be a special provision by which such complainants are provided with protection after a complaint is made.

Conclusion:
As old and backward the practise of casteism is, this inhumane practice is still unfortunately part of Indian society where people are still judged by the caste they are born into and their futures too are decided on the basis of such caste. When an attempt is made to stand against such fate it is often retaliated with violence by the people of higher castes who are backed by politicians and executives belonging to sauch higher castes.

In Spite of enactment of legislations to prevent such atrocities and violent acts the structural loopholes of these legislations pave a perverted way for higher caste people to commit such crimes against underprivileged and get away with any consequences. In the modern world where the world is facing higher problems of climate change, economy and other global issues Indian society is still stuck with the ancient problem of casteism.

Stricter implementation of laws and restructuring the laws to suit the socio-economically underprivileged nature of lower caste can only provide viable solutions. However nothing can replace educating and spreading awareness among the population and efforts to change such mindset is utterly needed.

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