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'.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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
- Protection to the complainant and witnesses after the case is filed under SC/ST
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
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.
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.