Social Issues

RTI data point to high incidence of caste-related violence, murders in Tamil Nadu between 2016 and 2020

Published : September 16, 2021 16:16 IST

Members of various dalit organisations staging road roko to protest against the murder of a Dalit in the Cental Prison, in Palayamkottai, Tamil Nadu, in April. Photo: By Special Arrangement

In the last five years, a total of 300 murders in incidents of various caste-related violence across Tamil Nadu have been registered under the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. A majority of the victims were Dalits.

In the last five years, a total of 300 murders in incidents of various caste-related violence across Tamil Nadu have been registered under the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. A majority of the victims were Dalits.

Thoothukudi and Madurai top in the number of murders among the 33 districts for which statistics on murders of Dalits and tribal people were procured under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. Murders of tribal people were limited to a few districts where they resided. Five districts, including Tirunelveli, which is notorious for caste discrimination and caste-related violence, are yet to respond to the RTI requests.

The RTI queries seeking details on murders of Dalit and tribal people from January 2016 to December 2020 were sent in two dispatches to all district police chiefs, besides other officials concerned, by the Madurai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Evidence. A detailed analysis of the data exposes the prevalence of casteism in these districts.

On an average, three to six murders a day were committed in the State during the period of study. Thoothukudi had the maximum number of murders with 29, followed by Madurai (28), Kallakurichi (24; recently carved out from Villupuram), Villupuram (13), Nagapattinam (19) and Coimbatore (17). Tiruvarur, Tiruvallur and Ranipet recorded two each while Tirupathur and Dharmapuri registered one each.

The study exposed the weak prosecution in cases relating to cases of caste-based discrimination. Of the total 300 murder cases, the accused were convicted in a mere 13, while in 30 cases the accused were acquitted. While 28 cases are still under investigation, the rest 229 are pending before the courts. A. Kadir, executive director of Evidence, told Frontline that 86 per cent of cases were pending before the courts for five years and more.

Kadir was of the view that such sensitive cases should not be delayed. The State government, he said, should have established adequate special courts to hear the cases registered under the S.C./S.T. Act. “Unfortunately, the districts have only 50 per cent of the special courts and hence the delay in all these cases is inevitable,” Kadir pointed out. He said sufficient number of special courts must be formed to speed up the pending cases.

He thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin for reorganising the State-level Vigilance Committee under the provisions of the S.C./S.T. Act to monitor the welfare of people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to redress their grievances. Both State and district level committees are required to meet twice a year and discuss issues confronting members of these oppressed caste groups. Unfortunately, the State committee was convened just thrice in the last three decades. “The Chief Minister has promised to activate the high level committee,” he said.

He also said that though the conviction ratio under the S.C./S.T. Act was low, what pained the activists most was the equally low conviction ratio in cases of heinous crimes such as murders. “The Chief Minister should intervene and establish more number of special courts across the State to ensure speedy justice to the wronged. Pending cases must be expedited and the culprits should be brought before the courts,” he said.

Activists demanded that the State must, as per the provisions of the S.C./S.T. Act, compensate families of all the Dalit victims with jobs and land.

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