The civil rights organization, Dalit Human Rights Defenders (DHRDNet), along with its social media partner Public Bolti, in an online petition on the implementation of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amended Act, 2015 and its Rules, 2016, has has asked a select group of MPs and MLAs, to ask the Prime Minister and chief ministers of their states to focus urgently on caste-based violence and crimes amidst Covid-19 lockdown.
Asking them to forward the recommendations in the petition to the PM and CMs, the petition, which is backed up with the social media campaign #LockdownCasteAtrocities, says, investigation into sexual violence against Dalit women, girls and transgender persons should be done by “higher police officials, particularly by women police officers at the rank of Deputy Superintendent of police.”
The Dalit community has been facing double marginalization, as well as glaring social and economic disparity, which has been further illustrated by the Covid pandemic. With this, the community is also forced to fight the increasing number of caste and gender based atrocities and violence.. The poor were left hungry, migrant laborers were beaten up by the police as they made their way home on foot to avoid starvation and homelessness, workers were fired by companies and factories.
For Dalits, the casteism bore its fangs raping us, beating us up, denying us dues for our labour, the most basic price for our crops, forcing us to travel for miles to draw water from the well, leaving us out of government entitlements, murdering us, shoving us into prisons for raising our voices against injustice.
This cannot go on…
We are not just presenting you with a set of problems in this petition but also a set of possible recourses that can set us on the right track towards undoing the harm caused to Dalit communities by the administration, its structures like the police and government officials, and the society during the Pandemic.
We urge you to forward these recommendations on your letterhead to the Prime Minister’s and the Chief Minister’s (of your state) office and start working towards the realization of the recommendations presented below.
These recommendations were drafted by Dalit leaders and scholars who are part of ‘Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network’ (DHRDNet) and other like-minded coalitions. DHRDNet is a collective of over 1000 Dalit human rights defenders from different states of India. DHRDNet mostly concentrates its work in five states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Recommendations to the State Governments:
- The Chief Ministers must address the nation on caste-based violence and crimes that have taken place since the Covid 19 lockdown.
- The state governments, in collaboration with Dalit led civil society organizations, should release white paper on the status of untouchability practices after a detailed survey and release a Block wise fact sheet of the ground situation.
- The State Governments should set up SC/ST protection centers at block level to ensure safety and security for the SCs/ST persons including transgender persons from these communities, who report crimes committed upon them.
- The State Governments should immediately launch a special Helpline with necessary infrastructure for persons and transgender persons from SC/ST and DNT communities to address caste atrocities, untouchability, sexual violence, domestic violence, communal conflicts, and ethnic conflicts in the wake of continuing lock down. The help line will provide police assistance, legal aid, medical and psychological counseling.
- All the State governments should immediately convene the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee under the head of respective Chief Ministers to review the cases reported across the state during the Covid 19 lockdown with top officials including the Chief Secretary, the Director of General of Police Department, Secretaries of SC/ST Department, Districts collectors and Superintendent of Police. They should review the situation, assess the actions taken, and release relief and compensation to the affected person/families along with ordering investigations in cases where caste-based crimes (which includes caste rapes) were committed, and release a comprehensive report on the action taken.
- State Governments should take appropriate measures to provide entitled schemes, reliefs’ packages and compensation as per the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Amendment Act of 2015, to the affected persons and transgender persons from SC/ST communities.
- The State Governments should immediately set up Exclusive Special Courts in every district for trials of the atrocity cases as per the provisions of the PoA act 2015. The State Governments should appoint competent and committed Exclusive special public prosecutors for cases tried in these courts.
- The High Courts should set up a committee of two of its judges to coordinate with District Courts to monitor trials of rape cases against Dalit women, girls and transgender persons in every district of the state.
- The States should collect district level caste-disaggregated data on cases of rape, gang rape, rape with murder and other crimes against women, girls and transgender persons
Recommendations to the Central Government:
- The Prime Minister must address the nation on caste-based violence and crimes that have taken place since the Covid 19 lockdown.
- In next six months the Central Government should undertake a detailed survey and release a white paper on the status of the sewage workers death and based on the survey findings ensure effective legal action and adequate compensation is provided to the families of the deceased.
- Central Government should develop and adopt sewage workers policy guidelines and regulations to safeguard the health, safety and dignity of sewage workers.
- Central Government should provide compensation to sanitation workers who died on duty during Covid 19 Lockdown fighting the pandemic.
- The Central Government must commission a monument commemorating the sanitation workers who were martyred during the Covid 19 pandemic.
- The central government should direct state governments to conduct surveys on atrocities against Dalit village panchayat presidents/heads in their respective States and submit a status report on Caste discrimination/violence faced by Dalit Panchayat Presidents/Heads.
- The Central Government should enable the National SC/ST commission to conduct thorough independent and impartial investigations into the atrocities committed against the Dalit Human Rights Defenders, in particular Dalit Women and Transgender Human Rights Defenders, and bring those responsible to justice and provide rehabilitative support to the DHRDs/DWHRDs and their families.
- The Central Government should set up a committee in consultation with Dalit-led civil society organizations on the implementation of the PoA Act.
- The Central Government must enact a policy to allow filing of FIRs in SC/ST atrocity cases at SC/ST cells.
- The Central Government should direct all states who have not yet submitted the mandatory report as per section 18 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Rules (1989) for all previous calendar years.
- The Central Government should immediately release the mandatory report under Section 21(4) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. This report is pending since 2018. The last report tabled in Lok Sabha was of 2017.
- The Central Government should identify the States across the country in India where incidents of reported Caste- based violence are on the rise during Covid 19 Lock down and declare them as an “atrocity hit prone State”. The central government should then take joint actions to formulate special schemes and policies to prevent caste atrocities in these states.
Recommendations for cases of sexual violence against Dalit women and girls:
- In the incidents of serious crimes of sexual violence against Dalit women, girls and Transgender persons, the investigation should be done by the higher Police officials particularly by women Police officer at the rank of Deputy Superintendent of police. The investigation in these atrocities should be completed within two months from the date of the atrocities.
- Adult Dalit women and Transgender persons who survive sexual violence should be given a government job and monthly pension as a rehabilitative measure by the state governments.
- Minor Dalit girls and transgender persons who have survived sexual violence should be provided monetary support (through direct bank transfers) to ensure that they receive education at top institutes in the country up till post-graduation level.