This report was researched and written by Smita Narula, researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. It is based on research conducted from January to March and July to August 1998. More than 300 Dalit men and women were interviewed. Interviewees were chosen on the basis of their willingness and ability to speak freely with Human Rights Watch; no interviews were conducted under circumstances that presented the risk of retaliation. Human Rights Watch also spoke with more than one hundred government officials, social workers, Dalit activists, and attorneys.
The report was edited by Patricia Gossman, senior researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Wilder Tayler, general counsel, and Cynthia Brown, program director. Production assistance was provided by Tom Kellogg, associate for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Alex Frangos, associate, Human Rights Watch, and Raj Barot, intern. Scott Campbell, consultant to Human Rights Watch, assisted with the research in Bihar.
Human Rights Watch would like to thank the following people and organizations for their generous assistance: Henri Tiphagne and members of People's Watch, Tamil Nadu; members of Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti, Bihar; Sudha Varghese of Nari Gunjan, Bihar; Vivek Pandit and members of Samarthan, Maharashtra; Martin Macwan and members of Navsarjan, Gujarat; Paul Divakar of Sakshi, Andhra Pradesh; Ruth Manorama of the National Federation for Dalit Women; Henry Thiagaraj of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust, Tamil Nadu; and Kathy Sreedhar of the Holdeen India Fund, Washington, D.C.
We also thank the many people who prefer, for their own well-being and that of their organizations, that their names not be mentioned - an unfortunate indicator of the volatility surrounding the issue of caste conflict in India. We would like to express our gratitude to the many Dalit men, women, and children who spoke with us, recounting their personal experiences of hardship and violence. They made this report possible.
Finally, we acknowledge with appreciation the support of the Ford Foundation, which provided funding that has enabled Human Rights Watch to pursue caste and gender-related research and advocacy in India.
The recommendations for this report were drafted in consultation with over forty activists during two sets of meetings convened by Human Rights Watch in July and August 1998 in Bangalore and New Delhi, respectively. Activists and lawyers from eight states and New Delhi took part, representing prominent Dalit rights and women's rights organizations, and national civil liberties and human rights organizations. We wish to thank them for their participation and invaluable contributions.
Participants' names and organizations are listed by state.
Tamil Nadu: Henri Tiphagne, C. J. Rajan, and Vincent, People's Watch; Henri Thiagaraj and James Antony, Dalit Liberation Education Trust; V. P. Epsibai, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Integration Movement; S. A. Maniraj, Tamil Nadu Women's Forum; A. Vinoth, Athi Tamilar Viduthalaiiyyakkam; P. Chandrabose, Dalit Liberation Movement. Karnataka: Ruth Manorama, National Federation of Dalit Women and Women's Voice; Aloysius SJ, Lazar SJ, John SJ, Indian Social Institute; Jyothi Raj, H. M. Amitha, Rural Education for Development Society; Sam A. Chelladurai, HAKKU; Ashwini Madhyasta, Anekal Rehabilitation, Education and Development Centre. Andhra Pradesh: N. Paul Divakar, V. Nanda Gopal, SAKSHI; Bejawada Wilson, Safai Karmachari Andolan; L. Jaya, Vedika; G. Sathyavathi, Rural Awareness and Development Society; P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthi Darula Union; Maharashtra: John Samuel, National Centre for Advocacy Studies; P. A. Sebastian, Indian People's Human Rights Commission; Orissa: R. K. Nayak, Sashmi Nayak, NISWASS; Rajasthan: P. L. Mimroth, Promila, Society of Depressed People for Social Justice; Geeta Deepika Rawatt, Sasvika; Bihar: Sudha Varghese, Nari Gunjan; Radha Mohan Singh, Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti. Gujarat: Martin Macwan, Navsarjan; Meera Velayudhan, Institute for Environmental and Social Concerns. New Delhi: Dr. Walter Fernandes, Programme for Tribal Studies, Indian Social Institute; Dr. P. D. Mathew, Programme for Legal Aid, Indian Social Institute; Dr. Ambrose Pinto, Executive Director, Department of Research, Indian Social Institute; Dr. Sanjeeb K. Behera, Programme for Scheduled Castes, Indian Social Institute; Bhagwan Das, Dalit Solidarity, Asian Centre for Human Rights; South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre.
I am a twenty‑six-year‑old Dalit agricultural laborer. I earn Rs. 20 [US$0.50] a day for a full day's work. In December 1997, the police raided my village... The superintendent of police [SP] called me a pallachi, which is a caste name for prostitute. He then opened his pant zip... At 11:00 a.m. the sub-collector came. I told the collector that the SP had opened his zip and used a vulgar word. I also told him that they had broken my silver pot. The SP was angry I had pointed him out...
The next morning the police broke all the doors and arrested all the men in the village... The SP came looking for me. My husband hid under the cot. My mother was with me at the time. I was in my night clothes. The police started calling me a prostitute and started beating me. The SP dragged me naked on the road for one hundred feet. I was four months pregnant at the time... A sixty-year-old woman asked them to stop. They beat her too and fractured her hands... They brought me to the police station naked... Fifty-three men had been arrested. One of them took off his lungi [wrap-around cloth] and gave it to me to cover myself.
I begged the police officers at the jail to help me. I even told them I was pregnant. They mocked me for making such bold statements to the police the day before. I spent twenty-five days in jail. I miscarried my baby after ten days. Nothing has happened to the officers who did this to me....
-Guruswamy Guruammal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Atrocities Act: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Atrocities Rules: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995.
Backward castes: those whose ritual rank and occupational status are above "untouchables" but who themselves remain socially and economically depressed. Also referred to as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) or Shudras (who constitute the fourth major caste category in the caste system).
BDVS: Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti (Bihar Dalit Development Organization).
Bhangis: a Dalit community of manual scavengers in Gujarat.
Bhumihar: a powerful upper-caste community in Bihar.
Bill hook: an agricultural tool with a hooked blade.
BJP: Bharatiya Janata Party, head of India's current coalition government.
Caste Hindus: those falling within the caste system, or all non-Dalits.
CRPF: Central Reserve Police Force, the largest of the paramilitary forces in India.
Dalits: literally meaning "broken" people, a term employed by rights activists to refer to "untouchables."
Devadasis: literally meaning "servants of god," referring to those forced into temple prostitution.
DGP: Deputy General of Police.
DPI: Dalit Panthers of India.
DSP: Deputy Superintendent of Police.
FIR: The First Information Report, the first report, recorded by police, of a crime.
Goonda: A habitual criminal, usually associated with a criminal gang.
Lathi: A police baton, frequently carried by Indian police. It is approximately one meter in length, two to five centimeters in diameter, and usually made of wood.
Lathi-charge: the act of charging a crowd with a baton.
Lower castes: those relatively lower in the caste system, including Dalits.
Manual scavengers: see below under "safai karamcharis."
Naxalites: groups with a Marxist/Leninist/Maoist orientation engaged in a militant struggle to achieve higher wages and more equitable land distribution in Bihar and other states.
NGO: nongovernmental organization.
NHRC: The National Human Rights Commission of India.
OBCs: Other Backward Classes, see above under "backward castes."
Pallars: a Dalit community in Tamil Nadu.
Pakhis: a Dalit community of manual scavengers in Andhra Pradesh.
Panchayat: village council.
PCR Act: Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
PUCL: People's Union for Civil Liberties, the country's largest civil liberties organization.
Pucca: solid, in reference to houses made of brick.
PUDR: People's Union for Democratic Rights, a well-respected national human rights organization.
Ranvir Sena: a private militia of upper-caste landlords in Bihar.
Reservations: quotas for various lower castes allowing for increased representation in education, government jobs, and political bodies (provided as compensation for past mistreatment).
Safai karamcharis: cleaning workers or manual scavengers engaged in, or employed for, manually carrying human excreta or any sanitation work.
Scheduled castes: a list of socially deprived ("untouchable") castes prepared by the British Government in 1935. The schedule of castes was intended to increase representation of scheduled-caste members in the legislature, in government employment, and in university placement. The term is also used in the constitution and various laws.
Scheduled tribes: a list of indigenous tribal populations who are entitled to much of the same compensatory treatment as scheduled castes.
SHRC: State Human Rights Commission.
Sikkaliars: a Dalit community of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu.
SP: Superintendent of Police
SRPF: State Reserve Police Force, an armed branch of the police that is called in during times of emergency.
TADA: Terrorism and Anti-Disruptive Activities Act.
Thevars: a powerful "backward caste" in Tamil Nadu.
"Untouchability": the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes.
"Untouchables": those at the bottom of or falling outside the caste system. Administrative parlance now employs the term "scheduled castes" while rights activists and the population more generally employ the term "Dalits."
Upper castes: technically those occupying the first three major caste categories (thereby excluding the backward castes). Those interviewed for this report, however, often use the term to refer to all non-Dalit Hindus.
When we are working, they ask us not to come near them. At tea canteens, they have separate tea tumblers and they make us clean them ourselves and make us put the dishes away ourselves. We cannot enter temples. We cannot use upper-caste water taps. We have to go one kilometer away to get water... When we ask for our rights from the government, the municipality officials threaten to fire us. So we don't say anything. This is what happens to people who demand their rights.
-A Dalit manual scavenger, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat
Thevars [caste Hindus] treat Sikkaliars [Dalits] as slaves so they can utilize them as they wish. They exploit them sexually and make them dig graveyards for high-caste people's burials. They have to take the death message to Thevars. These are all unpaid services.
-Manibharati, social activist, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu
In the past, twenty to thirty years ago, [Dalits] enjoyed the practice of "untouchability." In the past, women enjoyed being oppressed by men. They weren't educated. They didn't know the world... They enjoy Thevar community men having them as concubines... They cannot afford to react, they are dependent on us for jobs and protection... She wants it from him. He permits it. If he has power, then she has more affection for the landlord.
-A prominent Thevar political leader, Tamil Nadu
More than one-sixth of India's population, some 160 million people, live a precarious existence, shunned by much of society because of their rank as "untouchables" or Dalits-literally meaning "broken" people-at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection. In what has been called India's "hidden apartheid," entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste. National legislation and constitutional protections serve only to mask the social realities of discrimination and violence faced by those living below the "pollution line."
Despite the fact that "untouchability" was abolished under India's constitution in 1950, the practice of "untouchability"-the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes- remains very much a part of rural India. "Untouchables" may not cross the line dividing their part of the village from that occupied by higher castes. They may not use the same wells, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs. Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms, and communities as a whole are made to perform degrading rituals in the name of caste.
Most Dalits continue to live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education. With the exception of a minority who have benefited from India's policy of quotas in education and government jobs, Dalits are relegated to the most menial of tasks, as manual scavengers, removers of human waste and dead animals, leather workers, street sweepers, and cobblers. Dalit children make up the majority of those sold into bondage to pay off debts to upper-caste creditors. Dalit men, women, and children numbering in the tens of millions work as agricultural laborers for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US$0.38 to $0.88) a day. Their upper-caste employers frequently use caste as a cover for exploitative economic arrangements: social sanction of their status as lesser beings allows their impoverishment to continue.
Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class, and gender. Dalit girls have been forced to become prostitutes for upper-caste patrons and village priests. Sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women are used by landlords and the police to inflict political "lessons" and crush dissent within the community. According to a Tamil Nadu state government official, the raping of Dalit women exposes the hypocrisy of the caste system as "no one practices untouchability when it comes to sex." Like other Indian women whose relatives are sought by the police, Dalit women have also been arrested and tortured in custody as a means of punishing their male relatives who are hiding from the authorities.
The plight of India's "untouchables" elicits only sporadic attention within the country. Public outrage over large-scale incidents of violence or particularly egregious examples of discrimination fades quickly, and the state is under little pressure to undertake more meaningful reforms. Laws granting Dalits special consideration for government jobs and education reach only a small percentage of those they are meant to benefit. Laws designed to ensure that Dalits enjoy equal rights and protection have seldom been enforced. Instead, police refuse to register complaints about violations of the law and rarely prosecute those responsible for abuses that range from murder and rape to exploitative labor practices and forced displacement from Dalit lands and homes.
Political mobilization that has resulted in the emergence of powerful interest groups and political parties among middle- and low-caste groups throughout India since the mid-1980s has largely bypassed Dalits. Dalits are courted by all political parties but generally forgotten once elections are over. The expanding power base of low-caste political parties, the election of low-caste chief ministers to state governments, and even the appointment of a Dalit as president of India in July 1997 all signal the increasing prominence of Dalits in the political landscape but cumulatively have yet to yield any significant benefit for the majority of Dalits. Laws on land reform and protection for Dalits remain unimplemented in most Indian states.
Lacking access to mainstream political organizations and increasingly frustrated with the pace of reforms, Dalits have begun to resist subjugation and discrimination in two ways: peaceful protest and armed struggle. Particularly since the early 1990s, Dalit organizations have sought to mobilize Dalits to protest peacefully against the human rights violations suffered by their community. These movements have quickly grown in membership and visibility and have provoked a backlash from the higher-caste groups most threatened-both economically and politically-by Dalit assertiveness. Police, many of whom belong to these higher-caste groups or who enjoy their patronage, have arrested Dalit activists, including social workers and lawyers, for activity that is legal and on charges that show the police's political motivation. Dalit activists are jailed under preventive detention statutes to prevent them from holding meetings and protest rallies, or charged as "terrorists" and "threats to national security." Court cases drag on for years, costing impoverished people precious money and time.
Dalits who dare to challenge the social order have been subject to abuses by their higher-caste neighbors. Dalit villages are collectively penalized for individual "transgressions" through social boycotts, including loss of employment and access to water, grazing lands, and ration shops. For most Dalits in rural India who earn less than a subsistence living as agricultural laborers, a social boycott may mean destitution and starvation.
In some states, notably Bihar, guerrilla organizations advocating the use of violence to achieve land redistribution have attracted Dalit support. Such groups, known as "Naxalites," have carried out attacks on higher-caste groups, killing landlords, village officials and their families and seizing property. Such attacks on civilians constitute gross violations of international humanitarian law. Naxalite groups have also engaged in direct combat with police forces.
In response, police have targeted Dalit villagers believed to be sympathetic to Naxalites and have conducted raids in search of the guerrillas and their weapons. While there is no question that the Naxalites pose a serious security threat and that the police are obliged to counter that threat, the behavior of the police indicates that the purpose of the raids is often to terrorize Dalits as a group, whether or not they are members of Naxalite organizations. During the raids, the police have routinely beaten villagers, sexually assaulted women, and wantonly destroyed property.
Higher-caste landlords in Bihar have organized private militias to counter the Naxalite threat. These militias, or senas, also target Dalit villagers believed to be sympathetic to Naxalites. Senas are believed responsible for the murders of many hundreds of Dalits in Bihar since 1969. One of the most prominent militias, the Ranvir Sena, has been responsible for the massacre of more than 400 Dalit villagers in Bihar between 1995 and 1999. In one of the largest of such massacres, on the night of December 1, 1997, the Ranvir Sena shot dead sixteen children, twenty-seven women, and eighteen men in the village of Laxmanpur-Bathe, Jehanabad district Bihar. Five teenage girls were raped and mutilated before being shot in the chest. The villagers were reportedly sympathetic to a Naxalite group that had been demanding more equitable land redistribution in the area. When Ramchela Paswan returned home from the fields, he found seven of his family members shot: "I started beating my chest and screaming that no one is left...." When asked why the sena killed children and women, one sena member responded, "We kill children because they will grow up to become Naxalites. We kill women because they will give birth to Naxalites."
The senas, which claim many politicians as members, operate with impunity. In some cases, police have accompanied them on raids and have stood by as they killed villagers and burned down their homes. On April 10, 1997, in the village of Ekwari, located in the Bhojpur district of Bihar, police stationed in the area to protect lower-caste villagers instead pried open the doors of their residences as members of the sena entered and killed eight residents. In other cases, police raids have followed attacks by the senas. Sena leaders are rarely prosecuted for such killings, and the villagers are rarely or inadequately compensated for their losses. Even in cases where police are not hostile to Dalits, they are generally not accessible to call upon: most police camps are located in the upper-caste section of the village and Dalits are simply unable to approach them for protection.
In the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, clashes between Pallars (a community of Dalits) and Thevars (a marginally higher-caste non-Dalit community) have plagued rural areas since 1995. New wealth among the Pallars, who have sent male family members to work in Gulf states and elsewhere abroad, has triggered a backlash from the Thevars as the Pallars have increasingly been able to buy and farm their own lands or look elsewhere for employment. At the same time, a growing Dalit political movement has provided the Pallars with a platform for resisting the still-prevalent norms of "untouchability." While some Dalits have joined militant groups in Tamil Nadu, such groups have generally engaged in public protests and other political activities rather than armed resistance. The Thevars have responded by assaulting, raping, and murdering Dalits to preserve the status quo.
Local police, drawn predominantly from the Thevar community, have conducted raids on Dalit villages, ostensibly to search for militant activists. During the raids they have assaulted residents, particularly women, and detained Dalits under preventive detention laws. With the tolerance or connivance of local officials, police have also forcibly displaced thousands of Dalit villagers. During one such raid, Guruswamy Guruammal, a pregnant, twenty-six-year-old Dalit agricultural laborer, was stripped, brutally beaten, and dragged through the streets naked before being thrown in jail. She told Human Rights Watch, "I begged the police officers at the jail to help me. I even told them I was pregnant. They mocked me for [having made] bold statements to the police the day before. I spent twenty-five days in jail. I miscarried my baby after ten days. Nothing has happened to the officers who did this to me."
Excessive use of force by the police is not limited to rural areas. Police abuse against the urban poor, slum dwellers, Dalits, and other minorities has included arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions and forced evictions. Although the acute social discrimination characteristic of rural areas is less pronounced in cities, Dalits in urban areas, who make up the majority of bonded laborers and street cleaners, do not escape it altogether. Many live in segregated colonies which have been targets of police raids. This report documents a particularly egregious incident in a Dalit colony in Bombay in July 1997, when police opened fire without warning on a crowd of Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dalit cultural and political hero Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The firing killed ten and injured twenty-six.
Dalits throughout the country also suffer in many instances from de facto disenfranchisement. During elections, those unpersuaded by typical electioneering are routinely threatened and beaten by political party strongmen in order to compel them to vote for certain candidates. Already under the thumb of local landlords and police officials, Dalit villagers who do not comply have been murdered, beaten, and harassed.
Police and upper-caste militias, operating at the behest of powerful political leaders in the state, have also punished Dalit voters. In February 1998, police raided a Dalit village in Tamil Nadu that had boycotted the national parliamentary elections. Women were kicked and beaten, their clothing was torn, and police forced sticks and iron pipes into their mouths. Kerosene was poured into stored food grains and grocery items and police reportedly urinated in cooking vessels. In Bihar, political candidates ensure their majority vote with the help of senas, whose members kill if necessary. The Ranvir Sena was responsible for killing more than fifty people during Bihar's 1995 state election campaign. The sena was again used to intimidate voters in Ara district, Bihar, during the February 1998 national parliamentary elections.
Dalits who have contested political office in village councils and municipalities through seats that have been constitutionally "reserved" for them have been threatened with physical abuse and even death in order to get them to withdraw from the campaign. In the village of Melavalavu, Madurai district Tamil Nadu, following the election of a Dalit to the village council presidency, members of a higher-caste group murdered six Dalits in June 1997, including the elected council president, whom they beheaded. As told to Human Rights Watch by an eyewitness, the leader of the attack "instructed the Thevars [caste Hindus] to kill all the Pariahs [Dalits]... They pulled all six out of the bus and stabbed them on the road... Five Thevars joined together, put Murugesan [the Dalit president] on the ground outside the bus, and chopped off his head, then threw it in a well half a kilometer away... Some grabbed his hands, others grabbed his head, and one cut his head... They deliberately took the head and poured the blood on other dead bodies." As of February 1999, the accused-who had been voted out of their once-secure elected positions-had not been prosecuted. Those arrested were out on bail, while the person identified as the ringleader of the attack was still at large.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, enacted in 1989, provides a means to address many of the problems Dalits face in India. The act is designed to prevent abuses and punish those responsible, establish special courts for the trial of such offenses, and provide for victim relief and rehabilitation. A look at the offenses made punishable by the act provides a glimpse into the retaliatory or customarily degrading treatment Dalits may receive. The offenses include forcing members of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance; dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in their premises or neighborhood; forcibly removing their clothes and parading them naked or with painted face or body; interfering with their rights to land; compelling a member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe into forms of forced or bonded labor; corrupting or fouling the water of any spring, reservoir or any other source ordinarily used by scheduled castes or scheduled tribes; denying right of passage to a place of public resort; and using a position of dominance to exploit a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe woman sexually.
The potential of the law to bring about social change has been hampered by police corruption and caste bias, with the result that many allegations are not entered in police books. Ignorance of procedures and a lack of knowledge of the act have also affected its implementation. Even when cases are registered, the absence of special courts to try them can delay prosecutions for up to three to four years. Some state governments dominated by higher castes have even attempted to repeal the legislation altogether.
Between 1994 and 1996, a total of 98,349 cases were registered with the police nationwide as crimes and atrocities against scheduled castes. Of these, 38,483 were registered under the Atrocities Act for the sorts of offenses enumerated above. A further 1,660 were for murder, 2,814 for rape, and 13,671 for hurt. Given that Dalits are both reluctant and unable (for lack of police cooperation) to report crimes against themselves, the actual number of abuses is presumably much higher. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has reported that these cases typically fall into one of three categories: cases relating to the practice of "untouchability" and attempts to defy the social order; cases relating to land disputes and demands for minimum wages; and cases of atrocities by police and forest officials.
Although this report focuses primarily on abuse against Dalit communities that have begun to assert themselves economically or organize themselves politically, it also examines the weakest sectors of the population: those with no political representation, living in the poorest of conditions, and made to perform the most degrading of tasks with little or no remuneration. To eke out a subsistence living, Dalits throughout the country, numbering in the tens of millions, are driven to bonded labor, manual scavenging, and forced prostitution under conditions that violate national law and their basic human rights.
An estimated forty million people in India, among them fifteen million children, are bonded laborers, working in slave-like conditions in order to pay off a debt. A majority of them are Dalits. According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are manual scavengers who clear feces from public and private latrines and dispose of dead animals; unofficial estimates are much higher. An activist working with scavengers in the state of Andhra Pradesh claimed, "In one toilet there can be as many as 400 seats which all have to be manually cleaned. This is the lowest occupation in the world, and it is done by the community that occupies the lowest status in the caste system." In India's southern states, thousands of girls are forced into prostitution before reaching the age of puberty. Devadasis, literally meaning "female servant of god," usually belong to the Dalit community. Once dedicated, the girl is unable to marry, forced to become a prostitute for upper-caste community members, and eventually auctioned off to an urban brothel.
This report is about caste, but it is also about class, gender, poverty, labor, and land. For those at the bottom of its hierarchy, caste is a determinative factor for the attainment of social, political, civil, and economic rights. Most of the conflicts documented in this report take place within very narrow segments of the caste hierarchy, between the poor and the not-so-poor, the landless laborer and the small landowner. The differences lie in the considerable amount of leverage that the higher-caste Hindus or non-Dalits are able to wield over local police, district administrations, and even the state government.
Investigations by India's National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Police Commission, and numerous local nongovernmental organizations all concur that impunity is rampant. In cases investigated for this report, with the exception of a few transfers and suspensions, no action has been taken against police officers involved in violent raids or summary executions, or against those accused of colluding with private actors to carry out attacks on Dalit communities. Moreover, in many instances, repeated calls for protection by threatened Dalit communities have been ignored by police and district officials.
The "National Agenda for Governance," the election manifesto for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came to power in the February 1998 elections, outlines a program of action for the "upliftment" of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. It promises to take steps to establish "a civilised, humane and just civil order... which does not discriminate on the grounds of caste, religion, class, colour, race or sex"; ensures the "economic and educational development of the minorities"; safeguards the interests of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes by "appropriate legal, executive and societal efforts and by large scale education and empowerment"; provides "legal protection to existing percentages of reservation in educational institutions at the State level"; and removes "the last vestiges of untouchability." However, to date, the Indian government has done little to fulfill its promises to Dalits.
A national campaign to highlight abuses against Dalits spearheaded by human rights groups in eight states began to focus national and international attention to the issue in 1998. The recommendations for this report were drafted in consultation with more than forty activists who have been working closely on the campaign. In publishing this report now, Human Rights Watch adds its voice to theirs in calling upon the Indian government to implement the recommendations outlined in this report, to fulfill the commitments made regarding scheduled castes in the National Agenda for Governance, and to take immediate steps to prevent and eliminate caste-based violence and discrimination. We further urge the international community to press the Indian government to bring its practices into compliance with national and international law.
In upholding constitutional guarantees of equality, freedom, justice and human dignity, the government of India should demonstrate its commitment to the eradication of caste violence and caste-based discrimination by implementing the following recommendations at the earliest possible date.
In particular, the government should implement measures designed to ensure that states abolish the practice of "untouchability," in compliance with Article 17 of the constitution; commit to taking steps to prevent further violence and prosecute both state and private actors responsible for caste-motivated attacks on Dalit communities; enforce the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and other relevant legislation; and educate state agents and the Indian population on the rights and constitutional freedoms of all citizens.
Immediately and without fail, the government should disband the Ranvir Sena, prosecute and punish state and private actors responsible for abuses documented in this report, and place a high priority on the protection of Dalit women. Naxalite groups have also committed egregious abuses, including murders of landlords and their family members. Human Rights Watch condemns all such attacks on civilians.
Many of the recommendations that follow complement the major areas of action outlined above. In addition, Human Rights Watch recognizes that the problem of caste violence and caste-based discrimination cannot be resolved without a meaningful commitment to land and wage reform.
Recommendations to the Government of India
The Indian government should fully implement the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. In particular it should:
·Ensure that states constitute and oversee state- and district-level vigilance and monitoring committees, as required by Rules 16 and 17 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, for the purpose of properly implementing the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 [hereinafter the Atrocities Rules and the Atrocities Act]. This effort should ensure that a sufficient number of investigators (including appropriate representation of Dalit men and women) are included in the committees to guarantee full implementation of the act. Given the number of potential cases, the government should enlist lawyers, social workers, medical personnel, teachers, civil servants, and others involved in Dalit issues as investigators. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives should also be consulted in the recruitment of investigators. Committees should submit their reports to district collectors to pursue prosecution. In turn, collectors should report on actions taken during committee meetings. Reports published by the committee should be made public, and in-depth training should be provided to district officials charged with enforcing the act.
·Ensure that states establish special courts in every revenue district and appoint special public prosecutors to try cases arising under the Atrocities Act.
·Ensure strict implementation of the Atrocities Act, as regards victims of violent abuse and other "atrocities." Each police station should have a scheduled caste/scheduled tribe atrocities cell to handle investigations of abuses and alleged violations of the Atrocities Act. Each revenue district should also have a special deputy superintendent of police charged with investigating atrocities under the act. In keeping with the Atrocities Rules, police who refuse to register cases under the act should be punished accordingly. For full implementation of the act, these cells should be statutorily empowered to receive and address complaints of violations under the act and complaints of official misconduct. They should also be able to file "first information reports" (FIRs), the first step in prosecution of a criminal charge, when abuses are committed against Dalits. The cells should work closely with the vigilance and monitoring committees established under the Atrocities Rules to ensure full enforcement.
·Ensure immediate and full compensation by the district administration to victims of atrocities as per the Atrocities Rules. The value of property destroyed and crops damaged should be included in the compensation schedule. The committees appointed by the government under the rules to estimate loss should include NGOs in addition to government officials. In accordance with Rule 11, the district administration should also ensure that victims' trial expenses are paid.
·Provide training to district officials charged with enforcing the Atrocities Act and ensure that a copy of the act (translated into the local language) and accompanying rules are easily available and prominently posted in all local level police stations and available in all courts trying cases under the act.
·Statutorily empower the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to oversee implementation of the Atrocities Act in all states. Strengthen the capacity of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to operate legal cells and open branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate prosecution of cases. As recommended by the commission, amend Article 338 of the constitution to empower the commission to issue directions for corrective action and implement its findings.
·Strengthen the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women to operate branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate prosecution of cases. Amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 so that national and state human rights commissions are not automatically exempted from inquiring into matters already pending before a state commission or any other commission duly constituted under any law.
·Establish a civilian review board or civilian ombudsman committee comprising judges and lawyers to monitor police stations and ensure that Supreme Court guidelines on treatment of persons in custody, as established in D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, are strictly enforced. NGO input should also be solicited. Ensure that complaints against law enforcement personnel are promptly and thoroughly investigated by adequately trained investigatory staff. The agency should have the power to subpoena documents, summon witnesses, and enter the premises of police stations, lock-ups, and detention centers to conduct thorough investigations.
·Implement the recommendations made by the National Police Commission in 1980, specifically those that call for a mandatory judicial inquiry in cases of alleged rape, death, or grievous injury of people in police custody and the establishment of investigative bodies whose members should include civilians as well as police and judicial authorities.
·Ensure that each police station has adequate female police personnel, consistent with recommendations made by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Female police should record complaints submitted by women. Each police station should also have adequate scheduled caste and scheduled tribe personnel and enough financial resources to carry out investigations.
·Ensure strict implementation of the bonded labor-related provisions of the Atrocities Act. As Dalits constitute the majority of bonded laborers, the government should ensure that states and districts establish and oversee bonded labor vigilance committees, as required by the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976. The government should ensure that a sufficient number of investigators can be included in the committee to guarantee implementation of the act. Lawyers, social workers, teachers, civil servants, and others with ties to bonded laborers and their families should be enlisted as investigators. Nongovernmental organization representatives should be consulted in the recruitment of investigators. The government should provide in-depth training to district officials charged with enforcing the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976, as directed by the Supreme Court in NeerajaChaudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1984.
·Ensure appropriate implementation of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, including prosecution of officials responsible for the perpetuation of the practice and non-rehabilitation of affected scavenger communities, the majority of which are Dalits. The government should ensure that states and districts constitute and oversee vigilance and monitoring committees with adequate representation of NGOs, women, and members of the scavenger communities. State governments should also train district officials charged with enforcing the act.
·Implement measures designed to ensure that states are in compliance with Article 45 of the constitution, which mandates free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of fourteen. Primary education is the first step in breaking the cycle of discrimination and caste-based employment.
·Incorporate education on relevant legislation for Dalits and women into school curricula (including education on the Atrocities Act and the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993).
·Launch a nationwide public awareness campaign regarding the legal prohibition of "untouchability," "atrocities" and other forms of discrimination and violence against Dalits. This campaign should explain in simple terms what actions are legally prohibited, what recourse is available to Dalits and their families, and what the procedures are for filing an FIR. It should also include a program of public service announcements in all states aimed at sensitizing the population on Dalit issues and creating awareness of Dalit rights.
·Make available to the public government studies on issues affecting Dalits. Specifically, the government should release the white paper on reservations and the white paper on land reform. The first outlines the extent to which constitutional reservations have been implemented at the state and central level since independence. In particular, attention should be given to implementation of reservations in all ministries, in the secretariats of the prime minister and president, and in the police and judiciary. The second outlines the extent to which tenancy acts and acts that establish ceilings on single landowners' holdings have been implemented in all states.
·Ensure that adequate financial resources are allocated to the proper functioning of the newly constituted government bodies under the seventy-third and seventy-fourth amendments to the Indian constitution. These amendments provide that in every panchayat (village council)and every municipality, seats shall be reserved for scheduled-caste and scheduled-tribe members in proportion to their representation in the population. Among the seats reserved for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, not less than one-third shall be reserved for women belonging to those castes or tribes. The government should work with intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to provide appropriate training to elected members of rural and urban bodies, including gender and caste sensitivity training. Women should take part in legal literacy workshops, and all those appointed to reserved panchayat positions should be provided legal protection to ensure that they are able to perform their duties.
The Indian government should provide full cooperation to relevant United Nations bodies in the implementation of the following recommendations:
·Invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, and on Violence against Women to visit India. The government should encourage them to include in their investigations allegations of illegal detention, abuse, and deaths of Dalits in police custody, of fake encounter killings, and of violence against Dalit women, including abuse by the police and by private upper-caste militias.
·Implement the recommendations of the 49th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In particular, the government should implement the recommendation that "special measures be taken by the authorities to prevent acts of discrimination towards persons belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, and in the case where such acts have been committed, to conduct thorough investigations, to punish those found responsible and provide just and adequate reparation to the victims." As per committee recommendations, the committee's findings should be available to the public in local languages.
·Promptly submit the Indian government's next periodic report on compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination to CERD, as this has been overdue since January 4, 1998. As requested by CERD, the report should include "detailed information on the legislative aspects and the concrete implementation of the Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Constitution," as well as information on the powers and functions of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
·Promptly submit the Indian government's initial report on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as this has been overdue since August 8, 1994.
·Ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984.
Recommendations to All State Governments
In addition to recommendations outlined for the government of India, state governments should implement the following recommendations at the earliest possible date:
·Ensure full implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, including the appointment of special courts, special prosecutors, and vigilance and monitoring committees. Provide training in proper procedures under the act to judges and prosecutors charged with trying atrocities cases. (See related recommendations under Recommendations to the Government of India.)
·Ensure ratification and implementation of the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976 and ratify and implement the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. (See related recommendations under Recommendations to the Government of India.)
·Implement measures designed to ensure that states are in compliance with Article 46 of the constitution, which directs states to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of economic exploitation.
·Study and publicize the extent to which land and wage reforms have been implemented in the state. In particular, state governments should determine industry compliance with minimum and living wage standards, particularly those industries that employ a majority of Dalits, as well as the status of land reforms, land ceiling laws, and distribution of surplus land. The study should also review proof of ownership in land records, the extent of encroachment on scheduled caste/scheduled tribe lands. NGO participation should be ensured in the investigations.
·Take immediate steps to prevent further violence, social boycotts, and other forms of discrimination against Dalits and to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks and acts of discrimination in affected districts. Any officials or members of the police who fail to respond to repeated calls for protection from villagers, or fail to prosecute acts of violence or discrimination should also be prosecuted.
·Take decisive steps to ensure police agents use deadly force only as a last resort to protect life. Police agents should act in accordance with guidelines established in relevant state police manuals that meet international standards on use of force. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force or Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials emphasize that the use of force and firearms should be in consonance with respect for human rights and that deadly force should not be used against persons unless "strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."
·Take decisive steps to ensure that police do not conduct raids on villages or engage in arbitrary and unlawful destruction and seizure of property in response to caste clashes. Police involved in such activities should be promptly investigated by an independent judicial body and prosecuted accordingly.
·Ensure that investigations of complaints of violence against women include women investigators. Amend the Criminal Procedure Code so that rape victims are not restricted to approaching government hospitals for medical examinations and can instead be examined by any registered practitioner for the purposes of gathering evidence.
·Establish independent monitoring agencies to review cases of Dalits and Dalit activists detained under detention laws. All cases found to be without merit, or in violation of proper detention procedures, should be withdrawn.
·Compile and release state-level statistics on the number of atrocities committed against Dalits, the number of cases registered under the Atrocities Act, and the extent to which reservations have been implemented in the state. States should ensure that all NGOs and citizens have access to this information.
·Investigate the process of recruitment of police officers in the state to ensure that requirements of reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are met and that monetary bribes are not part of the police and judicial recruitment process. Prosecute and punish those found to have engaged in bribes or extortion while registering cases or conducting raids.
·Ensure speedy review and publication of findings by commissions of inquiry appointed by the state to investigate abuses against Dalits.
Recommendations Specific to Abuses Documented in this Report
Naxalites and other armed opposition groups are at all times obliged to respect minimum standards of humane behavior. These standards require that civilians and other protected persons be treated humanely, with specific prohibitions on murder, torture, or cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment. Groups engaging in armed struggle should look to the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions for additional guidance on the legal foundations of these basic principles. Additionally, the state government of Bihar should:
·Appoint an independent judicial body to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks in affected districts, including any officials or members of the police who failed to respond to repeated calls for protection for villagers or to prosecute previous acts of violence.
·Make special efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacks on women during the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre of December 1997, and other massacres.
·Investigate the role of the police in conducting raids on villages in the aftermath of massacres and in illegally destroying or seizing property. Police responsible for such abuses should be prosecuted and punished accordingly. Dalits who have lost property during such raids should be compensated.
·Disband the Ranvir Sena, an upper-caste private militia which has been implicated in the massacre of hundreds of Dalits since 1994.
·Provide full security to villagers against further private militia attacks. Relocate village-based police pickets away from upper-caste areas to areas more accessible and secure for lower-caste communities.
·Ensure that in all districts affected by caste clashes (particularly in Jehanabad, Patna, and Bhojpur) at least one senior officer is a member of the Dalit community.
The state government of Maharashtra should:
·Prosecute officers found guilty of killing and injuring hundreds of Dalits in Bombay's Ramabai colony on July 11, 1997 when members of the Special Reserve Forces fired indiscriminately into a crowd of Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
·Prosecute and punish those officials held responsible by the Gundewar commission for the Ramabai killings.
The state government of Tamil Nadu should:
·Use an independent judicial body to promptly investigate and prosecute police involved in raids on villages during the southern district clashes from July 1995 to December 1998. Dalits who lost property during such raids should be compensated.
·Ensure that in all southern districts affected by caste clashes (particularly Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai, Madurai, and Theni) at least one senior officer is a member of the Dalit community.
Recommendations to the United Nations
·The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should ensure that all United Nations agencies working in India pay particular attention to the issue of caste violence and caste discrimination and develop programs and strategies designed to curb abuse and encourage accountability.
·Agencies should establish consultative mechanisms to seek Dalit NGO input in project design and evaluation.
·The World Health Organization should investigate and publicize the adverse health consequences arising from the practice of manual scavenging and promote measures to eliminate exposure of Dalits to hazardous work conditions.
·U.N. agencies that have programs for women in India, including WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, and UNIFEM, should use these programs to focus attention on the human rights implications of violence against Dalit women, including the role of official forces in perpetuating that violence.
·UNIFEM, in conjunction with the Indian government and NGOs, should expand its efforts in providing legal training to rural women elected as panchayat members.
Recommendations to the World Bank and Other International Lending Institutions
The World Bank and other international lending institutions operational in India should:
·Ensure that anti-discrimination measures are built into World Bank and Asian Development Bank-funded projects in areas where the problems of caste violence and caste discrimination are severe. As part of its commitment to good governance, the World Bank, as well as other international lending institutions, should establish ongoing dialogue with Dalit NGOs at all stages of the decision-making process-before a loan is released, while the project is being implemented, and in the course of any post-project evaluation.
·Prior to approval of projects, and in consultation with NGOs, investigate the effect of proposed policies and programs on caste violence, caste discrimination, and discrimination against Dalit women, and explore ways in which programs could help alleviate violence and discrimination.
Recommendations to India's Donors and Trading Partners
India's donors and trading partners should:
·Encourage India to adopt the recommendations outlined above and use every opportunity to raise the problem of caste violence both publicly-at international meetings, congressional or parliamentary hearings, and in press conferences-and privately, at Consultative Group meetings and in meetings with relevant officials.
·Work to develop programs and strategies for bilateral and multilateral aid programs to India that would make funds available to promote legal literacy programs aimed at educating Dalits and in particular Dalit women on the laws that are designed to protect them; train rural women who are elected to panchayats; launch a series of sensitization campaigns aimed at educating the population on the rights of Dalits and human rights in general; set up the various independent monitoring agencies described above; strengthen the capacity of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Commission for Women to operate legal cells and open branch offices in all states; and train judicial and law enforcement personnel-particularly investigators of caste violence-on crimes against Dalits and gender-based crimes against Dalit women. Programs should also be devised that would enhance the recruitment of women investigators.
·Encourage India to implement the recommendations of the National Police Commission and to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Extrajudicial Executions, and Violence against Women.
The constitution has merely prescribed, but has not given any description of the ground reality. We can make a dent only if we recognise the fact that the caste system is a major source, indeed an obnoxious one, of human rights violations.
-R. M. Pal, "The Caste System and Human Rights Violations"
With little land of their own to cultivate, Dalit men, women, and children numbering in the tens of millions work as agricultural laborers for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US$0.38 to $0.88) a day. Most live on the brink of destitution, barely able to feed their families and unable to send their children to school or break away from cycles of debt bondage that are passed on from generation to generation. At the end of day they return to a hut in their Dalit colony with no electricity, kilometers away from the nearest water source, and segregated from all non-Dalits, known as caste Hindus. They are forbidden by caste Hindus to enter places of worship, to draw water from public wells, or to wear shoes in caste Hindu presence. They are made to dig the village graves, dispose of dead animals, clean human waste with their bare hands, and to wash and use separate tea tumblers at neighborhood tea stalls, all because-due to their caste status-they are deemed polluting and therefore "untouchable." Any attempt to defy the social order is met with violence or economic retaliation.
As documented throughout this report, the perpetuation of human rights abuses against India's Dalit population is intimately connected to police abuse. Local police officials routinely refuse to register cases against caste Hindus or enforce relevant legislation that protects Dalits. Prejudiced by their own caste and gender biases, or under the thumb of influential landlords and upper-caste politicians, police not only allow caste Hindus to act with impunity but in many cases operate as agents of powerful upper-caste groups to detain Dalits who organize in protest against discrimination and violence, and to punish Dalit villagers because of their suspected support for militant groups.
Under constitutional provisions and various laws, the state grants Dalits a certain number of privileges, including reservations (quotas) in education, government jobs, and government bodies. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was designed to prevent abuses against members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and punish those responsible. Its enactment represented an acknowledgment on the part of the government that abuses, in their most degrading and violent forms, were still perpetrated against Dalits decades after independence. The laws, however, have benefited very few and, due to a lack of political will, development programs and welfare projects designed to improve economic conditions for Dalits have generally had little effect. Dalits rarely break free from bondage or economic exploitation by upper-caste landowners.
Political parties have frequently fashioned their manifestos and campaign slogans around the need for "upliftment" of these marginalized sectors, while political leaders, mostly drawn from higher castes, offer the promise of equal status and equal rights. It would be difficult to convince the Dalits of Dholapur district, Rajasthan, that, fifty years after independence, the government had done anything to end the violence and discrimination that have ruled their lives. In April 1998, a Dalit of the area was assaulted by an upper-caste family who forcibly pierced his nostril, drew a string through his nose, paraded him around the village, and tied him to a cattle post-all because he refused to sell bidis (hand-rolled cigarettes) on credit to the nephew of the upper-caste village chief. The message sent from the judiciary on caste discrimination is equally grim: in July 1998 in the state of Uttar Pradesh, an Allahabad High Court judge had his chambers "purified with Ganga jal" (water from the River Ganges), because it had earlier been occupied by a Dalit judge.
The remainder of this chapter describes the basic tenets of the caste system, the context for the abuses described in this report, the political movements they have helped fuel, and the legal framework of the government's response.
The Caste System
India's caste system is perhaps the world's longest surviving social hierarchy. A defining feature of Hinduism, caste encompasses a complex ordering of social groups on the basis of ritual purity. A person is considered a member of the caste into which he or she is born and remains within that caste until death, although the particular ranking of that caste may vary among regions and over time. Differences in status are traditionally justified by the religious doctrine of karma, a belief that one's place in life is determined by one's deeds in previous lifetimes. Traditional scholarship has described this more than 2,000-year-old system within the context of the four principal varnas, or large caste categories. In order of precedence these are the Brahmins (priests and teachers), the Ksyatriyas (rulers and soldiers), the Vaisyas (merchants and traders), and the Shudras (laborers and artisans). A fifth category falls outside the varna system and consists of those known as "untouchables" or Dalits; they are often assigned tasks too ritually polluting to merit inclusion within the traditional varna system.
Within the four principal castes, there are thousands of sub-castes, also called jatis, endogamous groups that are further divided along occupational, sectarian, regional and linguistic lines. Collectively all of these are sometimes referred to as "caste Hindus" or those falling within the caste system. The Dalits are described as varna-sankara: they are "outside the system"-so inferior to other castes that they are deemed polluting and therefore "untouchable." Even as outcasts, they themselves are divided into further sub-castes. Although "untouchability" was abolished under Article 17 of the Indian constitution, the practice continues to determine the socio-economic and religious standing of those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. Whereas the first four varnas are free to choose and change their occupation, Dalits have generally been confined to the occupational structures into which they are born.
"Untouchability" and Segregation
A 1997 report issued by theNational Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes underscored that "untouchability"-the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes-was still practiced in many forms throughout the country. The report described a number of social manifestations of caste-based discrimination in the 1990s: scheduled-caste bridegrooms were not permitted to ride a mare in villages, a marriage tradition; scheduled castes could not sit on their charpoys (rope beds) when persons of other castes passed by; scheduled castes were not permitted to draw water from common wells and hand-pumps; and in many tea-shops and dhabas (food stalls), separate crockery and cutlery were used for serving the scheduled castes.
The prevalence of "untouchability" practices was also noted by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1996, while reviewing India's tenth to fourteenth periodic reports under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:
Although constitutional provisions and legal texts exist to abolish untouchability and to protect the members of the scheduled castes and tribes, and social and educational policies have been adopted to improve the situation of members of the scheduled castes and tribes and to protect them from abuses, widespread discrimination against those people, and the relative impunity of those who abuse them, points to the limited effect of these measures. The Committee is particularly concerned at reports that people belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes are often prevented from using public wells or from entering cafes or restaurants and that their children are sometimes separated from other children in schools, in violation of article 5 (f) of the Convention.
Most Dalits in rural areas live in segregated colonies, away from the caste Hindus. According to an activist working with Dalit communities in 120 villages in Villapuram district, Tamil Nadu, all 120 villages have segregated Dalit colonies. Basic supplies such as water are also segregated, and medical facilities and the better, thatched-roof houses exist exclusively in the caste Hindu colony. "Untouchability" is further reinforced by s tate allocation of facilities; separate facilities are provided for separate colonies. Dalits often receive the poorer of the two, if they receive any at all.
As part of village custom, Dalits are made to render free services in times of death, marriage, or any village function. During the Marama village festival in Karnataka state, caste Hindus force Dalits to sacrifice buffalos and drink their blood. They then have to mix the blood with cooked rice and run into the village fields without their chappals (slippers). The cleaning of the whole village, the digging of graves, the carrying of firewood, and the disposal of dead animals are all tasks that Dalits are made to perform.
In villages where Dalits are a minority, the practice of "untouchability" is even more severely enforced. Individual attempts to defy the social order are frequently punished through social boycotts and acts of retaliatory violence further described below. Activists in Tamil Nadu explained that large-scale clashes between caste communities in the state's southern districts have often been triggered by Dalits' efforts to draw water from a "forbidden" well or by their refusal to perform a delegated task. Dalits have responded to ill-treatment by converting, en masse, to Buddhism, Christianity, and sometimes Islam. Once converted, however, many lose access to their scheduled-caste status and the few government privileges assigned to it. Many also find that they are ultimately unable to escape treatment as "untouchables."
The Relevance of Land
The caste system is an economic order. It prevents someone from owning land or receiving an education. It is a vicious cycle and an exploitative economic arrangement. Landowning patterns and being a high-caste member are co-terminous. Also there is a nexus between [being] lower-caste and landlessness... Caste is a tool to perpetuate exploitative economic arrangements.
- R. Balakrishnan, chairman, Tamil Nadu Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Most Dalit victims of abuse are landless agricultural laborers. According to the 1991 census, 77 percent of the Dalit workforce is in the primary (agricultural) sector of the economy. Those who own land often fall into the category of marginal landowners. Land is the prime asset in rural areas that determines an individual's standard of living and social status. Lack of access to land makes Dalits economically vulnerable; their dependency is exploited by upper- and middle-caste landlords and allows for many abuses to go unpunished.
India's policy of economic liberalization is also having an effect on Dalits and their livelihood. As the public sector shrinks due to privatization, the reservations model is affecting-and able to assist-fewer people, inasmuch as government-related jobs are being drastically reduced. Globalization has also led to coastal lands increasingly being acquired by multinationals (via the central government) for aquaculture projects. Dalits are the main laborers and tenants of coastal land areas and are increasingly being forced to leave these areas-to live as displaced people, for the most part-as foreign investment rises.
Land reform and increased wages for rural laborers are the central demands of most leftist guerrilla organizations active in West Bengal, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh. Private landlord militias and state security forces have targeted civilians thought to be guerrilla sympathizers. The failure of most state governments to implement land reform legislation has only added to the sense of economic vulnerability that fuels militant movements. In Bihar in particular, guerrillas enjoy Dalit support, as most of the Dalit community lives on the edge of starvation. Laws and regulations that prohibit alienation of Dalit lands, set ceilings on a single landowner's holdings, or allocate surplus government lands to scheduled castes and
scheduled tribes have been largely ignored, or worse, manipulated by upper castes with the help of district administrations.
In 1996 a nongovernmental organization undertook a door-to-door survey of 250 villages in the state of Gujarat and found that, in almost all villages, those who had title to land had no possession, and those who had possession had not had their land measured or faced illegal encroachments from upper castes. Many had no record of their holdings at all. Even those who had been offered land under agrarian reform legislation refused to accept it for fear of an upper-caste backlash. In the late 1980s in Chenaganambatti village in Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, 9.5 acres of idle land belonging to a temple under the Hindu Religious Endowment Act were auctioned and sold to villagers for cultivation. At the time, some 500,000 acres of such idle land existed in Tamil Nadu. Caste Hindus did not allow Dalits to take part in the auction. In 1989 Dalits began demanding participation and, in 1992, finally succeeded in entering the auction. Caste Hindus protested and appealed to the commissioner of the Hindu Religious Endowment Act, a central government official. The commissioner decreed that the lands, once bought at auction, legally belonged to the Dalits. One month later, and in broad daylight, one hundred members of the Kallar community, an upper-caste group, invaded and destroyed nine acres of paddy (rice) fields belonging to Dalits. In subsequent attacks, the Kallars murdered two Dalit men and assaulted three Dalit women, who sustained head injuries. As the leader of the Dalit Panthers movement in Tamil Nadu (see below) recalled:
They just cut their throat on the road. Even though the land belongs to Dalits, they [the Dalit owners] cannot plow it, even today. The accused were never punished. No trial took place.
Social Boycotts and Retaliatory Violence
Whenever Dalits have tried to organise themselves or assert their rights, there has been a backlash from the feudal lords resulting in mass killings of Dalits, gang rapes, looting and arsoning, etc. of Harijan [Dalit] basties [villages].
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Whether caste clashes are social, economic, or political in nature, they are premised on the same basic principle: any attempt to alter village customs or to demand land, increased wages, or political rights leads to violence and economic retaliation on the part of those most threatened by changes in the status quo. Dalit communities as a whole are summarily punished for individual transgressions; Dalits are cut off from their land and employment during social boycotts, women bear the brunt of physical attacks, and the Atrocities Act is rarely enforced.
Describing one such boycott, a village resident and social worker in the Marathwada region of eastern Maharashtra recalled:
The upper caste got together and said that we touched their god so we shouldn't live here. They put a social boycott on all the Dalits. We could not enter their land, we could not work for them, we could not get wood, we could not buy goods from their stores, and we could not grind grain in the flour mill. We were not even allowed to go near the wells in upper-caste territory to fetch water. We could use our government pumps, but that wasn't enough.
The social boycott is reinforced when the village council levies fines against caste Hindus who refuse to participate in it. In villages in Karnataka state, upper castes are generally fined Rs. 501 (US$12.53) for giving employment to Dalits during a social boycott.
Violence Against Dalit Women
As Human Rights Watch was told by a government investigator in Tamil Nadu, "[n]o one practices untouchability when it comes to sex." Rape is a common phenomenon in rural areas. Women are raped as part of caste custom or village tradition. According to Dalit activists, Dalit girls have been forced to have sex with the village landlord. In rural areas, "women are induced into prostitution (Devadasi system)..., which [is] forced on them in the name of religion." The prevalence of rape in villages contributes to the greater incidence of child marriage in those areas. Early marriage between the ages of ten years and sixteen years persists in large part because of Dalit girls' vulnerability to sexual assault by upper-caste men; once a girl is raped, she becomes unmarriageable. An early marriage also gives parents greater control over the caste into which their children are married.
Dalit women are also raped as a form of retaliation. Women of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are raped as part of an effort by upper-caste leaders to suppress movements to demand payment of minimum wages, to settle sharecropping disputes, or to reclaim lost land. They are raped by members of the upper caste, by landlords, and by the police in pursuit of their male relatives.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, upper-caste leaders deny the prevalence of sexual abuse against Dalit women. A prominent leader of the Thevar community in Tamil Nadu, who wished to remain anonymous, vehemently denounced the assertion that sexual relations between Dalit laborers and their landowning employers were nonconsensual. The very practice of "untouchability," he explained, was until recently looked upon favorably by Dalits. He added that in the present day, the practice has almost completely disappeared. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, he claimed:
In the past, twenty to thirty years ago, harijans [Dalits] enjoyed the practice of "untouchability." In the past, women enjoyed being oppressed by men. They weren't educated. They didn't know the world. Ladies would boast to others that my husband has more wives. Most of Dalit women enjoy relations with Thevar men. They enjoy Thevar community men having them as concubines. It is not done by force. Anything with Dalits is not done by force. That's why they don't react. They cannot afford to react, they are dependent on us for jobs and protection. Harijans formerly enjoyed their masters. "Untouchability" was there in various forms, but because of education, economic improvement, now in 95 percent of places, "untouchability" is not practiced. Thevars never say anything against them. Without Dalits we cannot live. We want workers in the fields. We are landholders. Without them we cannot cultivate or take care of our cattle. But Dalit women's relations with Thevar men are not out of economic dependency. She wants it from him. He permits it. If he has power, then she has more affection for the landlord.
Attacks on Dalit women during massacres, police raids, and caste clashes are discussed throughout this report. Dalit women are easy targets for any perpetrator because upper castes consider them to be "sexually available" and because they are largely unprotected by the state machinery. The Bathani Tola massacre in Bihar in 1996 epitomizes this phenomenon.
The "landlords" wanted to reassert their feudal tyranny over the poor who have started becoming more vocal and by attacking the most vulnerable, women and children, they sent a clear message that they would not allow anyone to disturb the social structure... Women were raped and hacked. The huts and small houses in which the victims took shelter were burnt down. The shrill cries failed to draw the attention of the police posted a kilometre and a half away because their food came from the landlords' houses.
The Role of the Police
In 1979 the government of India constituted the National Police Commission to analyze the factors behind the dismal performance of the police throughout the country. The commission's eight-volume report, which includes recommendations to address the problem, is still considered by government officials and civil rights activists to be the most comprehensive and definitive document on the issue. Moreover, the problems of corruption, police brutality, and impunity documented in the report persist to this day. A Times of India editorial by a New Delhi-based human rights activist summarized the findings of the report as follows:
The sum of the report, in fact, detail and verify what common sense tells us. Subversion begins at recruitment which is rife with patronage. Promotions follow suit depending on the "reach" of lucky people. Transfers substitute for punishment as a bad egg is foisted on one community after another. At the police station, a normal young recruit enters such a strong atmosphere of routine violence that in a few years he has been molded into something quite unrecognisable. Low pay, bad housing, little insurance against the hazards of police work, absurdly long hours, practically no forensic support to assist in crime detection, and punishing demands for results, all confirm the ordinary policeman's need for a "Godfather" to guide him through the thickets of survival. Favour for favour then ensures that the only agency legally allowed to use force against citizens gets transformed into a powerfully armed untamed assemblage that masquerades as the Law.
The National Police Commission's recommendations include a section on "police and the weaker sections," which detailed police abuses specific to scheduled castes. The section noted that "complaints against the police in their handling of cases arising from atrocities against Scheduled Castes often relate to refusal to register complaints, delayed arrival on the scene, half-hearted action while investigating specific cases, extreme brutality in dealing with accused persons belonging to weaker sections, soft treatment of accused persons belonging to influential sections, making arrests or failing to make them on malafide considerations, etc."
Two decades later, none of the commission's recommendations have been adopted, and police continue to detain, torture and extort money from Dalits without much fear of punishment. Frustration with the police has also helped to fuel armed and unarmed Dalit movements.
Dalit Political Movements
In addition to a growing number of lower-caste-based political parties and human rights movements, Dalits have taken part in struggles against the state and their upper-caste counterparts since the 1960s to claim their rights; several of these movements have used arms and have advocated violence. While some Dalit leaders have argued that the fundamental rights of Dalits should be addressed within a constitutional framework, many non-urbanized Dalits have taken the position that their problems cannot be resolved without a militant struggle against those in power.
Mainstream political parties in India have generally adopted a top-down interventionist approach to Dalit problems, offering promises of loans, housing, and proper implementation of reservations (quotas allowing for increased representation in government jobs, education, and political bodies) as compensation for past mistreatment. Issues of "untouchability," temple entry, violence, and economic exploitation were largely left unaddressed by the state and political parties. As the traditional political parties abandoned or avoided efforts to mobilize support among Dalits at the grassroots level, they paved the way for an autonomous Dalit leadership to emerge in the early 1990s. This new leadership has been threatening for backward and upper castes.
Dalit Panthers of India
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Dalit Panthers, and several groups with a Marxist/Leninist or Maoist orientation, emerged outside the framework of recognized political parties and parliamentary politics to confront the established powers. The Dalit Panthers were formed in the state of Maharashtra in the 1970s, ideologically aligning themselves to the Black Panther movement in the United States. During the same period, Dalit literature, painting, and theater challenged the very premise and nature of established art forms and their depiction of society and religion. Many of these new Dalit artists formed the first generation of the Dalit Panther movement that sought to wage an organized struggle against the varna system. Dalit Panthers visited "atrocity" sites, organized marches and rallies in villages, and raised slogans of direct militant action against their upper-caste aggressors.
The determined stance of the Dalit Panthers served to arouse and unite many Dalits, particularly Dalit youths and students. The defeat of ruling party candidates and the boycott of elections in some areas forced the government to take notice of the movement: Panther leaders were often harassed and removed from districts for speaking out against the government and Hindu religion. They also became frequent targets of police brutality and arbitrary detentions. Disagreements over the future of the movement and the inclusion of other caste groups ultimately led to a dispersal of Dalit Panther leadership. The former aggressiveness and militancy of the Dalit Panthers have for the most part dissipated, though small splinter groups or groups that have adopted the name still survive. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the Dalit Panthers of India have thrived since the 1980s as a nonviolent awareness-raising and organizing movement concentrating primarily on women's rights and land issues and claims. They are currently led by a man named Tirumavalavan. As documented in chapters V and VIII, their members are continually harassed and detained by the police.
The origins of the Naxalite movement can be traced to a breakaway Maoist group in West Bengal, which in March 1967 split from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) over differences in ideology: while CPI(M) chose the parliamentary path to change, the Maoist group chose to engage in armed struggle. The group initiated a series of peasant uprisings beginning in a village in the state of West Bengal called Naxalbari, from which rebel leaders took the name "Naxalite." The peasant communities seized land, burned property records, and assassinated exploitative landlords and others identified as "class enemies." Although the uprising was brutally crushed within a few months, similar revolts broke out elsewhere in West Bengal and in other parts of India.
By 1970, Naxalite groups had expanded their efforts to large areas of the countryside stretching from West Bengal to the southern state of Kerala. They engaged in a campaign of land seizure and violence against the police and security forces, as well as against political figures, civil servants, landlords, and other civilians. In many instances, land seizures and other demonstrations of peasant resistance forced landlords to flee their lands. The Naxalites' abuses included targeted assassinations and kidnappings of political figures and police officials. Naxalite groups also carried out bombings and arson in areas where they were likely to cause civilian casualties and summarily executed, and in some cases tortured to death, suspected police informers. All such practices constitute gross violations of international law. Although the Naxalite insurgency was brought to an end in most parts of the country by a brutal police crackdown designed to eliminate the militants and their supporters, the movement continues to survive, albeit with some splits and regroupings, in the rural areas of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar.
From the outset of the Naxalbari uprising, the government has resorted to extra-legal measures to deal with the Naxalite threat, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and forced disappearances. Most of the victims of police abuse are peasants and laborers. Members and organizers of peasant unions are automatically labeled as Naxalites. Tribal and Dalit villagers are often singled out as Naxalite sympathizers, while attacks on rural activists and striking laborers are sanctioned as part of a campaign to fight "Naxalite terrorism." Senior police officers with a record of "killing Naxalites" even receive promotions, cash rewards, and favored postings.
The significance of the Naxalite movement in Bihar's caste clashes is further discussed in Chapter IV.
The Rise of the "Backward Castes"
For those within the four principal varnas, caste has not proved to be a completely rigid system. Just as the higher ritual status of Brahmins does not necessarily translate into economic or political supremacy, those lower in the ranks are able to move up in the local hierarchy through the capture of political power, the acquisition of land, and migration to other regions. A combination of these strategies and India's policy of quotas or reservations have particularly benefited the so-called backward castes, or Shudras. Referred to as "other backward classes" (OBCs) in administrative parlance, backward castes are defined as those whose ritual rank and occupational status are above "untouchables" but who themselves remain socially and economically depressed.
Contrary to the general presumption that the OBCs belong to the deprived sections of Hindu society, few groups in independent India have made progress on a scale comparable to the OBCs. However, it must be noted that the term OBCs is a problematic categorization. One author writes that OBCs span such a wide cultural and structural arch as to be almost meaningless. There are at one extreme the dominant, landowning, peasant castes which wield power and authority over local Vaishyas and Brahmins, whereas at the other extreme are the poor, near-Untouchable groups living just above the pollution line. The category also includes many artisan and servicing castes.
Some academics have divided Shudras into two clearly identifiable subcategories: upper Shudras and lower Shudras. In north India the upper Shudras comprise such economically powerful and politically aggressive groups as the Jats and Yadavs. The Jats, though not officially included in the OBC list, still regard themselves as the leaders of the backward castes.
The inclusion of so many heterogeneous groups within the OBC category has both made for its enormous size and has enabled its leaders to advocate their claim for special status and land in post-independence India. The first wave of land reform in the 1950s aimed at conferring ownership rights on existing tenants of land. Land reform legislation was responsible for displacing the large class of zamindars (large landowners) and creating a substantial class of medium-sized owner-cultivators, many of whom were OBCs. After cornering the benefits of this first wave of legislation, these groups attempted to block all subsequent land reform measures designed to benefit marginal farmers and the landless, who usually belonged to castes and groups lower on the social hierarchy, most notably Dalits. Economic prosperity soon translated into political gains for OBCs, while the reservation system of quotas-successfully implemented-ensured them a presence in the state machinery.
In 1980 the National Police Commission noted a disturbing trend in caste conflicts between backward castes and scheduled castes:
In the recent years we have also seen a new factor emerging in the social struggle in rural areas in which the "backward classes" have been surging forward to take up positions of power and control in society, knocking down the upper castes who had held sway in such positions all along in the past. In this process of marching forward, the backward classes tend to push back the Scheduled Castes and others who occupy the lower rung in the social hierarchical ladder. There is greater tension between structural neighbours in this hierarchy than between the top level and the bottom level.
The pattern has since solidified such that caste clashes are far more prevalent between scheduled castes and backward castes than they are between these groups and upper castes. The Home Ministry's Annual Report for 1995 reported that caste-related incidents in Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and Maharashtra increased by 25 to 30 percent from previous years. A majority of these incidents were taking place between scheduled castes and OBCs. The trend has continued, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu, as documented in Chapter V.
The Constitution of India came into effect in 1950, the year that India became a republic and three years after India's independence from British rule. It embodies the principles of equality, freedom, justice, and human dignity and requires both state and central governments to provide special protection to scheduled-caste members, to raise their standard of living, and to ensure their equality with other citizens. To women, the constitution guarantees equal rights, liberty, justice and the right to live with dignity. Discrimination on the basis of religion and gender is prohibited, and compensation for past discrimination is promoted.
Building on constitutional provisions, the government of India has pursued a two-pronged approach to narrowing the gap between the socio-economic status of the scheduled-caste population and the national average. The first approach involves regulatory measures designed to ensure that relevant legal provisions are adequately implemented, enforced and monitored; the second focuses on increasing the self-sufficiency of the scheduled-caste population through financial assistance for self-employment activities and through development programs to increase education and skills.
The protective component of this two-pronged strategy includes the implementation of legal provisions contained in the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; other state and central government laws; and reservations or quotas in the arenas of government employment and higher education. India's policy of reservations is an attempt by the central government to remedy past injustices related to low-caste status. To allow for proportional representation in certain state and federal institutions, the constitution reserves 22.5 percent of seats in federal government jobs, state legislatures, the lower house of parliament, and educational institutions for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. These protective measures are monitored by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The development measures for the educational, social, and economic upliftment of scheduled castes are administered by the Ministry of Welfare through the state governments.
Like many of the protective measures described in this report, the reservation policy has not been successfully implemented for Dalits. In the highlights of its fourth report for the years 1996-97 and 1997-98, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes noted that reservations had only been provided in government services and stressed that reservations in defense forces and the judiciary should be enforced. It added that the private sector, which continues to enjoy government patronage in terms of concessional land, financing, and excise and sales tax relief, should also be brought under the purview of the reservation policy. Despite a large body of legislation and administrative agency mandates assigned exclusively to deal with the plight of scheduled castes, the persistence of caste-based prejudices and the denial of access to land, education, and political power have all contributed to an atmosphere of increasing intolerance. Violence against Dalits in their communities, which has steadily climbed since 1994, is only the most extreme form of that intolerance.
Between 1994 and 1996, a total of 98,349 cases were registered with the police nationwide as crimes and atrocities against scheduled castes. Of these, 38,483 were registered under the Atrocities Act. A further 1,660 were for murder, 2,814 for rape, and 13,671 for hurt. Given that Dalits are both reluctant and unable (for lack of police cooperation) to report crimes against themselves, the actual number of abuses is presumably much higher. While there are not yet official figures available on killings and attacks in 1997 and 1998, the latest wave of attacks described in this and other reports confirms that the violence has continued.
The organized killing of poor peasants and landless labourers by middle and upper caste landed armies and [the ensuing] retaliation by Marxist-Leninist organizations [Naxalites] have been flashpoints in the agrarian scene in Bihar over the last fifteen years. This is not a new phenomenon. What is relatively new however is the entry on the rural scene... of a new upper caste landed organization called the Ranbir Sena. It has, over the last three years, been responsible for a series of massacres of the rural poor, such that the names of obscure villages have become known to a wider public through the national press...
In a region where tragic massacres repeat themselves with monotonous regularity, the state's response is predictable and misdirected-setting up more police camps and increasing the financial allocation for anti-Naxalite operations... The issues remain the same; the landlord army is different each time. We are condemned to reiterate the same demands each time and like some ritual drama whose script is familiar to all, the same events are re-enacted each time, drawing the same reactions from the state... One has to remember that the dreadful reality of bloody massacres are the outcome of [the state's] refusal to address basic questions of agrarian struggle.
- People's Union for Democratic Rights, Agrarian Conflict in Bihar and the Ranbir Sena, October 1997
The eastern state of Bihar, with a population of eighty-six million people, is notorious for its poverty and lawlessness and for an ongoing conflict between Naxalites and private upper-caste militias set against the backdrop of acute social disparities. Since independence, Bihar has consistently ranked among the worst of India's larger states in urbanization, production, and income; it has the highest number of very large landholders and one of the largest landless populations among all Indian states. Agrarian issues have long dominated the state's political life as the feudal nature of landholding has remained largely unchanged despite legislation establishing ceilings on the maximum amount of land one individual can own. Political leaders who depend on landed elites for support have had little interest in pursuing reforms. Wages for agricultural laborers are also among the lowest in the country. In many districts workers are not paid in money but instead often work a full day for as little as two kilograms of rice.
Since the 1960s, social activists advocating on behalf of low-caste groups have attempted, through various forms of peaceful protest, to pressure the government to institute land reforms; at the same time, Naxalite groups have advocated armed resistance and have carried out targeted assassinations of landlords. In turn, higher-caste landholders have retaliated by forming private militias, known as senas (armies), to fight the Naxalites and terrorize and kill low-caste villagers whom they believe to have provided support to the Naxalites, or who have organized to demand better wages and other reforms. Hundreds of Dalits have been killed in sena attacks since the early 1990s. The attacks frequently take place at night; in many cases, the victims, including women and children, have been shot in their beds while they were sleeping. Members of the senas have also raped women and girls during the attacks. They have often claimed responsibility for the attacks and have even announced beforehand which villages they planned to target. However, because the senas enjoy the patronage of powerful elites, they operate with impunity.
Rather than addressing the security needs of landless laborers most affected by the violence or provide protection to villagers at risk, a series of inefficient and corrupt state governments since the early 1970s has only exacerbated the problem. In many instances, government officials-many of whom are alleged to have caste ties or other affiliations with the senas-have acted as agents of the private armies and have turned a blind eye to the killings. State security forces have helped train the senas, and in some cases, police have accompanied the militias during their attacks on Dalit villages. Police have also conducted their own raids on Dalit villages in the aftermath of massacres carried out by upper-caste militias. The ostensible reason for police raids has been to capture suspected Naxalites, but the raids are frequently used to punish villagers suspected of sympathizing with the militant groups. Like the attacks by private militias, police raids have been characterized by violence, looting, and assaults on women. The state's response to militant activity by Naxalite groups and by the senas is conspicuously uneven. Sena members have rarely been prosecuted for acts of violence. Police routinely detain and charge suspected Naxalite militants, however, and many are killed in so-called encounters with the police.
This chapter traces the conflict in Bihar since the birth of the Ranvir Sena, an upper-caste militia formed in 1994. Human Rights Watch investigated three massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena and two raids conducted by the police in 1997 and 1998; documentation of those incidents, and additional information on other incidents, is provided below. The chapter also describes a pattern of state collusion and police complicity in sena attacks.
The Context of the Conflict
Scheduled castes constitute close to 14 percent of the population in Bihar; most of the agricultural laborers belong to these castes. The four main upper castes in the region are the Brahmins, the Bhumihars, the Rajputs, and the Kayasthas. There are more than one hundred backward castes, the dominant of which are the Yadavs and the Kurmis. In 1996 and 1997 the state government was led by Laloo Prasad Yadav, president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal party and member of the Yadav backward caste; although his administration was dominated by upper castes. Laloo Prasad Yadav resigned in 1998; he was replaced as chief minister by his wife Rabri Devi.
The implementation of reservations in favor of the backward castes has improved their status throughout the state; the same has not held true of scheduled castes whose status continues to deteriorate. Central Bihar in particular has seen a consistent rise in abuses against scheduled castes since the early 1990s at the hands of upper castes and backward castes who employ them as laborers on their lands. Rapes and murders of Dalit women in particular have reportedly increased during this period. As one long-time observer of violence in the state has noted, "Disparities in socioeconomic hierarchy run alongside the caste hierarchy throughout Bihar although the degree of relationship may differ in some districts... Scheduled Castes invariably fall in the lowest category both socially and economically." A 1995 analysis of available statistics by The Pioneer, a Delhi-based daily, concluded:
[T]he distribution pattern of land and other resources is based on caste hierarchy. One-third of the upper castes have land worth more than Rs. 55,000 [US$1,375] whereas two-thirds of the scheduled caste households are landless and approximately one-fifth hold land with a total value of less than Rs. 5,000 [US$125].
There is little organized official effort to bridge the class gap. Administrations that have governed the state since independence have not even succeeded in completing any land surveys. In the districts of central Bihar, money-lending, bonded labor, sexual assaults on rural women, and abuse of the landless class by landowners have all contributed to violent clashes between various castes. Successive Bihari governments have failed to implement land reforms and guaranties of minimum wages for agricultural laborers; as a result, disparities in wealth between landless Dalit laborers and their landed upper-caste and middle-caste counterparts have increased. The disparity and increasing economic exploitation have given rise to numerous militant leftist groups who have increased their membership, their political clout, and their weaponry since the 1970s. The central Bhojpur district of Bihar has long been a stronghold of these so-called Naxalite groups that operate under various political banners. The increase in Naxalite activities has also ushered in a rise in the number of private upper-caste militias, including the Ranvir Sena, that have been responsible for killing hundreds of Dalit laborers between 1995 and 1998. In these areas of Bihar, a class struggle has escalated into an armed caste conflict.
Following the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal in 1968 (see Chapter III), various Marxist-Leninist factions began calling for a militant peasant struggle against upper-caste domination in Bihar. An armed struggle in the countryside against semi-feudal interests, combined with area-wide seizures of land, were the groups' primary tactics. Throughout their history, Naxalite groups have engaged in attacks on civilians and abuses that directly violate international humanitarian law. Critical of the parliamentary tendencies of the Indian Communist movement, especially the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Naxalites actively recruited Dalit and lower-caste peasants into their militant struggle. By 1998, Naxalite groups were operational in thirty-six out of fifty-four districts in Bihar.
The Naxalite groups are dominated by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Party Unity, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI(M-L)) Liberation. In 1977 CPI (M-L) Liberation moved away from an emphasis on "annihilation of individual class enemies" to an attempt at organizing mass peasant movements through Kisan Sabha (peasants' organizations). In 1982 the group decided to enter parliamentary politics under the banner of the Indian People's Front (IPF). Though IPF won one parliamentary seat in 1989, and sent seven members in 1989 and six members in 1995 to the Bihar state assembly, its overall electoral success has since declined.
While CPI(M-L) Liberation has pursued a parliamentary path, Party Unity and the Maoist Communist Centre have spearheaded a militant grassroots movement, that, in turn, has been targeted by Ranvir Sena attacks. Both the MCC and Party Unity are banned underground movements. The MCC was responsible for the killing of at least fifty-four upper-caste Rajput community members in Dalelchak Baghaura in May 1987. The incident was the worst massacre in the state until the Ranvir Sena killing of sixty-one Dalits in Laxmanpur-Bathe on December 1, 1997. MCC was also responsible for slitting the throats of forty-four upper-caste farmers in Bara village on February 12, 1992. Thirty-six died on the spot, and one died in the hospital. The killings were reportedly in retaliation for the murders of ten MCC supporters by the Savarna Liberation Front, an upper-caste Bhumihar militia, two months earlier. MCC has also targeted police officers, who find themselves ill-equipped to respond. According to press reports, 295 people were killed in Naxalite violence in 1995, 436 in 1996, and 424 in 1997. Not all clashes involve police: many of these deaths were attributed to interfactional fighting between Party Unity and MCC.
On August 11, 1998, CPI(M-L) Party Unity merged with CPI (M-L) People's War, popularly known as the People's War Group (PWG). The merger was the culmination of five years of negotiations between the two underground movements. The unified party retained the name CPI(M-L) People's War. Ever since its founding in 1980, PWG has attempted to unify all Marxist-Leninist groups under its umbrella. Strongest in the southern and central states, its merger with Party Unity gave it a foothold in the north. Like MCC and Party Unity, PWG has advocated the use of violence against the upper castes in organizing Dalits to achieve land reform. Firearms used by Naxalites are often looted or bought from corrupt police. As is typical of guerrilla organizations, Naxalites recruit members from villages where they operate and draw on the support of the local population. It does not follow, however, that all villagers in a Naxalite stronghold are members of the organization, though they may have relatives or neighbors who do belong.
Starting in the late 1960s, various upper-caste senas began to emerge in Bihar with the reported aim of containing Naxalite groups and protecting land belonging to upper castes. A look at their history reveals their political patronage. In 1969 the upper-caste Rajputs formed a militia named the Kuer Sena. In 1979 the Kunwar Sena of Rajputs was formed; it disintegrated in 1986. The Sunlight Sena, also dominated by Rajputs, came into being in 1988. One of its founders was a former governor of the state of Tamil Nadu. The Brahmarshi Sena, which represented Bhumihars before the creation of the Ranvir Sena, was launched at a conference in Patna, Bihar's capital, in 1981. The Samajwadi Krantikari Sena, formed of Rajputs, was founded by a member of the state legislative assembly. The Bhumihar-dominated Savarna Liberation Front came into existence in 1990. Also known as the Diamond Sena, the militia was responsible for many massacres. On September 27, 1991, the sena beheaded seven Dalit and tribal laborers in Sawanbigha village in Jehanabad district. Soon thereafter, strongmen hired by landlords of Teendiha village in Gaya district beheaded nine laborers for their refusal to work as farm-hands for paltry wages.
Like the upper castes, backward-caste landlords have cultivated private militias for protection. The Bhoomi Sena was formed by backward-caste Kurmis. Its founder was a former state minister and Janata Dal (People's Party) leader. The Lorik Sena was formed by the Yadav landlords of Jehanabad district, while the Kisan Sangh is a militia of middle-caste landlords.
The Ranvir Sena was founded by upper-caste Bhumihars in Belaur village, Bhojpur district, in 1994. It first made international headlines in July 1996 with its attack on Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district, Bihar, which left nineteen Dalits and Muslims, mostly women and children, dead. Sixty members of the sena reportedly descended on the village and set twelve houses on fire. Using lathis, swords, and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nadhi village, also in Bhojpur district, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75 (US$0.77). Landowners were only willing to pay Rs. 20 (US$0.50). CPI(M-L) members convinced laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, press reports claim, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre.
Since its inception, the Ranvir Sena has been implicated in killings, rapes and lootings in the villages of Belaur, Ekwari, Chandi, Nanaur, Narhi, Sarathau, Haibaspur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Narayanpur. On April 22, 1996, the sena gunned down five members of a marriage party in Nanaur village. The victims were believed to be CPI(M-L) supporters. In 1997 the sena killed three Dalits in Jehanabad district for raising their voice against the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste youths.
Human Rights Watch spoke to members of the Ranvir Sena about the organization's structure and ideology. Landowner Madan Singh of Ekwari village in Bhojpur district explained that sena membership was divided by districts and that all districts had a commander and at least 500 landowners "ready to take up arms." He confirmed that although Patna was the center, the sena was also present in Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Rotas, Gaya, Bahuwan, and Baxar districts. As of 1998 sena members had also established a presence in Bhagalpur and Muzafarrpur. Bhojpur, Patna and Jehanabad, also Naxalite-affected areas, have been centers of violence in the last several years. According to Singh:
Since 1970 there have been problems. It has been difficult for farmers. We cannot even get out of our house. They steal our crops and call strikes. We are farmers. That's how we earn. They destroy that. It's like kicking us in the stomach. We have to save ourselves and our crops. We need protection from Marxist/Leninists. After we got together, we began to give them an appropriate response, a jaw-breaking response. For all of Bhojpur district, we chose our men and from that year on, we have been battling with CPI(M-L). Those who have land are with us, and those who do not are with them.
Upper- and lower-caste villagers in Ekwari claimed that Singh was on the CPI(M-L) hit-list. Another member of the sena, Arvind Singh, claimed that the CPI(M-L) had resolved to kill one rich landlord in each village: "They kill us and take our crops. To protect ourselves we started the Ranvir Sena." According to members of Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti (Bihar Dalit Development Organization, BDVS), a grassroots group active in the region for over ten years, the Ranvir Sena even has a program of life insurance: "Their families get paid Rs. 100,000 (US$2,500) if they get killed in a massacre, in the line of duty." Reportedly, the Ranvir Sena has sophisticated arms, including semi-automatics bought with money raised through donation drives.
Confrontations over Land
Dissatisfied with the pace of reforms, or the lack thereof, the underground armed movement of CPI(M-L) first launched a "land grab" movement in the early 1970s. Under the protection of CPI(M-L), sharecroppers began harvesting crops on upper-caste land in Bihar's central districts as Naxalite cadres burned grain storages and imposed economic blockades on hundreds of acres of land that landlords were forcibly kept from cultivating. Blockades were often accompanied by labor strikes. The Ranvir Sena, and other senas before it, emerged to curb the movement and to quash its economic blockade.
Wages in these areas have ranged from two kilograms of rice to Rs. 25 a day (US$0.63). Women have consistently been paid less. The Minimum Wages Act, legislated as early as 1948, and revised many times thereafter, now prescribes a daily wage of Rs. 32 (US$0.80), but Dalit demands for minimum wages have resulted in a violent backlash from landlords and their caste-based armies. According to government figures for 1995 and 1996, 84.9 percent of landowners in the state are marginal farmers owning less than five hectares each. With landholding ranging between five and twenty bighas (3.1 to 12.4 acres), even the slightest increase in wages paid to laborers would eat into the farmers' minimal profits.
A representative from the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a well-respected national human rights organization that has previously documented abuses by security forces, was a member of a fact-finding team that visited Bihar to investigate police raids on Dalit villages in the aftermath of massacres in 1997. He explained the relevance of land to the conflict:
There are many fallow lands in these districts: at least thirty to forty acres in each village. With the Ranvir Sena in place, the land comes under the cultivation of landowners. Other villages have [Dalit] cooperatives, villages where the CPI(M-L) is stronger. The money from the cooperatives goes to lawyers who are fighting cases filed by the police against them [Dalits]. Their major aim is revolution... Even marginal upper-caste farmers employ Dalits to push the wages down. The agricultural laborers are largely Dalits, so the upper castes are united in this way... Dalits don't live in the same settlements. The Mushahars, who are the lowest of the Dalits in these areas, are always segregated. They are also the poorest and the strength of these movements. They are the ones targeted in police raids and massacres when they are unorganized and unprotected by CPI(M-L). Their belongings are small, so it is easy to destroy their livelihood and take them to a stage of destitution.
Between April 1995 and July 11, 1996, the date of the Bathani Tola massacre, forty-six people were killed on both sides in battles between the Ranvir Sena and CPI(M-L) in Bhojpur district. According to press reports, over 400 people, many of them civilians, were killed in conflict between the two organizations in 1997. Although the number of fatalities on both sides is high, the state's treatment of the two camps differs significantly, as described below.
The raping of women is a common tactic employed by members of the Ranvir Sena and other caste militias to spread terror in lower-caste communities. In 1992 over one hundred Dalit women in the Gaya district of Bihar were reportedly raped by the Savarna Liberation Front. Pregnant women and children have also been killed. When members of the People's Union for Democratic Rights asked the Ranvir Sena why they were killing children, they replied, "Because they will grow up to become Naxalites. We kill women because they will give birth to Naxalites." The sena has also been known to loot many of the houses they raid.
Ranvir Sena Massacres and State Complicity
The extent of political patronage extended to the Ranvir Sena can be gauged by the fact that while a large number of Naxalites are killed in "encounters" [with police] not a single Ranvir Sena man has been subjected to this fate. The administration awakes a little later when it comes to tackl[ing] these armies. The outfit [Ranvir Sena] had declared a few days before the Jehanabad [Bathe] carnage that it would soon make a national and international headline. -The Pioneer, December 12, 1997.
In the districts of central Bihar, over 300 people were killed between 1995 and October 1997 in large-scale massacres committed by the Ranvir Sena. Three massacres since October 1997 have increased number of deaths to over 400. Human rights activists add that many have also been killed in smaller confrontations. Extrajudicial executions of Naxalites, coupled with evidence of police collusion with the Ranvir Sena, as documented below, have led to charges that the sena is being backed by the state administration and non-left political parties to check the growing Naxalite movement. Soon after a January 1999 sena massacre in Shankarbigha village, Jehanabad district, a senior police official was quoted as saying, "The administration would be happy if they kill the real extremists among the Naxalites, but they are killing soft targets like women and children and attacking villages of Dalits and weaker sections, which are unprotected."
Like other senas before it, the Ranvir Sena enjoys considerable political patronage. The sena is said to be dominated by politicians from various parties, including Congress, the Janata Dal, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in 1998 led India's coalition central government. In turn, the BJP has enjoyed Bhumihar support in local elections, as described below. Notorious Ranvir Sena leader Bharmeshwar Singh is also a known BJP activist. While Bihar's former Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, a member of a powerful backward caste, has accused the BJP of backing the sena, he himself has been blamed for only going after Naxalites, despite vows to disarm caste armies. Moreover, state agents at the village and district level are dominated by upper-caste members who often operate as "functionaries of mainstream political parties [and] are either active with or sympathize with the Ranbir Sena."
According to press reports, in districts across central Bihar, and particularly in Bhojpur district, the police force has traditionally been dominated by Bhumihars and Rajputs. Since the implementation of the Mandal reservations, the OBCs too have been represented, but these are primarily Yadavs and Kurmis who also happen to be the new landowners in the districts. Caste as a factor in the police and administration is relevant in Bhojpur more than anywhere else in Bihar.
The reported nexus between sena members and official paramilitary forces has also come under scrutiny:
According to the officials, the Sena goons received arms training from some former CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel. Bhojpur [district]Y has a tradition of sending its young to the Army and paramilitary forces. While on leave, the paramilitary personnel equip the Sena goons with the latest tactics, keeping them constantly ahead of the Naxalites.
The licensing of guns for sena members came under attack in a report by the People's Union for Democratic Rights:
According to Home Ministry reports, the Ranbir Sena possesses 4,000 guns, both with and without licences. Until they actually fire their weapons, a group of Ranbir Sena members could be merely a group of landlords carrying legal arms. On the other hand, guns carried by labourers and poor peasants are likely to be unlicenced... The SSP [senior superintendent of police] gave an interesting explanation for not trying to withdraw licences from weapon-wielding members of the Ranbir Sena-that in the present state of agrarian conflict, the state could not protect all the bhumihars. Hence they had to be allowed to have guns for their own security and to safeguard their properties. When asked whether likewise the state was in a position to defend all dalits who did not possess weapons, he maintained a telling silence.
Bihar is also notorious for instances of "booth-capturing" at election time; the practice of forcibly entering voting booths and stealing or rigging ballots. Political candidates ensure their majority vote with the help of senas, whose members kill if necessary. This phenomenon has been covered widely by the press and by human rights groups. The Ranvir Sena was responsible for killing more than fifty people during Bihar's 1995 state election campaign. A 1998 article noted the use of senas in Ara district, Bihar, during the February 1998 national parliamentary elections: "It is a measure of the chicanery and double-standards of most Ara politicians that when the opportunity arises, they do not hesitate in using the sena, though their public posture against the private army is holier than thou."
The impunity with which Ranvir Sena leaders carry out their attacks-at election time and other times-provides further evidence of government support. The police record speaks for itself. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders have been prosecuted for the murder of nineteen Dalits and Muslims in Bathani Tola in 1996 and the murder of eleven in Haibaspur in 1997. In Ekwari village in April 1997, police pried open the doors of lower-caste homes and watched as sena members killed eight residents. No sena member was prosecuted. The officers were subsequently suspended, then transferred, but they, too, escaped prosecution. A December 1997 massacre in Laxmanpur-Bathe left at least sixty-one Dalits dead. According to survivors in the village, the attackers identified by eyewitnesses were never arrested. Villagers also received threats of a future attack and felt unprotected despite the presence of a police camp in the village. In January and February 1999, the Ranvir Sena killed over thirty people within seventeen days in Shankarbigha and Narayanpur villages. Sena members had announced the attack in local papers two weeks ahead of time. The state did nothing to stop them. According to an article in The Statesman, a Delhi-based daily, sena members were aided by the police in entering Narayanpur village.
State intervention often comes to a halt after the distribution of paltry compensation packages and the posting of police camps in massacre-affected villages. Human Rights Watch investigations, and the investigations of a national ten-member civil rights team, found that in most villages police camps were located in the upper-caste areas, effectively inaccessible to Dalits and other lower-caste villagers.
Sena members who have been arrested have quickly been released on bail; none have been convicted. By contrast, some Naxalites who have been prosecuted have been awarded death sentences. Not only does the state treat the crimes of the two groups differently, but police and local officials openly tolerate the senas. On August 8, 1995, a little over two weeks after the killing of six Dalits in Sarathua village, the state government announced its decision to ban the Ranvir Sena. Sena members continued to hold meetings and conventions to openly outline their strategy and response to Naxalite attacks. Several leaders wanted by the police were present during one such meeting held on October 8, 1997, in Belaur village, Bhojpur district. The local administration was reportedly fully aware of the meeting and its participants but did nothing to disarm the group or arrest the wanted men. Six massacres, and police complicity in the attacks, are described in detail below.
Shankarbigha and Narayanpur
On the evening of January 25, 1999, at least twenty-two Dalit men, women and children were killed in the village of Shankarbigha, Jehanabad district, by members of the Ranvir Sena. The massacre was the fifth of its kind since July 1996 in which Dalit and lower-caste men, women and children were killed by the sena for their suspected allegiance to CPI(M-L) or MCC. According to press reports, members of the Ranvir Sena entered eight thatched huts in the village during the night and fired indiscriminately on the occupants. Many of the victims, including several children, were shot in the head and stomach at point-blank range. Police suspected that the attacks were in retaliation for the killing of two sena activists the week before by MCC members. According to Jehanabad District Magistrate P. Amrit, the killers shouted Ranvir Sena slogans throughout the attacks. The village is only ten kilometers away from Laxmanpur-Bathe, the site of the December 1997 sena massacre. Ranvir Sena supporters told Times of India that the sena had planned to kill almost all the Dalits in the village, close to seventy people, but were unable to complete their task.
The police ignored early warnings that a massacre was likely. On January 8, 1999, a little over two weeks before the attack, Ranvir Sena leader Bharmeshwar Singh admitted in an interview to a local daily that the sena was planning an attack in Jehanabad district, "with renewed vigour [and] in a very calculat[ed] manner." Singh also admitted that the sena had already chosen its target and was simply waiting for the "right time" to strike. According the CPI(M-L) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, his group made a written submission to the local administration providing a list of villages deemed vulnerable to sena attacks. A list of "already-accused sena members" was also included.
The National Human Rights Commission, a statutory body set up pursuant to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, has asked the state government to investigate the massacre and prevent a recurrence of such incidents. Twenty-four people were arrested in late January 1999 in connection to the massacre, all of whom belong to the Bhumihar caste. Activists are pessimistic, however, that any will be prosecuted.
A little over two weeks after the Shankarbigha massacre, on the night of February 10, 1999, the sena attacked neighboring Narayanpur village. Sena members killed twelve and injured seven. According to press reports, over one hundred heavily armed sena members descended on the village during the night and forced their way into homes, shooting at will. The attack, which began at 9:00 p.m., lasted for one hour. The police did not arrive until 8:00 a.m. the following morning. Bihar Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari stated that a "lack of vigil and alertness [had] led to a repeat of yet another strike by the Ranvir Sena."
In a press release issued soon after the incident, the Ranvir Sena claimed responsibility for both massacres. Shamsher Bahadur Singh, leader and spokesman for the sena, stated that sena members were forced to "take up arms to save the honour, dignity, and life and property of the innocent farmers." The killings were meant as retaliation for the deaths of farmers at the hands of Naxalites over the past thirty years. The press release added:
Our fight will continue till the extremists as well as the government lift the illegal economic blockade and release confiscated land, other properties, arms and ammunition, etc. of innocent farmers... Our main targets of future attacks will be Khakaria village in Jehanabad district, Akbarpur village under the Paliganj police station in Patna district and those villages where Naxal activists have let loose a reign of terror and become centres of extremists.
On February 12, 1999, the Indian president dismissed the state government and imposed federal rule in Bihar, citing as the reason a breakdown of law and order and constitutional machinery. The following day, paramilitary forces numbering in the thousands were dispatched to the state. Two days later, on February 14, CPI(M-L) Liberation members reportedly gunned down seven people, including four upper-caste Bhumihars who were said to be Ranvir Sena supporters, at Usri Bazaar, Jehanabad district. The police alleged that the attack was in retaliation for the killings in Shankarbigha and Narayanpur. In early March 1999, the central government reversed its decision to impose president's rule. As of this writing, Bihar's state government, with Rabri Devi as the chief minister, had been reinstated. Sena leaders Bharmeshwar Singh and Shamsher Bahadur Singh had yet to be arrested.
On the evening of December 1, 1997, armed sena activists crossed the Sone river into the village of Laxmanpur-Bathe where 180 families lived. They raided fourteen Dalit homes and killed a total of sixty-one people: sixteen children, twenty-seven women, and eighteen men. In some families, three generations were killed. Twenty people were also seriously injured. As most of the men fled the village when the attack began, women and children numbered high among the fatalities. During the attack, at least five girls around fifteen years of age were raped and mutilated before being shot in the chest by members of the Ranvir Sena. Most of the victims allegedly belonged to families of Party Unity supporters; the group had been demanding more equitable land distribution in the area.
The village of Laxmanpur-Bathe has no electricity and is virtually inaccessible by road. In crossing the Sone river to reach the village, sena members reportedly also killed five members of the Mallah (fisherman) community and murdered the three Mallah boatmen who had ferried them across the river on their way back. According to newspaper reports, the main reason for the attack was that the Bhumihars wanted to seize fifty acres of land that had been earmarked for distribution among the landless laborers of the village. A group of peasants, reportedly affiliated with Naxalite activity, was ready to take up arms against them. Authorities apparently knew of the tensions but "had not cared to intervene in the land dispute and nip the trouble in the bud and instead allowed things to come to a head." Following widespread publicity about the massacre, Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi suspended the Jehanabad district superintendent of police and replaced several senior officers.
Human Rights Watch visited the village on February 25, 1998. According to villagers who survived the attack, close to one hundred members of the Ranvir Sena arrived en masse and entered the front houses of the village: "Their strategy was to do everything simultaneously so that no one could be forewarned." Human Rights Watch visited a house in which seven family members were killed. Only the father and one son survived. Vinod Paswan, the son, described the attack:
Fifteen men surrounded the house, and five came in. My sister hid me behind the grain storage. They broke the door down. My sisters, brothers, and mother were killed... The men didn't say anything. They just started shooting. They yelled, "Long live Ranvir Sena," as they were leaving.
At the time of the attack, the father, Ramchela Paswan, was away in the fields. When he returned, he found seven of his family members shot in his house: "I started beating my chest and screaming that no one is left. No one has been saved from my family. Then my son came out saying he that he had not been killed."
Human Rights Watch also interviewed seven female residents of the village, many of whom witnessed the rape, mutilation and murder of five girls. Thirty-two-year-old Surajmani Devi recounted what she saw:
Everyone was shot in the chest. I also saw that the panties were torn. One girl was Prabha. She was fifteen years old. She was supposed to go to her husband's house two to three days later. They also cut her breast and shot her in the chest. Another was Manmatiya, also fifteen. They raped her and cut off her breast. The girls were all naked, and their panties were ripped. They also shot them in the vagina. There were five girls in all. All five were raped. All were fifteen or younger. All their breasts were cut off.
Twenty-five-year-old Mahurti Devi was shot in the stomach but survived her injuries after extensive surgery. She had returned home after a dispute with her husband and was living in her mother's house. She recalled:
They broke in and tried to open our box of valuables. They couldn't so they took my chain and earrings off my body. There were ten to twelve of them in the house. They didn't wear any masks. I said I had nothing. They said open everything. My mother was shot, and she fell down. They flashed a torch on my face. Then they shot me, and I fell down. The police took me to the hospital. After a three-day operation I came to, and the police took a report from me. Some people have been arrested, others are still free. They looted all the houses.
At the time of the massacre, Jasudevi was at her husband's home in another village. She arrived in Bathe the morning after the attack to find her two sisters-in-law and her fifteen-year-old niece shot to death. "My niece was supposed to go to her husband's house the same day. She was expecting a child. When I found her it looked like she was trying to run away when she was shot." Seven-year-old Mahesh Kumar was being held by his mother when she was shot. She fell forward and protected his body with her own. She then died.
Local police had been aware of the possibility of violence long before the Bathe massacre. On November 25, 1997, sena leaders openly held a strategy meeting seven kilometers away from Bathe. Sena leader Shamsher Bahadur Singh had also been touring the area in the months before the massacre openly seeking donations from supporters. Police officers claimed to be aware of these meetings but dismissed them as routine-missing yet another opportunity to intervene and preempt a sena attack. One officer was quoted as saying, "It's like crying wolf. The Communist Party of India (M-L) keeps sending us complaint letters every week, we can't take action every time."
According to members of Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti, a grassroots organization, the events that unfolded in Bathe were more complex than a random attack on a Dalit hamlet:
CPI was organizing in Bathe because the residents were so poor and exploited, they couldn't even feed themselves after a full day's work. When they asked for more wages, they were beaten down even more. Some CPI(M-L) and Party Unity people had a split. A few people left them and gave information about party activities to landlords. The landlords contacted Ranvir Sena in Bhojpur, saying that they needed help controlling them. The Ranvir Sena came out at 4:00 p.m. They ate and drank liquor with the landlords and attacked at 9:00 p.m. They had a list of whom to attack but got drunk and killed anyone and everyone.
The activists also claimed that the purpose of Bathe was "to teach others not to rebel or raise a voice. In so doing women became vulnerable and were sexually assaultedY They raped women and cut off their breasts. A woman whose pregnancy was nearly complete was shot in the stomach. They said that otherwise the child will grow up to be a rebel."
Life for most in the village has been disrupted. At the time of the Human Rights Watch visit, children were unable to go to school because a makeshift police camp had been located on school grounds. None of the adults were working. Villagers complained, "There is no work, all has stopped. Since they [Bhumihars] are the landed families, our people don't get to work in their fields."
Since the massacre, police protection in Bathe has remained grossly inadequate. The Bihar government announced soon after the Bathe killings that police would be deployed in the area to set up camp and maintain law and order. However, when parliamentary elections were later announced, the police force was directed to control election-related violence. Despite their dual assignment of controlling the Ranvir Sena and watching the polls, the police seemed more intent on conducting raids on Dalit villages in the name of controlling "extremism" and seeking out Naxalite cadres than on protecting Dalit villagers. According to a member of BDVS, "Bathe protection is near the poor but it only benefits the rich. Police always go to the landlords' houses... All their needs are taken care of by upper castes. If someone calls a meeting they won't come. They say we don't have time. They just do flag marches."
At the time Human Rights Watch visited the village, the Dalit residents of Bathe feared another attack:
Fifteen to twenty days ago we received a message that they will sprinkle petrol on the houses of villages and set them on fire-the houses of those that didn't get killed the first time around. We told the police. They said we are here so nothing will happen, but the police are protecting them. They are stationed in the Ranvir Sena tola [hamlet]. Police are helping the Ranvir Sena. The accused are moving around freely. So we feel that the culprits are being protected.
Human Rights Watch also spoke to police officers stationed in the village school. Officer In-Charge Amay Kumar Singh informed us that a total of twenty-six police officers were present in the village. He claimed that the police arrived soon after the massacre. According to Singh, twenty-five of the twenty-six perpetrators identified by villagers had been arrested but at the time of the interview (two months after the events) had not been formally charged. He claimed that the police were providing security for all villagers and that new threats had not been reported to them.
Like many officers, Singh claimed that police response to attacks is hindered by insufficient funding, infrastructure, and equipment for village-based police camps. These arguments fail, however, when one notes the frequency of police search and raid operations on remote Dalit villages. Though Singh believed that his officers had enough guns to provide security, and were able to communicate quickly with the area police station, he claimed that more men and more facilities were needed and that the roads to the village were in very poor condition. Road construction had begun soon after the massacre but came to a halt when "VIPs" stopped visiting the area. "We have no car. Look at our conditions. We are sleeping on the ground," Singh complained. Deputy General of Police Saxena also reported that the local police station was poorly equipped and there was not enough personnel. "That's why we couldn't prevent this," he said.
On January 9, 1998, nine people suspected to be supporters of the Ranvir Sena were killed by CPI(M-L) activists in Chouram village, forty-five kilometers from Jehanabad. The killings were reportedly in retaliation for the Bathe massacre. The attackers opened fire indiscriminately on the victims as they were returning home from a funeral. Several Dalits in the Bathe area were subsequently taken into custody by the police. Bathe villagers claim that the sena members were actually killed by Marxist-Leninist party members who were not from their village: "Police have been harassing Dalits for fifteen kilometers around this village. No one cares about the sixty-one people who died here. Everyone cares about those nine. The Ranvir Sena says that they will take ninety for those nine killed."
Despite the arrests immediately after the massacre, as of February 1999 none of the sena members responsible for the Bathe attack had been prosecuted.
On the morning of April 10, 1997, members of the Ranvir Sena gunned down eight residents of Ekwari village in Bhojpur district in an operation that lasted two hours. Police officers stationed nearby forced open the villagers' houses and then stood by and watched as the massacre took place. Seven of the eight killed belonged to the lower-caste Lohars, Chamars, Dhobis and Kahars. The village is known to many as the birthplace of CPI(M-L) in the 1970s. The head of the lower-caste hamlet in the village described the incident to Human Rights Watch:
They were killed by the Ranvir Sena. We recognize them. The police were with them. They weren't shooting. They searched the houses. Then they left and Ranvir Sena came in and shot everyone. The police were still there. They were from the new police camp, not from outside. They sent more after the massacre. The sena killed to get more notoriety.
An article in The Telegraph, aCalcutta-based daily, reported that the attackers raped two women before killing them: a fifteen-year-old girl and a woman who was eight months pregnant. A ten-year-old boy was shot in the head.
The partisan role of the police could not have been clearer. While policemen pried open doors of houses, the Ranbir Sena activists followed them in and mowed the people down. Sunaina Devi, an eyewitness to the murder of her father-in-law and sister-in-law, said that when they refused to open their doors, the policemen broke them open and let the killers inY Sagar Mahato said he saw the police running away and watching from a distance.
The article also reported that the CPI(M-L) Politburo member and member of legislative assembly, Ram Naresh Ram, claimed that the murders were premeditated and that police were bribed by the landlords. A probable cause of the conflict, a villager added, was that many acres of land were lying fallow in the village due to a blockade imposed by the CPI(M-L).
The Bombay-based Times of India reported that the fifteen-year-old was raped in the presence of her father. The pregnant woman was said to be the relative of Jai Kahar, a veteran CPI(M-L) activist and a suspect in the murder of a landlord in the area the previous year. An eyewitness recounted, "Fifty people belonging to upper caste cordoned off the entire small tola and started searching for firearms. I know them by their names. They are the landlords of this region. Indrajeet Singh, Binod Singh, Pankaj Singh, Ajay Singh are the main culprits who killed eight people in this tola."
Human Rights Watch visited the village of Ekwari in February 1998. A police camp had been established in upper-caste territory, an area inaccessible to Dalits who were afraid to cross the road dividing the two parts of the village. When Human Rights Watch asked the villagers to take us to the police camp they responded, "We can't take you there. They are on Bhumihar land. No one is protecting us."
An Ekwari village sub-inspector told Human Rights Watch that in his camp there were two sub-inspectors, one sub-inspector BMP (Bihar Military Police), and seventeen constables, making a total of twenty officers. A second camp located near the village fields had nineteen officers. The sub-inspector claimed that the police presence was sufficient to maintain law and order in the village. At the time of the massacre, he was on assignment at the police station eight kilometers away.
There was a fight between CPI(M-L) and the Ranvir Sena. One Ranvir Sena member was killed. Eight CPI(M-L) were killed some days later. They were not members of CPI(M-L) but were killed based on caste. They have been fighting for years. People are killed on both sides. All have been arrested and charged. Thirty-six were named; approximately thirty were from the Ranvir Sena. All are in jail. There is only one absconder. He escaped from jail. When a CPI(M-L) dies, it's always the Ranvir Sena; when a Ranvir Sena dies it is always a CPI(M-L) who kills. We also caught the CPI(M-L) who killed the Ranvir Sena. We are here for now and most likely will stay for a while.
In the aftermath of the killings, seven police officers were suspended. Another police camp officer claimed that the suspensions were a political move. "Both sides are political, so whenever there are problems there is a lot of pressure on the state, the superintendent of police, the district magistrate. So in order to remove the pressure they suspend officers. The same officers come back on duty in a different police station." When asked to describe the current situation, the sub-inspector responded that it was "peaceful and normal. There's been so much violence here that even one murder every few months is considered peaceful. Labor is an ongoing problem. It's a very old problem. Whenever killings take place, there is a strike. But now work is ongoing."
Residents of the Dalit and backward-caste hamlet agreed. They explained that work had started again, but "there was a lot of fear" and little protection. Although CPI(M-L) is active in the village, the lower-caste villagers claim that the "Ranvir Sena is more powerful. They have rifles, semi-automatics, and guns. We only have sticks." The head of the lower-caste section of the village was also apprehensive about the police and had little faith in the protection they provided.
Police are here for law and order. They see what's going on, but they are allied with the Ranvir Sena. They get money and food from the forward castes so they favor the forward castes. The police don't care about the poor. We don't go to the police, nor any other state agencies. We asked for help from the Bhumihars to keep the killings low. They said they cannot control them even though the Bhumihar population belongs to the Ranvir Sena. We have no protection.
According to the former deputy superintendent of police (DSP) for Bhojpur district, Bihar, the April 1997 attack was due to "police negligence":
The police completely failed in giving protection. They went in one house, and the Ranvir Sena went into another. The guards did nothing to protect them. The Ranvir Sena killed everyone in the police's presence. By the time the station police came, the Ranvir Sena had run away.
The former DSP went on to describe the situation of women and children.
There are 106 widows in Ekwari. At least fifty women have also been killed in the past several years. The Dalit men go to jail and get sentenced, while the Ranvir Sena has enough money to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Dalit women are made homeless, and the children cannot go to school because the family needs the money to fight the cases against the men. The Ranvir Sena cares only about high numbers. They also rape the women. The police send innocent people to jail. No one can surrender for fear of so-called police encounters. They do not get justice from the police. That is the main factor.
Even the landlords of the village (members of the Ranvir Sena) complained that the police, under pressure to maintain "law and order" in their jurisdiction, have arrested indiscriminately on both sides.
First the police were with us, now they have left us. Since 1995 the police have really bothered us. In April, people were killed here. They killed one farmer and destroyed all crops. Seven CPI(M-L) were killed by Ranvir Sena for retaliation. The police just take care of the dead bodies. They don't really help. In response to the April massacre, the police destroyed a landowner's house after arresting him. They also arrested thirty-nine people. All landowners were innocent. They were not part of the Ranvir Sena. The police were also involved in the Ranvir Sena massacre. Seven people were suspended. The police are not with anybody they are trying to scare people. They always capture the innocent, even when CPI(M-L) strike.
As of February 1999, none of the sena members or police officers responsible for the killings in Ekwari had been prosecuted.
On March 23, 1997, ten landless laborers were killed in Haibaspur village in Patna district, Bihar, apparently for aligning themselves with the CPI(M-L) Party Unity. Before leaving the village, the Ranvir Sena inscribed its organization's name in blood on the rim of a dry well. Party Unity forces retaliated within a month by killing six Ranvir Sena supporters on April 21, 1997. According to BDVS activists, alcohol and the rape of Dalit women by the Bhumihar men played a role in the attack on the village:
The Dalits made alcohol, and Bhumihars drank it. When Bhumihars fought among themselves, they went to the Mushahars [Dalits], gave them drinks, and got them to take revenge on their enemies by taking their field crops and so on. But the Dalits were working for both sides so the Bhumihars killed them. They were double-crossing them. They only gave them liquor to get them to do the work. Bhumihars give them money to make the liquor, then give some liquor to the Dalits to get them to do the work. Whoever makes alcohol also pays a commission to the police. When the Bhumihars came and drank, they also raped the Mushahar women. Mushahar men did not like it so they protested and were killed. The people killed were mostly innocent, but these are the two reasons it happened.
According to an article in The Hindu, a Madras-based daily, although the police were informed immediately of the Haibaspur killings, they did not arrive on the scene until the following morning, after hearing that the chief minister was due to visit the site. When Human Rights Watch spoke to villagers in February 1998, they said they were still afraid of another massacre and had received threats from neighboring upper-caste landholders. Apart from the promise of small compensation packages, the state had done little to protect them.
In response to the Ranvir Sena attack on the Dalit hamlet of Bathani Tola in July 1996 (see above), then-Home Minister Indrajit Gupta expressed dissatisfaction with police protection in the affected region. Even though four police camps had been posted in the area, Gupta charged that they were, "paralysed, impotent and did nothing." Residents of the village claimed that most of the main perpetrators were still roaming freely in their village, though the police claimed to have arrested all sixty men involved. A new police camp was soon set up near the site but was considered largely ineffective in checking threats from upper-caste landlords. "They are at the beck and call of the landlords. Their food comes from the landlords' houses. How can they render us justice?" one villager asked.
Despite signs of rising tensions in the area, police neglected to shift their picket (booth) to Bathani Tola. On July 26, 1996, the Bombay-based daily Indian Express reported that officials had received written notification of the possibility of an attack. In a letter dated July 4, 1996, to the district magistrate, the Bhojpur district committee of CPI(M-L) complained that the Ranvir Sena had "renewed its campaign of terror in the villages" and charged that the night before, "a gang of the Ranbir Sena [had] been engaged in indiscriminate firing." The committee added that there was much tension and fear and urged the district magistrate to "take strong action immediately." CPI(M-L) had also sent requests for protection on June 26, June 29, and July 2. According to press reports, Superintendent of Police S. N. Pradhan dismissed the letters as "routine." The killings took place on July 11. During the attack itself, the police reportedly made no attempts to intervene despite being on duty a "stone's throw" away from the scene. Soon after the incident the chief minister suspended police officers stationed in camps near the tola, but failed to prosecute them.
Government Compensation Packages
Instead of prosecuting accused sena members or taking action against colluding police officials, official action in cases of caste-based killings in Bihar has generally come to a halt after a few officers have been temporarily suspended and surviving family members have received the preliminary disbursements of their compensation money. The promised relief package has often included food rations, temporary manual labor jobs, and when the victims were Dalit and poor, an offer to build pucca (solid) houses. Solid houses are essential for instilling a sense of security for villagers whose flimsy mud huts are easier targets for police and sena raids. The government, however, has seldom followed through with promised relief packages.
In Shankarbigha, the government promised monetary compensation, a government job, and pucca housing to the victims' dependents. Two and a half weeks later, in Narayanpur, the government promised Rs. 140,000 (US$3,500) to each of the victims' dependents. In Bathe, the Paswan family lost seven of its members. It received Rs. 100,000 for every family member killed from the Bihar and central government, for a total of Rs. 1,400,000 (US$35,000). The family used the interest from the money to construct a new house. Even though the entire village remained vulnerable to future attacks, pucca houses were only provided to the families of those that were killed. According to BDVS Director Dr. Jose Kananaikal, "Over 2,000 people have visited in the two months following Bathe. But now nobody cares. The chief minister also said they would get land, but that never happened. They also promised a school and a road, but that didn't happen either."
When the chief minister arrived at the Haibaspur massacre site, he promised a compensation package to the families of the victims but failed to disarm the sena members responsible for the killings. The government announced Rs. 120,000 (US$3,000) as compensation for each victim. It also assured work and food rations for three months and promised pucca houses for the entire Dalit hamlet. In February 1998, almost a year after the massacre, a civil rights fact-finding team reported that only Rs. 20,000 (US$500) had been paid, that no work or food rations had been provided, and that the houses had only been partially constructed. Moreover, police raids since the beginning of 1998 had destroyed the little construction that had taken place. Dalit residents were also unwilling to work in adjoining villages where they were earlier employed for fear of another orchestrated attack by their employers.
The State's Targeting of Naxalites
As noted above, although both the Naxalites and the private militias share the responsibility for increased violence and deaths in the state, the state's response to the Naxalites has been markedly different. Police have frequently operated as agents of the landed upper castes, conducting raids on Dalit villages and disguising killings as "encounters." According to a People's Union for Democratic Rights report, "The administration bans both the Ranveer Sena and the CPI(M-L) Party Unity but in effect treats them differently. [T]he judiciary is [also] influenced by the social and political background of the people concerned." PUDR members also believe that the government is under pressure to show that the killings will be stopped, but its actions have focused primarily on Naxalite activities.
Many are arrested under Criminal Procedure Code Section 107 for preventive detention. The Supreme Court has stated that the detention cannot be more than twenty-four hours, but in many cases it takes fifteen to thirty days to get a lawyer; sympathetic lawyers are already overburdened. The charges are bailable but they have no property, no surety. So they remain in jail for long periods of timeY They won't settle land disputes because land is in the hands of landlords. So they treat it as a law and order issue and arrest and raid instead.
The pattern of extrajudicial executions by security forces in disturbed areas and by police forces in Naxalite-affected areas has been documented by international human rights organizations and Indian civil liberties groups. The police routinely claim that the killings occur in so-called encounters. The People's Union for Civil Liberties, the largest civil rights organization in the country, has described the use of the term "encounter killing" as a unique contribution of the police in India to the vocabulary of human rights... it represents in most cases the taking into custody of an individual or a group, torture and subsequent murder. The death generally occurs as a result of the brutal torture or stage-managed extermination in an appropriate area. An official press release then elaborately outlines a confrontation, an encounter where the police claim to have fired in "self-defence."
Such tactics have long been used against suspected Naxalites. In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, the Naxalite threat has been used to justify state violence against all forms of peasant resistance and against other critics of state policy. Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of systematic human rights violations that has formed part of the state government's counterinsurgency efforts. Since 1968, security forces have murdered hundreds of villagers, guerrilla group sympathizers, and suspected militants in the state. Human Rights Watch has also documented the degree to which security forces have colluded with powerful landlords to crush organized efforts by peasant movements to secure their rights to land and fair labor practices.
These tactics have also been used in Bihar. On April 15, 1994, police reportedly killed eleven MCC members in an "encounter" in Gaya district, Bihar. According to a report by People's Union for Democratic Rights, since then, "there has been a significant rise in the number of people killed in this manner." On December 27, 1997, an "encounter" took place in Kodihara village, Patna district.
At 5:30 a.m. that day, the police entered the village and caught hold of and beat people who were going out to work. There was a Naxalite squad in the village which noticed the arrival of the police and slipped away. The police fired at them but they escaped. Two of them hid in the fields nearby, but the police soon found them. The two of them handed over their weapons to the police and offered [to] surrender. But the police shot them dead in cold blood. This murder was seen by all the villagers assembled there.
Villagers reported that after searching Kodihara, police moved on to Jhunauti. The raid on Jhunauti is described below.
Police have also repeatedly engaged in excessive use of force when dealing with Naxalites. On July 3, 1995, four Party Unity members were killed and eight arrested. The following month, the police fired into a crowd of 500 people gathered at a CPI(M-L) Liberation office in Begusurai town soon after they lathi-charged a peaceful protest on land reforms. Five people were killed, and one was seriously injured. Sixty-five people, including twenty-nine women, were arrested on charges of rioting and illegal assembly. Three people were additionally charged with murder and attempted murder. All those arrested were severely beaten in police custody. In this incident, as in the two described above, the police claimed to have fired in self-defense, while villagers and other eyewitnesses claimed that the firing was one-sided. Post mortems were conducted immediately, and the bodies were quickly disposed of, eliminating any possibility of independent autopsies for verification of the manner of death.
Under the pretext of seeking out Naxalite militants police have conducted raids on Dalit villages and falsely arrested those accused of harboring Naxalites. In some cases, federal paramilitary forces have been deployed. Like the private militias, police have sexually assaulted women and attacked children who remained behind after the men fled the villages. Women have also been arrested and taken into custody in order to punish their families and force their male relatives to surrender. After the Ekwari village massacre of April 1997, police conducted search operations in neighboring lower-caste hamlets. Women were molested and beaten, and local residents alleged that police took Rs. 5,000 (US$125) from them. As noted in a PUDR report:
The loot of property and molestation of women by policemen in the course of [the post-Ekwari] search is a fairly common feature of routine police searches in poor settlements. So searches end up as punitive measures inflicted upon a section of the populace already targeted by the Ranbir Sena. Search operations in upper caste localities are not only rare but also very cursory.
A ten-member team comprising members of seven civil liberties organizations visited sixteen villages in Patna and Jehanabad district, Bihar, in February 1998. Their mandate was to investigate reports of abuses committed by Bihar police deployed to protect Dalits in the aftermath of the 1997 massacres. The team's report described the raids:
In the course of the raids, the police routinely abuse women in the most vulgar and offensive languageY [T]here are no women police at all in the raid. It is the male police [who] enter the houses without consideration for the woman's privacy. They abuse the women whose sons/husbands they are looking for. One frequent [accusation] is that the woman has sent her husband away "so that she may sleep with the extremists." Women who are going to the fields in the early morning cold are forced to remove the chaddar [blanket] so that the police may see whether they are hiding any arms or ammunition underneath. These "suspicions" are only meant to insult and humiliate women.
The report added:
The raids are frequent and create fear and terror among the poorer classes who are suspected of harbouring Naxalites. These raids are common in villages where the landless agricultural labourers organised by the various sangathans [meetings] of the CPI(M-L) organisations have fought for wage increases and occupation of gair mazarua [government] land. In some villages the raids are very frequent. Jhunauti [Jehanabad district, Bihar] was subjected to at least twenty raids in the last two months. In Andhrachak, Jehanabad district, Bihar, there is one raid every week. Sevanan, Jehanabad district, Bihar, is subjected to at least two raids a week.
Raid in Andhrachak
Residents of Andhrachak spoke to Human Rights Watch representatives about a raid on their village on February 10, 1998. Some 300 police officers, including members of the Special Reserve Police Force, surrounded fifty homes and arrested six people, all of whom were still in jail at the time of the interview on February 26, 1998. Ranjeet, a twenty-eight-year-old agricultural laborer, witnessed the arrest of his brother, father and cousin.
The first time they came at 4:30 p.m., they didn't take anyone. They came into all the houses. They took my friend's torches, his tobacco box and Rs. 500 out of the money box. They ransacked all the rooms and broke the pots and doors. We ran because we were afraid of being beatenY They also beat my brother's wife with the butt of their gun. They hit her on her backside; she had to seek treatment. The second time they came it was 4:00 a.m. The people they arrested were also beaten with sticks. They were charged under Criminal Procedure Code 107 [preventive detention]. I went to jail to get them released. They said they would only give bail after [national parliamentary] elections. They say it is Rs. 1,000 (US$25) for bail. We will have to get a loan or a bond.
The police told villagers upon arriving that they came in search of guns and that they suspected Naxalite activity in the area. But as sixty-year-old Sona Devi explained, "Where are we going to get guns from? We don't even have money for food, clothes or a home." Devi complained that the police never went to the landlords' houses: "They are the ones that have guns." She claimed that the Ranvir Sena was operational in Kayal, an adjacent village where Dalits laborers worked. "The Kayal people call the sena in to scare us and threaten us. We are afraid of them. They will kill us. They have already killed two Dalits in the field beforeY The Kayal village people tell police we are Naxalites, but no one goes and sees their Ranvir Sena activities."
Devi also reported that nine to ten days before the police raid, Bhumihar men came to the village to threaten its residents. "They said if you touch us, harm us, or don't work in the fields, then we will send the Ranvir Sena to set fire to the villages and kill everyone." The villagers did not go to the police, explaining that they "are afraid of them also, they [the sena and the police] are all together." Other women in the village claimed that members of the Sena had "misbehaved" with them. "They come in the night and beat the men and rape the women. It has happened many times. They beat the women too and rip their clothes off. The police don't do anything."
Raid in Jhunauti
The village of Jhunauti in Jehanabad district, Bihar, has over 190 Dalit households. Over one hundred Bhumihar families live adjacent to them in the same village. Since 1997, police have raided the village more than five times. A fifty-five-year-old Dalit agricultural laborer in the village described the raids to Human Rights Watch:
The raids take place mostly at night. Once it happened during the day. Two times they took people away; once they misbehaved with women; usually they break everything and take our chickens. In December 1997 they came at 7:30 p.m., there were thirty-five to forty police. That is when they misbehaved with the women and broke everything. Everyone runs away when they come.
The village school teacher, who was present during the December 1997 raid, explained the reason for it:
There is no Ranvir Sena in Jhunauti, but the police harass us. They found a gun at one laborer's house so they bothered all of us. In January 1998 they also went to Bhumihars for a raid. During the Kodihara "encounter," CPI(M-L) party people were killed. So they came here for a raid and then to the Bhumihars. In December during the bad episode [Bathe] they only came hereY CPI(M-L)) stole a rifle from a landlord, which is what started the raid. But the party does not live here.
The school teacher also asked the police why they were searching the village. They told him they were looking for rifles, guns, and Naxalites and proceeded to enter his house.
I said, "Why are you arresting me?" They said, "After we search the whole village we will leave you." They caught ten to twelve men. They were all eighteen to forty-five years in age. They asked one woman to name them all. She knew their names so she told them. They arrested five men, the younger ones. They said they were Naxalites. My son was one of them. He is twenty years old.
His son was taken to jail with the others. They were then brought to Jehanabad court and charged under Indian Penal Code, Section 395, a dacoity charge which carries a maximum life sentence. Dacoity is defined under Section 391 as robbery committed by five or more persons. Thirty-eight days later, the court was asked for a bail order. The families had to pay Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 (US$25 to $125) each and were forced to sell their chickens and belongings and to ask for contributions from the village. Most villagers earn only one and a half to two kilograms of rice per day as agricultural laborers. At the time of the interview, the dacoity case against them was still pending.
One woman was on her way to a neighbor's house when she was grabbed by a police officer. "Do you keep Naxalites in your house?" they asked her. "I cursed at them. I called them motherfuckers, and they removed my sari. I ran back home." Forty-five-year-old Athi Basmatra Devi had Rs. 150 taken from her home, and twenty-year-old Kunti Kumari saw her husband being dragged away by the police. "He was in jail for thirty-eight days," she said. "He was innocent."
Many villagers had left their homes out of fear of another raid. Most other villagers had little to say to the fact-finding team as they feared a backlash from the police. One resident explained, "The police harm us so much, that is why they are not talking to you. They beat down the innocent and we can never ask why. They say we are Naxalites. They are only after the Dalits. They do not to this with Bhumihars."
Extortion and looting
Police throughout India engage in extortion, motivated in part by their need to pay off debts incurred for securing their positions through bribes-a cycle that has been documented both by Indian civil rights organizations and by the government's National Police Commission reports. In 1996 it was reported that police inspectors in Bihar were made to pay a bribe of Rs. 100,000 (US$2,500) before being recruited. It is not anomalous, therefore, that raids by the police in the aftermath of massacres have often been accompanied by looting and extortion. According to the ten-member team's report, on January 6, 1998, police raided the village of Makarpur in Jehanabad district, Bihar. The villagers mistook the police for the Ranvir Sena and began to run. Seven young men were arrested and, after three days of illegal detention, were released after paying a Rs. 5,500 (US$138) bribe. They were threatened with further detentions and beatings if they refused to pay the money. In Nagwan village, Patna district, Bihar, two people were taken to the police station and threatened with being booked for a crime unless they paid Rs. 900 (US$22.50).
In several villages, under the pretense of kurki-japti (attachment of movable property), police have seized the property of those "absconding" in criminal cases. In so doing, they followed none of the legal procedures for seizure, including presentation of a court order and list of materials to be seized, and seizing in the presence of two witnesses. As the report noted of the pattern of behavior:
The material seized in this looting is of varied kind, and appears to be aimed at destroying the livelihood of people. Grain or rice stored in the house, all possible utensils, chairs, cots and tables, door frames, etc. are taken away. Buffaloes were taken away in Uber village in Jehanabad [district, Bihar]. Goats were also taken away in some villagesY In Uber, not satisfied with having taken away the buffaloes, the police asked the householders to give them Rs. 100 (US$2.50) a day to feed the buffaloes.
In some cases, police abandoned the pretense of seizure or attachment of property and engaged in outright looting. In Kodihara village in Patna district police stole jewelry, clothes, Rs. 2,000 (US$50), and consumables collected in preparation for a marriage from a villager's house. The raids have had a devastating effect on the livelihood of villagers who earned two kilograms of rice or less than Rs. 25 (US$0.63) a day.
No Dalit has faith in the police establishment... The southern clashes have been attempts of Dalit self-assertion and a reflection of their loss of faith.
- Christodas Gandhi, Tamil Nadu implementation officer for the Atrocities Act
Caste clashes in the southern state of Tamil Nadu have predominantly involved two communities: the Thevars (a backward caste) and the Pallars (or Dalits). As has been the case in other states, Dalits in Tamil Nadu have long suffered from exploitative economic relationships and have frequently been the victims of violence. However, changes since the early 1990s have altered the economic relationship between the Thevars and the Pallars and have changed the contours of the conflict. Having benefited from the state's policy of reservations in education and from the income provided by relatives working abroad, the Pallars have become much less dependent on Thevar employment and have begun to assert themselves in the political arena. The Thevars have responded to this threat to their hegemony with violence. Dalits, too, have begun to fight back.
This chapter examines caste clashes in the state's southern districts between July 1995 and December 1998. Unlike the conflict in the eastern state of Bihar, the violence is often spontaneous and not the result of organized armed movements. Much as in the state of Bihar, however, the police have colluded with the caste Hindus to preserve the status quo and keep Dalits from peacefully claiming their rights. The police, many of whom are Thevars themselves, have conducted raids on Dalit villages ostensibly to search for Dalit militants. During these raids, police have assaulted villagers and detained many under preventive detention laws. Women in particular have been targeted.
According to the Indian government's 1996-1997 annual report for the Ministry of Human Affairs, caste-related incidents in 1996 in the southern state of Tamil Nadu increased by 34 percent over previous years. Out of 282 reported incidents, 238 took place between scheduled castes and other backward communities. The main caste groups involved were the Thevars, Naidars, and Vanniyas (all backward castes) and the Adi Dravidas and Pallars (both scheduled castes or Dalits). The number of incidents between Pallars and Thevars increased again dramatically at the height of caste clashes in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu from April 1997 to December 1998. The nexus between Thevars, the police, and district officials in the affected areas was repeatedly reflected in violent search and raid operations in Dalit villages, in the forced displacement of thousands of Dalit villagers, often with the aid of district officials, and in the disproportionate number of Dalits arrested under preventive detention statutes during the clashes. Abuses against Dalits continued following a police raid on the Dalits of Gundupatti village in February 1998 and violent clashes between Dalits and Thevars from October to December 1998. According to the state government, at least 251 people died in caste violence between August 1995 and October 1998.
Clashes in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu have largely been attributed to increased Pallar economic and political autonomy and the backlash against it. Since the mid-1990s, the Pallars have begun to support a new political leadership, unaligned to mainstream political parties, and promoted by two movements: the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) Tamil Nadu, and the Devendra Kula Vellalar Federation (DKVF) led by Dr. K. Krishnaswamy, a member of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly. In 1998 the DKVF became a political party and named itself Puthiya Tamalingam. These political movements have provided an organized platform for growing resistance to the still prevalent norms of "untouchability" in the state. Dalits have demanded equal treatment in temple festivals, have refused to carry out ritually demeaning tasks, have demanded access to public water sources, and have claimed an equal share of public goods and village properties. Thevars have responded by "clinging more resolutely to their caste status as a way of affirming their superiority." Government statistics from 1995 revealed that Thevars were the perpetrators in 91 percent of cases involving the coercive enforcement of "untouchability" practices.
Context of Clashes
Between July 1995 and June 1996, clashes between Thevars and Pallars resulted in large-scale destruction of property, loss of life on both sides, and the arrest of many Dalit youths under preventive detention laws like the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act and the National Security Act, 1980. In most cases, the usually spontaneous clashes originated over issues of land, the holding of protests and rallies, the use of village resources, or any Dalit attempt to defy the caste-based order. Typically, both sides were armed with stones or agricultural tools.
The cycle of violence began anew in late April 1997 when the government announced the creation of a new transport corporation in Virudhunagar district in the name of a Pallar community member (the Veeran Sundaralingam Transport Corporation, VSTC). Thevars opposed the proposal and, according to press reports, some were heard to remark, "How do you expect us to travel in a bus named after a Dalit? It is a personal affront to our manhood." On May 1, 1997, VSTC was inaugurated; Thevars threw stones at the buses and refused to ride them.
On May 2, Dalit leader Dr. Krishnaswamy was arrested and accused of sparking violence with his "inflammatory speeches." Spontaneous protests erupted as news of his arrest spread through the region. Protesters staged several road blocks and, for the three days that Dr. Krishnaswamy remained in jail, "police resorted to firing, lathi-charges and bursting tear gas shells to control agitating Dalits." Two Dalits were killed by police bullets. On May 7 three Thevars were killed by the police at Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district while protesting the arrest of two Thevar youths.
In protest against police action on Thevars at Sivakasi, Thevars in Mansapuram village attempted to introduce coconut shells at tea stalls for Dalits to keep them from sharing tea tumblers used by caste Hindus. When Dalits resisted, Thevars torched and looted Dalit houses in Amachiyarpatti village. In Rengappanaikkanpatti Thevars vowed to make Dalits "dig pits for the burial of bodies of dominant castes." The entire Dalit population of the village was later forcibly driven out, as Thevars set fire to their homes and fields.
In the months following the renaming of the transport corporation and Dr. Krishnaswamy's arrest, the districts of Theni, Madurai, Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli, and Tuticorin witnessed periodic eruptions of violence and the forced displacement of thousands of Dalits from their homes. Police and district officials treated the situation as a law and order problem, and under the guise of seeking out Dalit militant activists, conducted search and raid operations exclusively on Dalit villages. They arrested and assaulted hundreds of men and women as they looted their homes and destroyed material possessions. As discussed below, women were the primary victims.
A June 1997 fact-finding mission by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the country's largest civil rights organization, concluded that in caste clashes in Madurai district, "Dalits were the worst affected in terms of property loss and physical injuries sustained, like hand and leg fractures, due to violent attack[s] on them"; that police had filed many false cases against Dalits; and that "increased political consciousness amongst the Dalits... regarding their fundamental social, political and economic rights expressed in terms of demands for social equality [and] equitable distribution of resources" played a major role in the attacks against them.
Links between Thevars and state agents
The Thevars numerically outnumber other backward castes in the region. The Thevar Peravai (Thevar Front), the most active and organized of Thevar organizations, was until early 1998 led by retired Director General of Police (DGP) Pon Paramaguru. His successor, Dr. N. Sethuraman, was also the general secretary of Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam, a political party launched by the All India Thevar Peravai in 1998.
During his tenure as DGP from 1972 to 1975, Paramaguru recruited many Thevars into the police force. J. Jayalalitha, leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party (AIADMK), was considered a "strong Thevar community supporter" during her five-year tenure as chief minister of the state from 1991 to May 1996. Her support included extending influential political and police positions to members of the Thevar community-allowing them to further consolidate their power base. N. Sasikala, Jayalalitha's aide and confidante and a Thevar community member, was also accused of "astutely promoting her caste." Lawyers, human rights activists and the local press have noted that, as a result, a majority of the police force in the southern districts now "hails from [the Thevar] caste and, often, have been unable to overcome their caste affiliations."
According to Dr. Krishnaswamy, though "atrocities against Dalits were institutionalised during the previous AIADMK regime," a 1996 shift in political power to the DMK party, led by M. Karunanidhi, did not result in a "change in the behaviour of the police." Inspector General Vijay Kumar, former security officer under Jayalalitha's administration, was accused by human rights activists of using the police force to engineer attacks on Dalit villages during the 1997 clashes. Activists have also charged that the district collector (local government official) of Virudhanagar district, Rajagopal, a Brahmin native of Thevar-dominated Enjar village, supported the Thevar community during the 1997 clashes: "He committed all sorts of atrocities against Dalits, including lathi-charge and unnecessary shootings." Rajagopal was also accused of forcing Dalits to abandon their houses.
In June 1997 the state government responded to police excesses during the clashes by transferring large numbers of officers out of "sensitive" districts, without meting out any additional punishment. Chief Minister Karunanidhi ordered the transfers after noting "some disturbing trends in the functioning of the lower levels of police during the disturbances, particularly in the southern districts."
In recent years the economic relationship between Thevars and Pallars (Dalits) has shifted notably. Like most Dalits in rural India, the Pallars traditionally were employed as agricultural laborers (on Thevar lands) and were paid less than minimum wage. In the early 1990s, Pallars began to enjoy minimal upward economic mobility, which reduced their dependency on Thevars. Pallars became able to own and farm their own lands or look elsewhere for employment.
A researcher at the Madras Institute of Development Studies attributes increased Pallar prosperity to two factors:
The first is the policy of reservations, which has been more effectively implemented in this state, more than other states. Reservations in education frees Dalits from land-based occupation. The relationship between the landlord and the laborer has given way to urban-based occupations. The second reason is that many Dalits have been recruited by Gulf countries. They send their proceeds home, and their families are able to acquire land through this process. So feudal dependency has lessened.
Marginal landowners themselves, Thevars have dealt with this new economic threat through caste mobilization:
The main backward classes in the state, the Thevars, are opposed to the Dalits. They themselves are not an advanced community. They are landlords but not in a big sense. They are not advanced in education, but still they employed Dalits as laborers. Because of the move away from production sectors, Thevars now can only assert their power through caste pride. So it takes on paper dominance. Before, caste was deployed through land.
The Dalit communities, for their part, have realized the political potential of their somewhat better economic status by becoming more organized in their demands. This has affected state-wide patterns of violence and reactions by state agents. For the first time, the Pallars have begun to resist their traditional mistreatment: politically, by contesting elections, and physically, by responding to violence with violence.
Some Dalit activists have argued that their people's armed response is necessary for self-preservation and economic survival. As Murugeswari, the first Dalit female president of the Kandamanur village council, Tamil Nadu, has stated:
While both parties have indulged in violence, there is an essential difference. Dalits are fighting for their rights and Thevars are fighting to retain their hegemony. It would be cruel to equate the fight for livelihood to the arson [sic] to retain power on the basis of birth.
Thevars argue that the Dalits are merely self-interested and provoke the clashes themselves. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Thevar leader Dr. N. Sethuraman claimed that the violence was being instigated by militant Dalit activists: the clashes, he asserted, ensured the survival of Dalit organizations and their ability to attract funds from foreign donors.
Dalit-oriented NGOs are promoting hatred between the two communities. Foreign Christian organizations fund these Dalit organizations. Their intention is not to eradicate hatred but to perpetuate hatred so that their organization can survive. They induce violence, take photos and get money. They want the clash to continue so they can survive. It is a very negative attitude. I doubt whether their intentions are really Christian.
Dr. N. Sethuraman led the Thevar procession through Desikapuram village minutes before the police surrounded the Dalit colony and conducted a violent search and raid operation. The incident is further described below.
According to Sethuraman, the practice of "untouchability" has been virtually eradicated in the state. But according to several human rights groups, government reports, and our own investigations, as of February 1998 "untouchability" was still practiced in various forms in most villages where Dalits were minorities. These forms include separate tea tumblers at tea shops and prohibitions on entering places of public worship or wearing shoes in the presence of upper castes.
Sethuraman also claimed that "Thevar minorities are being chased out of their lands and homes," a practice that he termed "reverse untouchability." He went on to add that "the same has not happened to Dalits in a single village." But Human Rights Watch visited several southern district villages where Dalits had been pushed out of their homes by Thevars and, months later, were unable to return. We also visited several villages where social and economic boycotts against Dalits were still in effect and others where murders and large-scale displacement of Dalits had taken place.
In September 1996, the village of Melavalavu, in Madurai district, was declared a reserved constituency under Article 243D of the Indian constitution. The declaration signaled that the Melavalavu panchayat (village council), which covers eight villages with approximately 1,000 Dalit families, would have seats reserved for scheduled-caste candidates. In June 1997, a group murder of elected Dalits by neighboring Thevars signaled that constitutionally mandated shifts in legal power to scheduled castes would not be tolerated by caste Hindus displaced from their once secure elected positions.
Several observers have attributed the violence in the village and the resulting tensions to a shift in power relations brought on by the government's mandate of reservation of panchayat seats for Dalits. Dr. George Mathew of the New Delhi Institute of Social Sciences visited the area along with two other researchers soon after the murders. He published his conclusions in an article in The Hindu:
The murders of the Dalit leaders of Melavalavu Panchayat were clearly because "untouchability" was still ingrained in the social system. The economic conditions in the village were abysmal, but the power was concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. These people had hitherto enjoyed a hold over the common properties such as fish ponds, temple lands and forest produce and did not want to relinquish these privileges to the Panchayat Raj system run by the downtrodden... [T]he violence was basically a result of a shift in the power equations from the haves to the have nots.
The article also noted that the leasing of the twenty-five fish ponds alone would fetch an income of Rs. 500,000 to Rs. 1,000,000 annually (US$12,500 to $25,000). The new panchayati raj system put control of such common properties in the hands of the panchayat-that is, in Dalit hands-since the 1997 elections. In a separate article, Mathew referred to the killings as a serious attack on the institution of panchayati raj, which has the potential of changing the powerful rural groups. The new panchayats are perceived by the traditional powerful groups as a threat. Melavalavu and similar villages are paying a price for not holding the panchayat elections regularly and strengthening the foundations of democracy.
The case of Melavalavu provides an example of the interaction of social forces, efforts at reform, violent reaction, and impunity. The announcement of reservations in Melavalavu in 1996 led to a threat of "economic sanctions" by the majority caste Hindu community should any Dalit file for the position of panchayat president. The sanction would effectively leave Dalits without employment or access to economic and social services in villages in that area. As reported in the Bombay-based daily, Times of India, "They were warned that they would lose their jobs as farmhands and not be allowed to graze cattle or draw water from wells located on 'patta' [unutilized] land held by the dominant castes."
The elections, scheduled for October 1996, were subsequently canceled, as all three Dalit nominees withdrew their candidacy for fear of sanctions against the entire scheduled-caste electorate. When polling finally did take place in February 1997, the election was suspended after several incidents of booth capturing. A thirty-five-year-old Dalit named Murugesan won the presidency in the third round of polling, which took place under heavy police protection and was boycotted by the dominant castes. He was, however, unable to perform his tasks as president: neighboring Thevars physically prevented him from entering his office space at the panchayat building.
Several village residents told Human Rights Watch about violence against Dalit voters during the elections:
With police protection the election was held, but at the end of the day upper-caste people entered into the booth and threatened and stabbed one boy and beat both men and women and took away the ballot boxes and threw them into the well. Then again they declared elections after one week. In that one we elected Murugesan. There was heavy police protection. Still the Amblakars [Thevars] boycotted the elections. Then Murugesan was not able to go to the office. Only during the swearing-in ceremony did he go to the office because he had a police escort.
Murugesan's twenty-six-year-old widow, Manimegala, described the threats that her husband had received after winning the presidency:
After he was elected he received as many as ten threatening letters from Thevars. He kept them all in his office and showed them all to the [district] collector. Once he showed one to me. The letter said that one day or another we will definitely cut off your head, and they did. The police did not arrest the main culprits. I keep four children alone. The government gave me employment in the highways department. I put tar on the roads. I get Rs. 1,500 [US$37.50] per month, but it is not enough for four children. The government gave Rs. 150,000 [US$3,750] in compensation, but the collector deposited it in the bank.
On the day of the attack, June 30, 1997, Murugesan was returning from a visit to the collector's office to inquire about compensation for houses burned in an earlier incident. Kumar, an eyewitness who barely survived the attack himself, boarded the bus and sat next to Murugesan. The assault, Kumar told Human Rights Watch, was led by a Thevar named Ramar. Ramar and Alagarsamy, the former panchayat president, gave explicit instructions to their gang of Thevars to "kill all the Pariahs [Dalits]."
There were nearly forty of them. They were all Thevars. They stabbed Murugesan on the right side of his belly. It was a very long knife. From outside the bus Ramar instructed the Thevars to kill all the Pariahs. Among twelve, six were murdered on the spot. They pulled all six out of the bus and stabbed them on the road with bill hooks more than two feet long. I hid myself under the seat and later hid in the crowd. Five Thevars joined together, put Murugesan on the ground outside the bus, and chopped off his head, then threw it in a well half a kilometer away. I saw it happen, I was hiding in the crowd. Some grabbed his hands, others grabbed his head, and one cut his head with a bill hook. They deliberately took the head and poured the blood on other dead bodies.
When the attackers noticed his presence, Kumar was chased into the fields and cut with a bill hook on the back of his neck, his right underarm, and his finger but ultimately managed to escape by fleeing into the plantation fields of a Dalit village.
Family members of the six murder victims received Rs. 150,000 (US$3,750) in compensation from the state government under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. A total of twelve persons were arrested within a month of the incident. However, eyewitnesses have claimed that the ringleaders were not among them. Those arrested were charged under sections 341, 307, and 302 of the Indian Penal Code for wrongful restraint, attempted murder, and murder, respectively, and under Section 3(1)(10) of the Atrocities Act, the act's least serious offense, for name-calling or insulting a Dalit person in a public place.
Kumar claimed that the police had an eyewitness and victim sign papers saying that one of the accused, named Sedhu, was innocent. Human Rights Watch spoke to that witness, a forty-five-year-old agricultural laborer, who told us the following:
The police told me to sign papers saying who the real culprit was, so I signed it. I signed a plain piece of paper. Mellur DSP [Deputy Superintendent of Police] Subramanium came here in a jeep and called for me and asked me why I put my signature on a white paper. "Someone got Rs. 50,000 [US$1,250] for it," he said, "did you get your share?" I said I got nothing from him. "You must have gotten Rs. 25,000 [US$625] at least," he said. I don't know what happened with the paper.
A two-member team from the State Human Rights Commission visited the village in early August, five weeks after the killings. Hundreds of women testified to incidents of theft, the burning of Dalit houses, and stone-throwing at night. They also complained of their inability to go to work in the fields, of a lack of police protection, and that most of the men had fled the village out of fear. Karupaia, Murugesan's older brother, organized a march on August 8, 1997 to protest the lack of action on the part of the police. Participants estimated the number of marchers at 3,000, both men and women. They named the principal culprits as Ramar, Alagarsami, Poniah, Baskarar, Andichami, Markandan, Duraipandian, Chandran, Selvam, Alagu, Vadivelu, Karanthamalai, Ranganathan, Chakarmurti, Chockanathar, Sedhu, Rajendran, and Jothi.
When we approached the taluk [village block] office, the superintendent of police (SP) and other officials were there. From above the building, a red-colored cloth was thrown down. We were in two rows. A "country bomb" fell in the gap and exploded. Everyone scattered. There are iron pieces from the bomb inside Karuppan's leg. Tirumavalavan, the leader of the Dalit Panthers of India who led the procession, was the intended target.
Tirumavalavan proceeded to inform the SP that the people who threw the bomb had descended from the building and were getting away. Many pointed them out, but the police refused to arrest them. The marchers then started throwing stones. The SP ordered a lathi-charge on the procession, and many of the protesters were severely injured. The police arrested a total of thirty-six protesters and charged them under the Indian Explosives Act and under Indian Penal Code sections 147, 148, 323 and 436 for rioting, rioting with a deadly weapon, voluntarily causing hurt, and mischief by explosive substance. They also arrested a member of DPI and held him responsible for setting off the bomb. Tirumavalavan expressed outrage at the police's failure to arrest "the main accused Ramar in the Melavalavu incident," while simultaneously "nabbing a DPI member and holding him responsible for the blast."
On August 9, 1997, the thirty-six people arrested were sent to Madurai jail. They were held for forty-five days. Released on bail, they were required to check in twice a day at the Trichitown police station, over 125 kilometers from the village. At the time of Human Rights Watch's visit, the conditions had been modified to reporting once a day at nearby Mellur police station. According to Karupaia, the arrests were retaliatory:
The police put false cases against us because we organized a procession. They wanted to teach us a lesson. The Section 436 charge [mischief by explosive substance] is still pending. One shop was burned but we did not do it. One hundred Thevars came behind us in the procession and set fire to a shop on the main road.
Human Rights Watch spoke to a forty-year-old resident of Melavalavu who was arrested during the lathi-charge:
I was in jail for forty-five days. My son was also arrested. After the arrest the police said that we looted the shops and set fire to them, but we never did any of those things. In the jail it is a routine practice to ask what cases you came in for, and then they give you blows with their lathis. It is an "admission beat." I was injured in the head and taken to the jail hospital. I was beaten two times with the lathi.
The leader of DPI and Dr. Krishnaswamy have both charged that the "National Security Act as well as the [Tamil Nadu] Goondas Act were being grossly misused against the Dalits by the state government" and that several Dalits had been kept in preventive custody for many days. In the months following the murders, concerned groups demanding appropriate action by the police organized several protests and marches. On July 10, 1997, members of the Social Action Movement, a grassroots NGO, demonstrated in front of the Madurai collectorate's office in order to highlight the plight of the villagers in the aftermath of the murders. On July 23, 1997, DPI marched to demand the release of all Dalits arrested under the National Security Act in connection with the murders.
By the end of September 1997, more than forty people had been charged in the Melavalavu murders case, while eleven had been formally accused but remained at large. On November 24, 1997, DPI members marched again to urge the government to arrest those absconding in the murders and to demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the case.
Members of the Thevar Peravai, who organized a protest on October 28, 1997, also demanded a CBI inquiry. The then-vice president, Dr. N. Sethuraman, claimed that innocent people had been arrested. When Human Rights Watch spoke to Dr. Sethuraman, now president of Thevar Peravai, about the incident, he claimed it had no basis in caste conflict:
This is not a fight between Dalits and Thevars. There's a lot of proof. It was a personal quarrel between the milk society president, a forward-caste member, and Murugesan, the Dalit president. But they have sorted it out now, and the new president can now perform his duties without any problem. The chief minister says that is a quarrel between Thevars and Dalits, but it is not. We have asked for a CBI inquiry to bring these things out.
When Human Rights Watch visited the village in February 1998, the bodies of the six murdered men were still buried in shallow graves in the village center as "a tribute befitting martyrs." The new Dalit panchayat president was again unable to perform his duties, and Thevars-in a concerted campaign to punish Dalits-had ceased to employ Dalits as laborers on their lands. The Thevars also encouraged others to refrain from awarding farm work to Dalits. Many Dalit students were also afraid to go to school for fear of further reprisal.
Human Rights Watch spoke to the new panchayat president, Raja, who was six months into his term. He claimed that the threats from Thevars had continued and that the police protection he received was inconsistent and insufficient to ward off another attack. Five Dalit women, elected members of the panchayat, had also been unable to perform their duties.
The office is in the caste Hindu area. I am not allowed in the office. So we have to hold meetings in our TV room here; it is a makeshift office. They are still threatening us. They are watching and following me. Five Dalit women are members of the panchayat. If the elected Dalit women go there, the upper caste would do some harm. If the women insist on going into the office, they will hit them. There is one police guard for me. He has a gun, but he puts it inside his bag. He only gives protection when I go to the taluk[village block]office. But any other time he doesn't give protection. He has joined the police of the other camp. Everything is paralyzed.
Raja also explained the village's dire economic situation:
We got regular employment in their fields. Some Dalits have land, but most are landless laborers. Women received Rs. 12 [US$0.30] for six hours of work from the morning until the afternoon. Men received Rs. 25 [US$0.63] for six hours of work, but they do harder work using bigger instruments. The period after the elections they did not invite us for field work. Now the women work fifteen kilometers away, and most of the men went to Kerala [a neighboring state] and send money back.
Thirty-four-year-old Gandhi also spoke of the difficulties faced by female agricultural laborers: "Prior to the elections I worked in this village. Now I go nearby to work on anyone's land... If you go near the landlords' houses and they are in a drunken mood, they misbehave with us, and we want to avoid that."
The February 1998 national parliamentary elections brought a new wave of violence to the village: Thevars allegedly beat Dalit women in poll booths when the women went to cast their vote. As of July 1998, Raja had still not received funds normally allocated to panchayat presidents for village development-leading human rights activists to believe that the local administration had yet to legitimize his presidency. As of February 1999, the forty people arrested for the murders were out on bail, and no one had been prosecuted. Ramar, the person identified by eyewitnesses as the ringleader of the attack, was still at large.
Displacement of Dalit Villagers
In villages where Dalits constitute a minority, caste clashes have led to large-scale displacements of Dalit communities. The displacement often follows an attack by neighboring caste Hindu villagers in which Dalits are assaulted and their houses are burned. In some cases, beyond ignoring repeated calls for protection, police have directly aided in the displacement. Dalit fields are then taken over by the majority caste Hindu communities while displaced villagers languish in makeshift homes on government property for months. Aside from distributing nominal amounts in compensation or promising construction of new houses, the local administration does little to ensure that the Dalits are able to return to their homes and fields, or to prosecute those responsible for the attacks. Two examples of displacement are described below.
The village of Mangapuram, part of Rajapalayam in Virudhunagar district, once housed 3,000 Thevar and 250 Pallar (Dalit) families. On March 7, 1996, upon returning from a conference organized by Dr. Krishnaswamy, several Pallars were assaulted by Thevars in this village. Following the attack, 150 Pallar houses were set on fire; a Pallar resident of the village was thrown into the fire and burned alive. Soon after the incident the Pallars rebuilt their houses and continued to reside in the village. Tensions in the village increased in May 1997 with the renaming of the transport corporation. Escalating tensions led the Pallars to request police protection in early May 1997. Several police officers were deployed in the area as a result. On May 12, 1997, in renewed violence, Pallars destroyed several Thevar houses; ten were promptly arrested. Thevars retaliated on May 15 by throwing petrol bombs into the Pallar residential area.
On June 9, 1997, Pallar villagers asked the district collector to provide them with adequate protection against future Thevar attacks. The collector was unsympathetic. On June 10, the deputy superintendent of police, a Thevar, attempted to force Pallars out of the village. On the same day, hundreds of Thevar villagers attacked the Pallars and set their houses on fire. As most of their houses had burned to the ground, the Pallars took refuge in nearby villages.
In February 1998 Human Rights Watch visited the area where displaced Pallar families had taken shelter and where they remained eight months after the incident. An area just over three acres in size, literally adjacent to Mangapuram village, housed more than 350 people in 200 poorly constructed huts. An adjoining area housed over 200 people in seventy huts. Families with over four members, many with small children, were made to live in huts approximately thirty-five square feet in size. The small spheres of public space were used for cattle and makeshift latrines. Most families were left without a source of income, and there was little word from the government about returning them to their village. No action was taken against the Thevars responsible for the attacks or against police officials complicit in allowing the displacement to occur. Many villagers still bore scars, which they attributed to lathi attacks by police officers who took part in the displacement.
Before 1997 the village of Rengappanaikkanpatti, situated in Virudhunagar district, was a minority-Pallar, majority-Thevar village. The Thevars comprised nearly 400 families. Among the thirty Pallar families who lived there at the time, many owned agricultural lands and brick houses, a clear indication of their relative prosperity and reportedly a motivation for the attack. On June 13, 1996, when Dr. Krishnaswamy visited the village, Thevars threw stones at his vehicle and five days later disconnected street lights and threw bombs into the Pallar settlement. When the incident was reported to the sub-inspector of the Rajakularaman police station, he refused to register the complaint.
On May 12, 1997, the Thevars of Rengappanaikkanpatti, together with Thevars from a nearby village, set fire to Pallar houses. The fire also destroyed farm lands, coconut groves, and motor pumps. After the attack, which lasted four hours, Pallars took refuge in the neighboring village of Sholapuram and asked the government to provide them with housing facilities. Human Rights Watch spoke to members of a family of eleven who were still residing on government property in Sholapuram village nine months after the attack. Dharmalingam, the seventy-five-year-old head of the family, stated:
Nearly twenty houses were burned down. We were an easy target because we were a minority in the village. Only three houses were spared. Our house is still there; it's very strong. They stole the motor pump set and motor oil from the garden... We cannot go back to our house, they will beat us. We have our own field, four acres in all. But we won't go to the house. We had six rooms, a kitchen and a common room. Now look at us.
At the time of the interviews, the family lived in a community hall that earlier had sheltered thirty Pallar families for the village. Valliamai, Dharmalingam's sixty-five-year-old wife, lamented, "We had such a big house but see our fate now. One of my grandsons is handicapped. The government had to give him a new wheelchair; even that they damaged." Although the government gave the family Rs. 10,000 (US$250) in compensation, the amount covered very little of what they had lost. Dharmalingam registered a complaint with the police, but they did not take any action. The sub-inspector of the police station, a member of the Thevar community and the same officer who refused to register earlier complaints by Pallars against Thevars, instead filed a case against Dharmalingam, charging him with setting fire to the houses himself in order to bring false charges against others. Dharmalingam was held at the police station for four days.
At the time of our visit to the site, the family was building a house using their own funds; only people who lost thatch houses were given new ones. The others were told to return to the village. "But how can we go back?" Dharmalingam asked. His nineteen-year-old grandson, Dharmaraj, believed that the Thevars were threatened by the prosperity of their Dalit neighbors and were trying to take Pallar lands for themselves:
Thevars had no lands. All thirty Dalit families had lands. In all houses one or two people from Dalit houses went to government postings [jobs]. They were jealous... We live on fertile lands. We had government postings so they were jealous. Most of us did not use reservations. We got it on our own merit.
Displaced Pallar families have also been unable to cultivate the lands they left behind. As Dharmaraj explained, "After the rainy season we put paddy [rice] on the fields; but they are damaging our fields and don't let us go there. We put paddy again, but again they damaged it. They scold us whenever we go. They let loose their own cattle in the field. There is no police protection at all." Despite the numerous attacks on Pallars in this area, the police have continually failed to heed calls for protection. If there were police protection, Dharmalingam argued, they would be able to go back to their house and their land. Instead, he said: "Whenever the police come to the village, they go to the Thevar area. The Thevars gave them chicken and other good meals. The sub-inspector belongs to the Thevar community, and most others also belong to that community."
Police Raids in the Southern Districts
In the aftermath of clashes in the southern districts, and under the guise of seeking out firearms and militant activists, police forces numbering in the hundreds conducted raids in Dalit villages. The pattern of the raids consisted of arbitrary arrests and assaults on Dalit men and women and often included looting and destruction of property. In some cases, police removed their badge numbers so villagers would not be able to identify and file cases against them. Studies conducted by the Tamil Nadu Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in various southern district villages concluded that attacks on these villages were motivated by a desire to cripple Dalits economically by targeting obvious symbols of their newfound wealth. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, R. Balakrishnan, director of the commission, described the results of one such study:
I have done a study in Kodiyankulum and found that the theme of that attack was economy. Fans, TV sets, and blenders were broken. All signs of wealth earned from the Gulf were destroyed. They said they would break the economy and put them [Pallars] ten years back.
The pattern of these police attacks was established with the raid on Kodiyankulum village in 1995.
Since 1980 the Dalits of Kodiyankulum village, in Tuticorin district, have benefited from the flow of funds from family members employed in Dubai, Kuwait, and the United States. On August 31, 1995, a 600-member police force attacked the all-Dalit village in the presence of the superintendent of police and the district collector and destroyed property worth hundreds of thousands of rupees. In what appeared to be a premeditated attack, police destroyed consumer durables such as televisions, fans, tape-recorders, sewing machines, bicycles, agricultural implements, tractors and lorries, and also demolished food grain storages. They made a bonfire of clothes and burned the passports and testimonials of educated Dalit youth. The village post office was targeted, and police allegedly poisoned the only village well. A village elder claimed that "all through the operation, the policemen were showering abuse on us and made derogatory references to our caste, which only showed their deep-rooted prejudice." District collector Paneerselvam, accused of leading the raid, was subsequently transferred to Madras.
The stated purpose of the raid was to capture Dalits allegedly involved in the murder of three Thevars in a nearby village two days earlier. Many suspect that it was the "relative affluence of the Dalits that attracted the attention of the uniformed men. The idea, it appears, was to destroy their economic base, because the police feel the Kodiyankulum Dalits provide moral and material support to the miscreants in surrounding areas."
Similar raids have taken place during the southern district clashes. Punduthai, a forty-five-year-old Pallar widow of Thevar-dominated Vanaltaiparam village, was stripped of all her valuables. At the time of the caste riots, "They entered the house and took all house things, dresses and everything. We kept quiet. We didn't say anything. If we said something we would get beaten or they would set fire to the house." Since the riots, Punduthai and her two children have relocated to a Pallar-dominant village. Two other clash-related raids are described below.
On February 26, 1998, in the village of Gundupatti, Dindigul district, some one hundred policemen and thirty policewomen, along with four truckloads of unidentified men thought to be affiliated with the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, attacked Dalits and bonded laborers residing in two villages in Kookal Panchayat, a remote area of the Kodaikanal hills. Attackers reportedly looted and destroyed property and assaulted residents, including women, children and elderly persons. Kerosene was poured into stored food grains and grocery items. The attackers, including police personnel, reportedly urinated in cooking vessels. According to a local human rights organization, women were kicked and beaten, their clothing was torn, and police forced sticks and iron pipes into their mouths. The police attack, whose victims were predominantly women, was apparently in retaliation for a decision made by residents of the Kookal Panchayat to boycott the national parliamentary elections.
After conducting its own investigation into the incident, the National Commission for Women, a government agency, issued an enquiry report on the Gundupatti case. The report concluded that the police "took sides with a political faction," that the criminal force used against women was unwarranted, and that the actions of the police "ha[d] not advanced beyond the colonial concept of power and the subjects."
The police had a field day breaking open houses, pulling out people, beating them up and even violating their modesty, using criminal force on women and girls, pulling out their mangla sutras [marriage necklaces], abusing them with filthy language. They allegedly dragged women and arrested sixteen of them along with nine men. One woman's baby was thrown while they were starting off with their truck. The whole village made many entreaties to the police and then alone the child was allowed to be taken by the mother. In this state of terror and panic, one of the young pregnant women had a miscarriage on the road itself.
The twenty-five men and women were then beaten in the police station and sent to jail after being taken before a magistrate. They remained in prison for nearly a month. The People's Watch activist who initially brought this case to the attention of the National Commission for Women was later charged with dacoity. In early September 1998 the One Man Commission of Enquiry appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu submitted its report on police excess to the state's chief minister. The report suggested compensation to the victims.
The same pattern of destruction was apparent during a raid on Desikapuram village in Virudhunagar district in June 1997. The arrest of Dalit leader Dr. Krishnaswamy on May 2, 1997 led to a staged roadblock by the village population, composed entirely of Pallars. On May 22 protesters were confronted by some 1,000 police officers, many of whom then proceeded to enter the village and search the houses. According to a People's Watch report, "The police had entered the village in the name of 'search,' damaged the houses and looted the jewels, money, watches and whatever they could pick up." The next morning, some officers entered the village and demanded a total of Rs. 15,000 (US$375) from residents. On June 22, Thevar Peravai leader Dr. Sethuraman led a procession of eighteen cars, nineteen vans and several trucks through the affected areas. Two jeeps followed by a busload of police were also part of the procession. When the procession passed through Desikapuram, both sides started throwing stones at one another. The fighting escalated as Thevars began throwing sickles and setting fire to haystacks while Pallars damaged the Thevar vans with stones.
Around 3:00 p.m. the police raided the village. Many villagers, including a total of nineteen women, were arrested during the raid: fifteen women were held for fifteen days and four for twenty-nine. Many of the men and women suffered fractured arms and legs as a result of the attack. In February 1998 Human Rights Watch spoke to villagers about their confrontations with the police. Muniamal, a forty-year-old agricultural laborer and mother of four, spoke to Human Rights Watch about the manner in which the police entered the village and the villagers' homes:
They made a circle and surrounded the entire village. There were nearly a thousand or more. They entered the village. We locked our doors. They broke down the doors of my neighbor's house, where I was at the time. Nearly ten police entered my house. They broke the trunk that contained all our valuables. They took all the dresses and threw them out. My daughter's gold earrings, anklets of silver, my husband's watch, a chain and a ring, and a total of four pounds of gold. I went to my house and saw all the damage. The tube lights were damaged as was the fan.
The police then arrested Muniamal in her house and demanded that she leave her four-year-old son behind. She refused, so they took her son as well. "They used vulgar words, caste names like podivadi and pallachi [caste name for prostitute]ÿ Using a lathi they hit me on my thigh, shoulder, and on my back. I had big bruises." Muniamal spent the night at the Rajapalayam North police station. She was given only ointment for her wounds, and not permitted to see a doctor. The next morning both men and women were taken by bus to the Rajapalayam government hospital. Although the men were treated for fractures, the women did not receive any treatment. The women were then taken to the Siviputur magistrate court, and the men were taken to Madurai central jail. They were charged collectively under the Tamil Nadu Public Properties (Prevention of) Destruction Act, 1992, and under Indian Penal Code sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with a deadly weapon), 324 (causing hurt with dangerous weapons), and 307 (attempted murder). The public property charge was allegedly for setting fire to a Thevar van earlier in the day. Several eyewitnesses reported, however, that the police themselves had set the van on fire:
They blamed us for the van. We all saw that the police did it. I spent fifteen days in jail with my son. The one night we spent at the police station they gave no food, only water. They used vulgar words and beat me again with a lathi. They also beat us in the bus from the hospital to the magistrate, and then from the magistrate to the jail. The men went to Madurai central jail and the women to Nillakoti jail, which is far away. In the bus they threatened us, saying, "Do not tell anyone the police beat you. If you tell anyone, the Nillakoti jail will not accept you and you will have to go to Trichi jail," which is very far away. So I was afraid and said nothing.
Thirty-year-old Irulayee was also sent to jail with one of her three children:
When they arrested me they grabbed me by my hair and dragged me out of the house. I have scars on my forearms and knees from the lathi beatings. Three police beat me and used vulgar caste language. I was beaten in my home, at the police station, and on the bus. I spent fifteen days in jail with my two-year-old daughter.
In the same village, a twenty-five-year-old agricultural laborer described how the police took her daughter's earrings, three rings, and Rs. 300 [US$7.50] after breaking down her door. She, too, was arrested:
I had to leave my children, a four-year-old girl who is still breast-feeding, and my eight-year-old boy. To get us on and off the bus to the police station, they shoved their lathis into our stomachs and backs. I was in jail for thirty-one days, sixteen days extra because of a technical mistake.
An eighteen-year-old student named Muniamal, one of the few literate residents of the village, was punished for questioning the police as they were arresting women:
It was Sunday, so I was home from school. On the street a twenty-year-old girl named Ladha was arrested. I saw it happen and asked my neighbor why they were arresting women. The police shouted, "Karuvachi," which means black girl. I said, "Don't call me that." He started using more vulgar words. He said, "What a bold pallachi [prostitute]!" I pleaded with him not to arrest me. I said, "I have to go to school tomorrow sir." They used the same vulgar words. "Why are you pallachis studying?" He then tied my hair to another girl's hair, Guruammal, she's fifteen. Then they started beating us on our backs with their lathis. I begged them to leave and not arrest us. My headmaster, Karnakaraj of the government higher secondary school, asked the police to release me. Still I was taken to the police station. Again I was beaten. They pulled off half my sari.
Munusu, a twenty-five-year-old agricultural laborer who owned small amounts of land in the area, explained that he was looted twice, once by the Thevars earlier in the day and again by the police in the afternoon:
All people behind the [Thevar] procession came into the village. They damaged the houses, set fire, and looted the properties. The police were also there. Then at 11:00 a.m. they left. Then around 3:00 p.m. the police alone came... They surrounded the village and entered into the houses. They damaged the radios, fans, televisions, and took gold chains and other valuables.
Munusu was also beaten and arrested by the police. He spoke to Human Rights Watch about his ill-treatment in custody:
I ran into my house and locked the doors and entrance. Nearly ten people were in my house. They pulled us all out and beat us with lathis. I sustained a fracture in my right leg. They put us in a police van and took us to Rajapalayam North police station. We stayed overnight. We got no food between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. We were also beaten at the police station. Because my injury was serious, they did not beat us overnight, but then started again in the morning. Then they took five of us to the hospital. We did not get proper treatment. Then we were taken to court at 11:00 a.m. I couldn't walk, so I stayed in the vehicle. The magistrate had to come out to the van; everyone was covered with blood. I said, "We didn't do anything, and still the police beat us."
Upon recording their statement, the magistrate remanded them to Madurai central jail at 3:00 p.m. They were not able to eat the food brought by their relatives until the morning after. Munusu described what he termed an "admission beat" upon entering jail:
I waited in front of the jail gate from 3:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Madurai jail police were told that we indulged in violence and that we were from the Pallar community, so they beat us too. It was an admission beat. The police took two at a time into the latrine and beat us again with their lathis. They put everyone in jail except us five. We were taken to the hospital. We became unconscious from the beating. I had blood clots in my right leg.
Munusu remained in the accident ward for six days and then in the hospital's jail ward for nine. After spending three further days in the central jail, he was released on bail with the help of a human rights organization. He required care in the Virudhunagar government hospital for the next two months. The district collector awarded him Rs. 15,000 (US$375) as relief, but no action was taken against the police.
Fifty-year-old Kaddar Karai also recounted his experience in custody, which left him permanently disabled:
They took us in a van to the police station. While I was getting down from the van they beat me on my right leg and arm with the back of their guns. There is now a metal plate with eight bolts in my leg. They also fractured bones on the right side of my forearm. I fell down immediately, and they carried me to the police station. My leg was completely broken.
Human Rights Watch viewed an x-ray of Kaddar Karai's shattered leg and the bolts that were keeping it in place. Despite the severity of his injures, he was kept at the police station overnight.
I received no medicine and no water. I kept bleeding. In the morning I went to Rajapalayam hospital. They gave me a simple bandage but no treatment. The police took me to court. I stayed in the van. We were then sent to central jail. That night I was taken to the government hospital along with four others.
Kaddar Karai remained in the hospital for seventy days. He is no longer able to walk or move from his cot without assistance. He received Rs. 15,000 (US$375) from the collector, but no action was taken against the police.
In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Dr. N. Sethuraman, leader of the Thevar procession that instigated the attack, claimed that Desikapuram is a center for militant activity.
These Dalit islands are used for anti-social activities like manufacturing bombs and militant training for unemployed youngsters. They hide culprits so the police cannot enter. If police want to enter they have to do it in the thousands. The police are not practicing tactical methods. They are brutal but not clever.
The police's behavior during the raids was not indicative of a systematic search for armed activists. Rather, the attacks and assaults were characterized by large-scale destruction of property, leading many NGOs and government officials to believe that attacks by the Thevar-dominated police were motivated by personal caste affiliations. As of December 1998 no action had been taken to prosecute the police responsible for these attacks.
Violence Against Dalit Women During the Southern District Clashes
Sexual oppression is intimately connected to land oppression. By keeping lower-caste women sexually subjugated, the upper castes control the men.
- Father Manuel Alphonse, All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF)
As Dalit men migrate to cities in search of jobs, women are left to work as agricultural laborers in rural areas. Women "bear the brunt of attacks because they are stuck in these feudal arrangements." As a result of escalating caste clashes, attacks on Dalit women, by state and private actors, have also escalated.
Violence by private actors
On January 25, 1998, the Dalit colony of Veludavur village in Villapuram district was attacked by members of seven caste Hindu villages. The attack was allegedly perpetrated by the Vanniya caste and instigated by the Naidars (both backward castes). Tensions began with a government auction of common properties in the village, such as ponds and tamarind trees; the Dalits were demanding their right to participate. The same evening, Vanniyas entered and destroyed 400 Dalit huts. Many of the young Dalit men were in Andhra Pradesh at the time, cultivating sugarcane. Only women, children and the elderly were left in the village, and the women were particularly targeted. A social worker in the village claimed that there were "sexual attempts on many women, but they don't
want to talk about it. Many are unmarried or their husbands are away. They fear the consequences if these things are revealed." Over 700 families were displaced as a result of the attack. They took shelter in neighboring villages.
Burnad Fatima of the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF) explained the number of cases TNWF had come across in which women were targets of caste clashes:
Any time any caste riots take place, there is immediate action against women and immediate raping. During last year's riots, a forty-year-old woman was gang raped. A seventy-year-old was dragged out of her house and stripped. In Anchipet a handicapped girl was thrown from her wheelchair which was then damaged. Innocent women are butchered, raped, and killed even though they are not directly responsible for any of the riots.
TNWF and People's Watch members went on to describe another attack during the southern district clashes, and the lack of press attention to such cases:
In Nammakal [district] a girl was gang raped, murdered, and then butchered. She belonged to the scavengers community. The men belonged to the weaving community. They cut off her hand and leg and shaved her head. They then cut her head and put a stick into her private parts and then hung her head with the stick. Why are they driven to this extent? Because for them Dalits are nothing. They give more respect to their animals... The papers are censored, they don't name the community, and they don't report the figures.
A representative of the Rural Center for Women's Development in Tirunelveli district spoke to Human Rights Watch of instances of rape by landlords, other upper castes, and the police, "who always support the landlords... [W]omen never say anything because they are afraid and need employment. Also society would blame them. Even their husband would separate from them. I see it daily."
Punduthai, a forty-five-year-old widow and mother of two, told Human Rights Watch that she had to leave her village to protect herself and her daughter from sexual abuse by Thevar men during the clashes.
In the village, the Thevars entered the house and had sexual intercourse with the Dalit women. They used force and committed rape. My husband died, so if I had stayed then the same things would happen to me. My daughter is also a mature girl. She is twenty years old. I was also worried about my daughter. I can't arrange her marriage. I left all the lands. This is the regular lot of the dominated persons. If there are any riots then all of them jointly rape; they gang rape. I hid in the hills at the time of the riots. We were afraid of these things, so we left.
In November 1997 a twenty-two-year-old Dalit woman spoke up against the debt bondage of her husband and his family (Thevars are the dominant moneylenders and Dalits their primary borrowers). As a result she was brutally beaten and sexually abused by a Vanniya landlord:
Her husband and father-in-law did not go to work for two days. The landlord came and asked why. He threatened and insulted her, and she said, "We are not living here under your mercy." The landlord went wild. He started beating her, he tore her blouse to pieces, touched her breast, hit her in the vagina and rolled her on the ground. There was no one to stop him.
Due to disinterest, ignorance of proper procedure, or their own caste biases, the police failed to register or properly investigate many cases of attacks against women during the clashes. Only with pressure from organized women's and human rights groups has the issue been placed before national commissions. The recommendations of these commissions, however, are not binding under statutory law.
Police torture of women/custodial violence
In addition to attacks by members of the upper castes, women are attacked by the police, security forces, and private militias or armies hired by Thevars. Human Rights Watch spoke to many government officials, activists, and villagers in the Tamil Nadu region about police torture and custodial violence against women. C. V. Shankar, director for the Adi Dravida Tribal Welfare Department, of the state government of Tamil Nadu, explained:
We found that women are put in front in both communities and act as a buffer. This has resulted in police action against women. They are taken far away from their homes. Unless they were directly involved in violence, they should not be arrested. In some cases we felt that the arrests could have been avoided.
H. Hanumanthappa, then-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, added:
Once the police start raiding, the menfolk run away. Then they [police] make women the victims. The procedure they adopt is to take the child or wife so that the men come back. They feel that they are the masters of the situation. It has resulted in mass rapes.
The police practice of taking family members as hostages in order to force their relatives to turn themselves in is a common occurrence in Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. Specific incidents of hostage-taking and custodial violence against women are described below.
Guruswamy Guruammal, a twenty-six-year-old agricultural laborer, suffered a miscarriage as a result of brutal beatings during a police raid on December 2, 1997. She is a resident of Chilaumbotti village of the southern district of Theni and earns Rs. 20 a day (US$0.50). The raid had preceded a planned visited by Dr. Krishanaswamy; posters had been distributed to announce his arrival. On December 2, one such poster was burned by Thevars in the district which led to a Pallar protest and road block. Police raided the village in response to the protests and assaulted many Dalits with their lathis.
At 9:00 a.m. the police lathi-charged the villagers. Superintendent of Police Rajesh Das called me a pallachi, which is a caste name for prostitute. He then opened his pant zip. Sub-Inspector Arivanandam, who is from same community as me, was also there. Rajesh Das said, "Please stand, do not go," and other police scolded me. At 11:00 a.m. the sub-collector came. I told the collector that the superintendent of police had opened his zip and used a vulgar word. I also told him that they had broken my silver pot. The sub-collector said, "You go, I will deal with him." Das was angry that I had pointed him out.
The police, numbering in the hundreds, returned early the next morning and again lathi-charged the village.
They broke all the doors and arrested all the men in the village. Arivanandam and Rajesh Das said, "Where is Guruammal's house?" My husband hid under the cot. My mother was with me at the time. I was in my night clothes. The police started calling me a prostitute. I replied, "Your wife is a prostitute." They beat me. I was four months pregnant at the time. He pulled me naked on the road for one hundred feet. I got injuries on my legs. There were two elderly witnesses, a woman and my grandfather. The police also beat the woman when she asked them to stop dragging me. She is sixty years old; her hand was fractured. There were two men police and two lady police. They brought me to the police van and took me to the office of the Theni superintendent of police. Fifty-three men had been arrested. One of them took off his lungi [wrap-around cloth] and gave it to me to cover myself. He was only wearing shorts after that.
Guruammal begged the police at the station to help her. She explained that she was pregnant and in need of medical attention. In response, they called her names and mocked her for making such bold statements the day before. Eventually, Guruammal was transferred to the Trichi jail hospital, where she remained for twenty-five days. After ten days, she had a miscarriage. At the time of the interview, and as a result of being dragged and beaten by the police fists and guns, Guruammal was still visibly scarred on her neck, arms, legs, and abdomen.
She claimed that the police told her to testify that the raid on her village was in search of the illicit brewing of arrack (illicit liquor):
They said if you accept the fact that the raid was for arrack, then you will be released. They said, "If you don't say arrack, we will file charges against you." So these are the cases that were filed against me and the fifty-three men.
Although Guruammal was attacked as punishment for speaking up against the police, many other women are punished for alleged crimes committed by their male relatives. Activists from People's Watch and the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum explained the tactics employed by the police:
The police enter houses and attack the women even though they should never search when the women are alone. The police are arresting women if either the husband or son is absconding. They take them into custody and rape them. Three years ago, in a slum nearby, a forty-three-year-old woman lost her husband. Her son was involved in a murder case. She was arrested along with her daughter and daughter-in-law. They were taken to the police station where the police raped the mother in front of the other women. They then brought her home and burned her in her hut.
The activists also described a new tactic employed by the police of removing women's clothes and beating them from their knees to their shoulders, "because they know that women will not show others these parts."
At a Madras conference on women's rights, held on April 28 and 29, 1995, dozens of Dalit and tribal women publicly came forward to testify about their experiences of custodial rape at the hands of Tamil Nadu police. The conference was sponsored by the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum and Asia Pacific Forum for Women, Law and Development. In many of the statements, women claimed that the police were searching for their male relatives when they first came upon them. Pursuant to Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code, police conducting investigations are prohibited from questioning female witnesses at any place other than their residence. Women are often unaware of these laws, and their ignorance is exploited by the police. As she stated at the women's rights conference, Rangammal of Orathanadu village came into contact with the police when her husband was repeatedly arrested for selling arrack. One night, the police came to her house and forcibly took her to the police station.
They said I should not be going home at that time and dragged me into the room, and three of them raped me repeatedly. I lost consciousness. In the morning they allowed me to go with a warning that I should not reveal anything. Due to fear I remained silent.
Vijaya from Coimbatore was approached by the police late in the night:
When I demanded to know where I was being taken, the police answered that I was providing food for [my brother] Vellaiyan... Since Vellaiyan was related to us the police caught hold [of] us like that... Later, one after another, five of them raped me repeatedly. I was unable to bear the pain since I was also a small girl... [T]he policemen said that I was pretending pain and I would even bear with another ten persons.
The police had also taken Vijaya's parents into custody. "The police said if I promised not to reveal anything to anyone, they would release my parents, and I agreed to it." Together with her aunt and mother, Vijaya arrived at the Anathapuram police station the next day.
The Sub-Inspector on duty was Krishnamoorthy. He said at least the Pondicherry police had raped and left [me] alive, if he telephoned the Dharmapuri police [they] would rape me and throw me [in] the canal... When we pleaded that we were uneducated and without any jobs, mostly engaged in manual works and needed justice, the Sub-Inspector threatened that he would have us beaten up if we further spoke. We had no other alternative but to return to the village.
With the help of civil liberties groups, Vijaya approached the police again. After some days, she added, "women police took me to a doctor. They explained to the doctor that I was of low character, a prostitute, that I was spreading rumours to prevent the arrest of my brothers, etc. They then advised the doctor not to take my case serious[ly]." Vijaya's family was soon approached by the police and offered Rs. 150,000 (US$3,750) to drop the case. She did not accept the money. The police charged Vijaya's father with theft and took him into custody for ten days. He claimed that he was tortured, while the police claimed that Vijaya was threatening the police with a false case of rape so that her father would be released. Because none of the villagers were willing to step forward as witnesses, Vijaya was unable to pursue her case.
In the village of Muthaandikuppam, South Arcot district, a husband filed a complaint against his wife, Vasantha, after a misunderstanding between the couple. On the night of March 21, 1994, Vasantha was forced to spend the night in the police station under the pretext that there were no women police available to escort her home. She was "gang raped by four constables and a sub-inspector of the same police station and [then] murdered. They attempted to dispose [of] the body but could not succeed. They spread a rumour that Vasantha committed suicide by hanging from the fan at the police rest room in the police station." Community members, civil liberties groups, and political parties demanded appropriate, severe sanctions against the perpetrators. The Tamil Nadu government responded by temporarily suspending the constables involved.
On February 21, 1995, twenty-year-old Poonkothai witnessed the rape and murder of her forty-eight-year-old mother by police who were searching for her brother. The incident took place around 7:00 a.m. when police arrived at Poonkothai's house looking for her brother Murthy: "They blamed my mother [for] hiding the whereabouts of my brother, who is suspected in a murder of a person found deadÿ near his house." Despite her mother's repeated denials, the police took both of them, along with Poonkothai's one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, to the Vannarapettai police station.
We were beaten up severely and were tortured with abusive words and brutal attacks... One of the senior personnel ordered the others to use the "Punjab method" to elicit facts from my mother. They stripped my mother in front of me and took her insideÿ I repeatedly heard my mother groaning and pleading them not to torture herÿ With tears she was telling me that four men gang raped her and tortured her by inserting the lathi in the vagina and beat[ing] her in her private parts.
The police later brought her mother home, stuffed a piece of cloth in her mouth, poured petrol over her, and set her on fire. They left the scene soon thereafter. A neighbor intervened and took the mother to the hospital, where she later died. When Poonkothai's husband approached the police station to file a case, the police registered the death as a suicide. After many NGO protests, the police filed a First Information Report (FIR). Poonkothai's two neighbors, whose sons were also police suspects, and her two sisters-in-law were also taken into custody for several days and similarly tortured. One sister-in-law had just delivered a child.
A report produced by the women's conference stated: "The drama usually played by police is just this. They come in search of the offenders and finding them absconding, whisk away the womenfolk to the police station and outrage their modesty." The conference also concluded that atrocities committed on women by the police were increasing.
From October to December 1998, violent confrontations in the districts of Ramanathapuram, Pudukkottai, Perambalur, and Cuddalore signaled that caste clashes had not only continued but had spread to once-peaceful districts. In Ramanathapuram district, Thevars responded to a state-wide Dalit conference by organizing a rally on October 4, 1998. That afternoon, streams of lorries carrying Thevar youths were seen heading toward Ramanathapuram. On the way, several vehicles stopped at roadside villages and Thevars entered Dalit and Muslim hamlets throwing petrol bombs and ransacking houses. Two women were killed. Thevar youths claimed that they were provoked, allegedly by Dalits placing barriers on the road. As news of the attacks spread, Dalits retaliated. Despite all the violence, Koottamaippu-the Thevar coalition sponsoring the rally-was allowed to hold it. Among its demands: the repeal of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Dalits and journalists throughout the affected areas have blamed the police and district administration for their failure to effectively respond to increasing tensions in the district arising from publicity for the conference. According to Frontline, a bi-monthly news magazine, "The police presence was minimal and vehicles were not being checked for weapons. This was in contrast to the intensive searches carried out by the police when Puthiya Tamalingam [a Dalit organization] held its rally on September 11."
The situation remained volatile in the district for days afterwards. Police were given shoot-on-sight orders for arsonists, while a large contingent of the striking police force was rushed in. Both sides also alleged harassment and torture by the police conducting raids under the pretext of searching for criminals and weapons. According to People's Watch, the death toll on both sides reached fifteen.
On October 7, 1998, three days after the incident, state Governor Fathima Beevi called for an overhauling of the police system to prevent "police excess." The director general of the Bureau of Police Research and Development urged implementation of the National Police Commission recommendations, while the chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission recommended that police personnel should be made to undergo human rights awareness training every six months. None of these recommendations had been implemented as of February 1999.
Just over a month after the violence in Ramanathapuram, caste tensions erupted in Thirunallur village in nearby Pudukkottai district. On November 19, 1998, three Dalit youths were stripped, tied to a tree, and beaten through the night. According to a press report, their "heads were tonsured, and they were also made to roll around the village temple in the presence of a large gathering which included their kith and kin. The next morning they were asked to leave the village." The attack was part of a judgment handed down by twelve members of the all-caste Hindu local village council: the young men were being punished for marrying non-Dalit Hindu girls. Tensions remained high in the village for weeks following the beatings. Not until a month later were the culprits charged and the victims given part of their compensation, under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
On December 1, 1998, in a massive operation reminiscent of the 1995 police raid on Kodiyankulum village, 300 armed policemen entered the Dalit colony at Ogalur village in Perambalur district. Under the pretext of rounding up "anti-social elements," police reportedly entered over 1,000 homes and, using lathis and iron rods, attacked the residents. After causing extensive damage to their homes and property, police arrested sixty-nine Dalits. Among them were thirty-four women, some with babies in their arms and a few who were pregnant. The reported background to the attack was a dispute between the Dalits and the caste Hindus over a piece of temple land and the attempted sexual assault of a Dalit woman by a caste Hindu man in the village; the man accompanied the police during their attack. As of January 1999, the Dalit laborers were still unable to work in the caste Hindu fields and their children were unable to go to school.
Another incident, reported by the news magazine Frontline, took place on December 16, 1998. In Puliyur village, Cuddalore district, a mob of caste Hindus (Vanniyas) numbering about 300 raided a Dalit settlement and attacked its residents with sticks and iron rods. Approximately 500 houses were ransacked and thirteen Dalits seriously injured. The day before the attack, a Dalit funeral procession was stopped as it passed a Vanniya house. "In the melee that followed, the caste-Hindu resident was reportedly assaulted by a Dalit, who, it is said, had been slapped a day earlier for smoking in the presence of the caste-Hindu resident." In this case, smoking was a luxury to which the Dalits were not entitled in the presence of a caste Hindu.
Tamil Nadu Government-Appointed Commissions
State governments in India share a common history of appointing judicial commissions of inquiry to quell public outcries against police excesses during large-scale communal and caste clashes. Although these commissions do serve a political function, their findings, if and when released to the public, are frequently in favor of the state. The Tamil Nadu experience is no exception to this rule.
As of December 1998 the state was one of five to have established a state human rights commission (SHRC). The commission's investigations into human rights abuses by the police and caste Hindus are, however, blocked if the state first appoints its own judicial commission of inquiry. Like the National Human Rights Commission, state human rights commissions are denied jurisdiction over an investigation if the matter is pending before "any commission duly constituted under any law for the time-being [sic] in force." The state government of Tamil Nadu has exploited this provision by appointing its own commissions of inquiry before state human rights commission investigations get underway. States have little control over the investigations of statutory (human rights) commissions. Conversely, government-appointed commissions almost invariably find in favor of the state and the police. Those findings that go against the state are rarely implemented or made public.
A Tamil Nadu government official explained that judicial commissions' findings "do not become public unless the government tables it with the legislature; findings that are against the state are often not tabled... By appointing its own commissions, the state government does not permit the State Human Rights Commission to do the investigation. It literally ties its hands." The appointment of judicial commissions has become almost routine following caste clashes. The Justice Mohan Commission, for example, was appointed by the state government in July 1997 to look into recurring caste clashes and suggest measures to prevent them, but only "after the state government knew that the State Human Rights Commission was on the job." The Justice Mohan Commission submitted its report in September 1998. In October 1998, Chief Minister Karunanidhi announced that not all the recommendations could be accepted.
In another large-scale clash in Coimbatore in November 1997, Muslims shops and houses were burned down by Hindus, reportedly with support from the police. Before the SHRC could take up the investigation, the state appointed the Justice Gokulakrishnan Commission, and "[a]gain their hands were tied." During the southern district clashes of April to December 1997, police opened fire in two villages and attacked Dalit women in a third. Three commissions headed by three district judges were immediately appointed. The director of People's Watch contends that "it has been the history of Dalit people that every commission of inquiry has gone against their interests." Another activist added that "the retired judges who are appointed always toe the line of the government."
Given proper resources, state human rights commissions stand to play an important role in the protection of human rights. Because their investigations enjoy greater independence from the state than judicial commission investigations, the statutes under which they are formed need to be amended to ensure that judicial commissions cannot be appointed as a means of undermining their powers. Moreover, the mandates of human rights commissions themselves need to be strengthened to ensure that their recommendations are binding and their findings are made public.
Fifty years of independence. The salute of fifty bullets. Ten Dalits murdered. This is our independence.
- Poster in Ramabai colony
Excessive use of force by members of the police is not limited to the rural areas that are largely the focus of previous chapters in this report. Police abuse against the urban poor, slum dwellers, Dalits, and other minorities has included arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and forced evictions. Because they cannot afford to bribe the police, Dalits and other poor minorities are disproportionately represented among those detained and tortured in police custody. Although the acute social discrimination characteristic of rural areas is less pronounced in cities, Dalits in urban areas, who make up the majority of bonded laborers and street cleaners, do not escape it altogether. Many live in segregated colonies which have been targets of police raids.
This chapter describes a July 1997 incident in Bombay in which police opened fire on a crowd of Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in their settlement. The firing, which killed ten and injured twenty-six, was in direct violation of international standards on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials and of Bombay Police Manual guidelines. According to human rights groups and colony residents, the firing was unprovoked and caste-motivated.
On July 11, 1997, residents of Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, a predominantly Dalit-populated urban colony in Bombay, woke up to find their statue of Dr. Ambedkar desecrated by a garland of sandals around his neck. The placing of shoes or sandals around the neck of the likeness of a person is taken as a sign of extreme disrespect and is usually an attempt to denigrate that person and his or her beliefs. When residents complained of the desecration to Local Beat No. 5 Pantnagar Police, located ten feet away from the statue, they were told to lodge a complaint at the Pantnagar police station. By 7:00 a.m. the growing crowd began protesting and blocked the Eastern Express Highway in front of the colony. Within minutes, members of the Special Reserve Police Force (SRPF), led by Sub-Inspector M. Y. Kadam, arrived in a van and stopped in front of the colony, hundreds of meters away from the statue and the protests on the highway. SRPF constables opened fire on pedestrians on the service road in front of the colony and later into alleys between colony houses. The firing lasted for ten to fifteen minutes and killed ten people. Most of the victims were shot above the waist. Sub-Inspector Kadam and his SRPF constables left soon after the firing, only to be replaced by the city police and other SRPF members.
Four hours later, at 11:30 a.m., at a site 150 meters away from the firing and 300 meters away from the desecrated statute, an angry crowd set fire to a luxury bus. At 2:00 p.m. twenty to twenty-five police officers entered Ramabai colony, started spreading tear gas, and began lathi-charging residents in their homes. At 4:00 p.m. they lathi-charged again. By late afternoon, twenty-six people had been seriously injured, and Local Beat No. 5 had been destroyed by protesters. Sub-Inspector Kadam, who ordered the firing, had a number of cases of "atrocities" against Dalits pending against him. Kadam's former supervisor and SRPF commandant Vasant Ingle had previously charged Kadam with being "anti-Dalit": he had accused Kadam of mistreating a subordinate for "casteist reasons" and had ordered his suspension for violating the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Ingle has also charged that Kadam's excessive use of force in dealing with Ramabai residents was a direct result of his caste prejudice. Kadam has denied this charge.
The Ramabai incident led to significant unrest throughout the state of Maharashtra, including rioting and social boycotts against protesting Dalits. A two-member team of the Indian People's Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), a Bombay-based NGO, visited the districts of Nagpur, Amravati, Yavatmal, and Wardha in October 1997 to investigate violence against Dalits in the wake of disturbances related to protests against the Ramabai incident. According to an article in the Times of India, the team concluded that in various villages, "the police had abetted supporters of the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliances... in committing atrocities on Dalits and terrorising them" and that "the people owing allegiance to the ruling alliance parties had made determined efforts to terrorise and punish the Buddhists [converted Dalits] for having dared to protest against the shameful act of desecration of the Ambedkar statue." According to IPHRC, such efforts included the stripping and parading of a Dalit woman in Karanja-Ghadge village in Wardha district. She was later reportedly framed for murder by the police after she complained of her ill-treatment.
Soon after the firing, the Maharashtra state government appointed a commission of inquiry, headed by Justice S. D. Gundewar, to determine whether "the steps taken by the police to deal with the large crowd and to disperse it were adequate, in accordance with the procedure established for riot control," or if the force used was excessive. The commission was also asked to report on measures, general or specific, "which are required to be taken by the police and the administration to avoid such occurrence in the future."
According to several eyewitness accounts and fact-finding reports, including that of the Indian People's Human Rights Commission, the National Alliance of People's Movements, and the Air Corporation SC/ST Employees Association, the firing went on intermittently for at least fifteen minutes. In a statement of claim submitted before the Gundewar Commission of Inquiry, an eyewitness described the manner in which the police began firing. Before firing they "did not lathi-charge, burst tear gas shells, fire a few rounds in the air or... make any serious, positive efforts to disperse people" but instead, "in a designed manner, deliberately, intentionally opened fire on innocent masses."
A senior-level official in the Bombay police department, who wished to remain anonymous, told Human Rights Watch he believed that the SRPF engaged in excessive use of force. This particular official did not believe that the firing was caste-motivated. He did, however, characterize members of the SRPF as "trigger-happy." He then added, "I would have shot at one, in the leg, to get the message across, not killed ten. They do commit excesses. They killed too many people. They sit around with nothing to do until they get called in, and then they overreact."
In February 1998 Human Rights Watch visited Ramabai colony and spoke to many of its residents. Monk Kashyap, an eyewitness, told Human Rights Watch about the sequence of events in the early-morning firing:
I heard screaming; I went out to see. It was early. I was standing outside about thirty meters away. They didn't shoot me, because I was wearing my monk's robe. They told me to leave. Everyone was sleeping. I saw forty or fifty people saying, "Rasta roko" ["block the road"]. Two police cars [city police] went straight through and did not stop. An SRPF van came. One or two protesters must have thrown stones at private cars. There were no shots above the head, just a direct shoot. First they hit Kaushaliyabhai Patare. The bullet went through her and hit the medical dispensary 150 meters away. She was forty-five. She died on the spot. I kept watching. They said, "Sadhu [monk], get out of here." I came inside but kept looking through the window. Sukhdev Kapadne was there. They grabbed him and put him in the car. Then they asked him who he was. He said he was a social worker and they told him to go. Then they shot him in the back. The bullet came out of his chest, and he fell forward. He was fifty years old.
Monk Kashyap also witnessed the shooting of Sukhdev Kapadne, Kaushaliyabhai, Amar Dhanawade, Vilas Dodke, and Anil Garud, all of whom "died on the spot." After the initial firing, police charged forward into the housing areas. Once they were fully inside the colony, the firing continued. Most residents were caught completely by surprise. One of the bullets hit Bablu Verma and killed him: "He trembled like a fish and died. If someone tried to help him they would shoot at him too. He was twenty-six years old." Shridevi Giri was also injured by bullets. "I was hit in the arm twice," she said as she showed us her scars. Another woman stepped into the alley and saw her husband shot: "I was standing outside my door and saw the bullet hit my husband in the stomach." Babu Phulekar was also standing in the alley and was also injured.
V. S. Khade, a prominent member of the community, confirmed the manner of attack: "They did not say anything. There was no lathi-charge, no tear gas, no bubble bullets, just a direct firing." Khade lost his nephew's son in the firing.
He used to stay with us more after his mother died in 1994. On that day he was going to work. The crowds wouldn't allow him to cross the highway. So he came back and told my wife and my daughter not to go outside. Then he went to inform his father, who was one kilometer away. Before he could get there he was shot and killed. His brother and uncle went to pick him up, but the police shouted, "Don't touch him or we'll shoot you too." I heard the shots. When I arrived he was already dead. He was only seventeen.
Soon after the incident took place, colony residents proceeded to the Pantnagar police station to lodge a complaint against the police involved in the firing. The police refused to record or register a complaint. By 11:00 a.m. all the bodies had been transported to the hospital, though none had been taken by the police. Colony residents described the scene later that day:
There were hundreds of officers. They tried to keep everyone quiet. There was no firing and no lathi-charge. Then at 2:00 p.m. twenty to twenty-five police came in the colony and started spreading tear gas. They shouted, "Close your doors and windows and don't come out." People went back inside. One person was injured from the tear gas. He was burned from the thighs down. The police left soon thereafter, but people were still going to the hospital until 11:00 p.m. that night. Everyone who died died on the spot. On the spot they killed ten people.
Milind, the nineteen-year-old tear gas victim, spoke to Human Rights Watch about his experience with the police before and after being burned:
It was 6:00 a.m.; I was in my store. I had been working there for one or two months. Someone came and told me what had happened to the statue. I saw the garland of shoes. Someone said bring the dogs, bring the police. I heard it all. I came home because I was tired. At around 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., they threw tear gas next door. We heard the explosion and saw smoke, and I went outside. I stood outside, and they threw tear gas on me. I was only wearing a towel. I fell down. My legs were burning, and blood was coming out. My underwear and towel crumbled to the floor. My mother started screaming, "My son is dying, my son is dying." A police officer told her, "Get in the house or I will shoot you."
According to Milind, a police officer put him in a van to take him to the hospital, where, after an hour and a half, the doctors stitched his wounds, and the police took him to the police station to "take his statement." Along with his parents, Milind arrived at the station at 6:00 p.m. As of 11:30 p.m. he had not eaten and was told that he would not be fed.
I asked for water, and they said, "Drink your urine." They kicked out my parents at 2:30 a.m. and said, "Go home or you'll also be arrested." Then they threw me in the lock-up and started beating me. They shouted, "Ramabai people destroyed our police station. You won't get food or water." They started beating me with their sticks; on my back, on my legs. Blood started coming out of my legs. Inspector Marate came in. I told him what his officers were doing, and he called me a motherfucker. "Ramabai's people should be treated this way," he shouted. He was talking about Dalits. Then he slapped me and told me to go to sleep. I went to bed without any medicine or food.
According to an article in the Bombay-based weekly, Sunday Mid-Day, the senior inspector of the Pantnagar police station, where Milind was held overnight, stated that Milind was "part of the mob which set the police chowky [booth] in Ramabai Colony on fire. To disperse the mob tear gas shells were fired, and he sustained leg injuries." He added that Milind was brought back to the police station after treatment and kept under detention until things "cooled out." "Why would we beat him when he was already injured?" he asked.
The following afternoon Milind's parents arrived at the police station with a letter from Bharati Jadhav, Pantnagar's municipal councillor. Milind was released and admitted to the hospital, where he remained for one and a half months. His family paid for his treatment and his medicines. Although they did receive some money from local politicians, they received nothing from the government. He also did not get the job that the government had promised him as compensation. As Milind told Human Rights Watch, many others were left out as well:
Many people were also hurt in the lathi-charge, but they got no money either. One person's head was split open, and one person went blind from a bullet fragment. They got nothing. No money for them, no job for them. [Only] the people whose family member died or who were shot got money and a job.
At the time of the interview, Milind was studying in the tenth grade and was still looking for employment.
National and International Standards on the Use of Firearms
The indiscriminate use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators contravenes key provisions of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which inter alia states:
Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life ....
With respect to the policing of unlawful assemblies, Article 13 of the Basic Principles dictates that, "in the dispersal of unlawful assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not praticable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary." Article 14 adds that, "in the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent. Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms in such cases, except under conditions stipulated in principle 9." Principle 9 allows for the use of firearms in cases of self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.
The Basic Principles also state that: "Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law."
Many of the steps taken by the Special Reserve Police were also in clear violation of the Bombay Police Manual provisions on riot control. Relevant provisions and the police's defense before the Gundewar Commission of Inquiry are outlined below. According to Rule No. 59 of the manual:
It should be accepted as a cardinal principle that troops of armed police engaged in suppression of disorder should in no circumstances be brought into such close contact with a hostile mob which greatly outnumbers them as to lead to the risk of their being committed to hand-to-hand struggle. Apart from the danger of their being rushed or deprived of their arms, it is impossible in these circumstances to exercise adequate fire control and the effect of fire at such close quarters is, therefore, likely to be unnecessarily severe.
By its own admission, the state reserve police present at the scene brought itself into close contact with the crowd, fired shots in the air, and, according to several eyewitnesses and a fact-finding report, all but one person killed had bullet wounds above the waistline. Even assuming that there was a "riotous mob" in need of control, SRPF forces seemed to have reversed the conventional riot control protocol. Rather than proceeding from a lathi-charge to tear gas, firing in the air, and firing below the waist, they first fired above the waist, then administered tear gas, and on two occasions in the afternoon (at 2:00 p.m. and later at 4:00 p.m.), lathi-charged residents in their homes after beating down their doors. The lathi-charge included severe beatings of two women both of whom "bore the marks of lathi-charge on their hands and feet."
In a statement of claim submitted on behalf of the police department to the Gundewar Commission of Inquiry, the police claimed that a total of fifty rounds were fired: four in the air and seven just north of the first firing. They did not account for the remaining thirty-nine rounds. Witnesses have challenged the police's claim that only fifty rounds were fired. As Khade explained: "They fired for fifteen minutesÿ But ten people were killed and so many were injured. A few people were shot two or three times. So how could it be that only fifty bullets were fired?"
The police's statement claims that a mob had set a luxury bus on fire and had stoned several tankers, and that an explosion of those tankers was imminent. According to the police, Sub-Inspector Kadam ordered one of his officers to fire warning shots in the air and upon realizing that the warning shots had no effect on the crowd, he "ordered his rifle section to aim and fire at arsonists and rioteers." They claimed, however, that the firings had no effect on the "mob." During his deposition before the Gundewar Commission on February 18, 1998, Sub-Inspector Kadam admitted to ordering his subordinates to fire in the air, even though he was aware that the Police Manual prohibited such actions. When asked why he decided to ignore police procedures, Kadam replied that he had read in a newspaper that firing in the air was an effective way to disperse a mob.
Rule No. 60 of the Bombay Police Manual, on the use of firearms in dispersing an unlawful assembly, instructs that whenever firing becomes "unavoidable to unruly mobs, it should be ensured that the aim is kept low and directed against the most threatening part of the crowd. Care should be taken not to fire upon persons separated from the crowd nor to fire over the heads of the crowd as thereby innocent persons may be injured. Under no circumstances, should firing in the air be resorted to as experience proves that this leads ultimately to greater loss of life." The rule goes on to state that "it is impossible to pick out and put out of action individual leaders of a mob" and that "ineffective fire against a really determined mob is likely to influence it further so that the attack will be pressed home and the police overwhelmed." Sub-Inspector Kadam disregarded explicit procedure and ordered his officers to "aim and fire at arsonists and rioteers." The police claimed that the situation was unavoidable and that Kadam's orders needed to be looked at "in light of the situation that [was] faced by the officers on the spot."
Finally, in reference to medical aid during riots and disturbances, Rule 62 confers upon officers the obligation to "do the best they can do to provide medical aid to persons injured on such occasions and, when necessary to convey them to hospitals as quickly as possible." None of the bodies that were taken to the hospital that day were taken by the police. Moreover, anyone attempting to administer aid to the injured was immediately ordered to step away or face the same consequences.
An amateur video of the events was submitted by the police as documentation of the department's claim that the firing was necessary to control a mob on its way to setting gas tankers on fire. The video, the police claimed, "vividly depicts the incidents of arson, the black billowing clouds emanating from the rear of the LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] tankers, the northward movement of the police party and subsequent arrival of fire brigade and dousing of fire." The authenticity of the video, however, has been called into question. A human rights NGO that examined the video concluded that the tape was doctored. It pointed to the video's choppy editing and the presence of two different backgrounds for incidents that police claim took place at the same scene. Closer examination of the video, eyewitness reports, and NGO fact-finding missions all confirm that the burning of public property that the police use as justification for their actions at 7:00 a.m. in fact took place much later in the day at a site hundreds of meters away.
The Indian People's Human Rights Commission issued a scene-by-scene analysis of the two-minute video, exposing inconsistencies between shots. Background scenes in the video provide evidence of two separate locales: Ramabai Colony and Nalanda Nagar, which is located some 150 meters away from Ramabai and approximately 300 meters away from the agitation around the statue. Although a luxury bus was set on fire, this occurred at around 11:30 a.m., more than four hours after the Ramabai firing began. Moreover, according to eyewitnesses, two seemingly empty tankers were brought in by the police themselves and placed behind the burning bus in order to "hide their blunder" and to fabricate a defense to the firing.
In its response to allegations received from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the government of India put forward the same defense:
The gathering became violent and started damaging private and public property. It also tried to set fire to a LPG gas tanker. In order to discourage the mob from doing so (which otherwise would have resulted in extensive damage to human life and property) and for self-defence, the Police resorted to a "Cane-Charge" and subsequently, having failed to control the mob, opened fire. Unfortunately, 10 persons died and 24 persons were injured in the firing. 8 police personnel were also injured.
The government also asserted that allegations such as those received pertaining to caste "do not fall within the mandate" of the special rapporteur.
On August 7, 1998, the Gundewar Commission report was presented to the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government. In December 1998 the report was tabled in the state legislative assembly. The commission held Sub-Inspector Kadam responsible for an "unjustified, unwarranted and indiscriminate firing which [took place] without warning." It further recommended that the government terminate his services. The Shiv Sena-BJP government accepted the report and declared that Kadam would be suspended. Many activists have protested the suspension and have demanded that Kadam be dismissed and charged with murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. As of February 1999 he had not been charged. Given the police action and the resulting loss of life and injuries, it is incumbent upon the government of Maharashtra to prosecute officers responsible for the attack.
Allocation of labor on the basis of caste is one of the fundamental tenets of the caste system. Within the caste system, Dalits have been assigned tasks and occupations that are deemed ritually polluting for other caste communities. Throughout this report, Human Rights Watch has documented the exploitation of agricultural laborers who work for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US$0.38 to $0.88) a day. A sub-group of Dalits is condemned to labor even more exploitative. An estimated forty million people in India, among them fifteen million children, are bonded laborers. A majority of them are Dalits. According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are manual scavengers who clean public latrines and dispose of dead animals; unofficial estimates are much higher. In India's southern states, thousands of Dalit girls are forced into prostitution before reaching the age of puberty.
Bondage is passed on from one generation to another. Scavenging and prostitution are hereditary occupations of "untouchable" castes. Dalits face discrimination when seeking other forms of employment and are largely unable to escape their designated occupation even when the practice itself has been abolished by law. In violation of their basic human rights, they are physically abused and threatened with economic and social ostracism from the community for refusing to carry out various caste-based tasks.
"Bonded labor" refers to work in slave-like conditions in order to pay off a debt. Due to the high interest rates charged and the abysmally low wages paid, the debts are seldom settled. Bonded laborers are frequently low-caste, illiterate, and extremely poor, while the creditors/employers are usually higher-caste, literate, comparatively wealthy, and relatively more powerful members of the community. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 abolishes all agreements and obligations arising out of the bonded labor system. It aims to release all laborers from bondage, cancel any outstanding debt, prohibit the creation of new bondage agreements, and order the economic rehabilitation of freed bonded laborers by the state. It also punishes attempts to compel persons into bondage with a maximum of three years in prison and a Rs. 2,000 (US$50) fine. However, the extent to which bonded laborers have been identified, released, and rehabilitated in the country is negligible.
Most agricultural laborers interviewed for this report were paid between Rs. 15 and Rs. 25 (US$0.38 to $0.63), or two to three kilograms of rice, per day, well below the minimum wage prescribed in their state. Women were consistently paid less than men. Many laborers owed debts to their employers or other moneylenders. Under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, payment of less than minimum wage for the purposes of working off a debt amounts to bondage. The act's definition of the "bonded labour system" includes "any system of forced, or partly forced labour under which a debtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement with the creditor to the effect that
(v) by reason of his birth in any particular caste or community, he would
(1) render, by himself or through any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service to the creditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specified period or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages....
Nominal wages are defined as wages which are less than
(a) the minimum wages fixed by the Government, in relation to the same or similar labour, under any law for the time being in force; and
(b) where no such minimum wage has been fixed in relation to any form of labour, the wages that are normally paid, for the same or similar labour to the labourers working in the same locality.
Caste and Employment Discrimination
In traditional Indian society, the fourfold varna theory describes a broad functional division of labor. Though the caste system has not prevented occupational mobility for caste Hindus, many "untouchable" communities have been forced to continue their occupations as leather workers, disposers of dead animals, or manual scavengers, and to perform other tasks deemed too ritually polluting for upper castes.
The constitutional abolition of "untouchability" meant that caste Hindus could no longer force Dalits to perform any "polluting" occupation. Yet sweeping, scavenging, and leatherwork are still the monopoly of the scheduled castes, whose members are threatened with physical abuse and social boycotts for refusing to perform demeaning tasks. Migration and the anonymity of the urban environment have in some cases resulted in upward occupational mobility among Dalits, but the majority continue to perform their traditional functions. A lack of training and education, as well as discrimination in seeking other forms of employment, have kept these traditions and their hereditary nature alive.
Manual scavenging is a caste-based occupation. Dalit manual scavengers exist under different caste names throughout the country, such as the Bhangis in Gujarat, the Pakhis in Andhra Pradesh, and the Sikkaliars in Tamil Nadu. Members of these communities are invariably placed at the very bottom of the caste hierarchy, and even the hierarchy of Dalit sub-castes. Using little more than a broom, a tin plate, and a basket, they are made to clear feces from public and private latrines and carry them to dumping grounds and disposal sites. Though long outlawed, the practice of manual scavenging continues in most states.
Those working for urban municipalities are paid Rs. 30 - 40 a day (less than US$1), and those working privately are paid Rs. 5 (US$0.13) a month for each house they clean. Even those working for municipalities rarely get paid and are offered little health benefits for a job that entails many health hazards. In cities scavengers are actually lowered into filthy gutters in order to unclog them; they are fully immersed in human waste without any protective gear. In Bombay, children made to dive into manholes have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. In many communities, in exchange for leftover food, scavengers are also expected to remove dead animal carcasses and deliver messages of death to the relatives of their upper-caste neighbors. Their refusal to do so can result in physical abuse and ostracism from the community.
A social worker in the Dhandhuka taluk of Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, explained the relevance of caste to this work:
Bhangis are the section of Dalits that do this work. The funds come from the government. In villages, the cleaners and who they clean for are always divided by caste... At all levels, villages and municipalities, Bhangis are the workers and they always work for upper castes.
In a 1997 report, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis claimed that manual scavengers are "totally cut off from the mainstream of progress" and are "still subjected to the worst kind of oppression and indignities. What is more pathetic is the fact that manual scavenging is still largely a hereditary occupation. Safai karamcharis are no doubt the most oppressed and disadvantaged section of the population." The commission is a statutory body set up pursuant to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993. Safai karamcharis are defined as those persons engaged in, or employed for, manually carrying human excreta or any sanitation work.
Martin Macwan is founder-director of Navsarjan, an NGO that has led the campaign to abolish manual scavenging in the western state of Gujarat. In an interview with Human Rights Watch he claimed that when Navsarjan had attempted to rehabilitate scavengers it was difficult to find alternative employment for them, and even more difficult to convince scavengers that they were able to take on, or were "worthy of performing," different occupations.
Members of the Bhangi community in Gujarat are paid by state municipalities to clean the gutters, streets, and community dry latrines. In an article in Frontline, a safai karamchari of Paliyad village, Ahmedabad district, complained that in the rainy season, the "water mixes with the faeces that we carry in baskets on our heads, it drips onto our clothes, our facesÿ When I return home, I find it difficult to eat food. The smell never leaves my clothes, my hair. But in the summer there is often no water to wash your hands before eating. It is difficult to say which [season] is worse."
Human Rights Watch spoke to members of the Bhangi community in Gujarat's Ahmedabad district. The Bhangis lived in a residential area called Bhangivas separate from the Dharbars, Rajputs, and Vanniyas who constitute the caste Hindus in the area. The Bhangis were primarily employed as manual scavengers. They were also responsible for removing dead cats and dogs and were given Rs. 5 (US$0.13) or small amounts of food for doing so.
Forty-year-old Manju, a manual scavenger employed by the urban municipality, described her daily routine and wages:
In the morning I work from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. cleaning the dry latrines. I collect the feces and carry it on my head to the river half a kilometer away seven to ten times a day. In the afternoon I clean the gutters. Another Bhangi collects the rubbish from the gutters and places it outside. Then I come and pick it up and take it one kilometer away. My husband died ten years ago since then I have been doing this. Today I earn Rs. 30 a day (US$0.75). Nine years ago I earned Rs. 16 (US$0.40), then Rs. 22 (US$0.55), and for the last two years it has been Rs. 30. But the payments are uncertain. For the last two months we have not received anything. Every two months they pay, but there is no certainty. We are paid by the Nagar Palika municipality chief officer.
Like many others, Manju's health had suffered as a result of her occupation: "I have often gotten sick: fevers, headaches, breaking and spraining hands and feet, fatigue, and dizziness. It is all dirty work." Several other Bhangi women interviewed complained of similar ailments. Most looked considerably older than their stated age. In addition to the abovementioned diseases of the poor, manual scavengers also tend to suffer from respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and trachoma, a chronic contagious bacterial conjunctivitis commonly resulting in blindness. Human Rights Watch spoke to several workers with vision problems and to sixty-five-year-old Bachubhai Chaganbhai, who suffered from tuberculosis. He claimed that the illness was due to "working as a cleaner. I used to clean open latrines. Because of this work I am sick. I stopped working five years ago and have been sick with TB ever since."
Because Bachubhai was a "permanent" worker, he received Rs. 1,500 (US$37.50) pension per month. He used to earn Rs. 2,000 (US$50) a month, or approximately Rs. 65 (US$1.63) a day. Activist Martin Macwan explained that
[b]eing permanent means that you have an appointment letter. You also get health benefits but not much; you get to visit government dispensaries, which are not in good shape. But the state government has to give grants to the state municipalities depending on the number of permanents that are employed, so the municipalities try to keep them as casual laborers instead. But the number of hours they work is usually the same.
Despite the similarity in work and hours spent, casual laborers are paid only Rs. 34 (US$0.85) a day while permanent laborers were paid Rs. 80 (US$2). Most casual laborers never achieve permanent status, even after years of employment. Leelaben, another scavenger interviewed by Human Rights Watch, had been cleaning the latrines in Birla High School for over twenty years, "Still they have not made me permanent," she said. "I used to get paid Rs. 15 (US$0.38) a month, now I get paid Rs. 200 (US$5) a month."
The situation of private workers, mostly women working in upper-caste households, is even bleaker. In the Bhangivas residential area, in July 1998, there were a total of thirty private workers; the rest were employed by the municipality. Many private workers were paid only Rs. 3 (US$0.08) a day.
An activist in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, who has been working for the rehabilitation of cleaning workers for the past fourteen years, described a similar pay scale in his state:
Private cleaners receive Rs. 5 to 10 a month for each house they clean [US$0.12 to $0.25]. They clean up to ten to fifteen houses a day, many of which have six or more family members. Those employed by urban municipalities are paid Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500 [US$50 - $63] a month but are only paid once every four to six months. Some are permanent, and some are casual. There are no health benefits, no gloves, no masks, no utensils. The majority are women.
A survey conducted by Safai Karmachari Andolan, an NGO movement for the elimination of manual scavenging, found over 1,650 scavengers in ten districts in Andhra Pradesh. Many were also engaged in underground sewage work. The survey also revealed that 98 percent of manual scavengers in the state belonged to scheduled castes.
A third category of cleaning workers are responsible for cleaning the railway systems. In Andhra Pradesh they are paid Rs. 300 (US$7.50) a month with very few benefits. In Gujarat, they are paid Rs. 12 (US$0.30) a day "for unlimited hours of work. They are told they can stop working when the train comes, but in India you never know when the train will come."
An activist working with the Sikkaliar (Dalit) community of Tamil Nadu described the community's economic exploitation and the tasks that its members are forced to perform. His village had 200 Thevar families. Seventy Sikkaliar families lived in a separate government-built colony. Those who worked as scavengers and removed dead animals from the village received Rs. 150 (US$3.75) per month for their services.
Social discrimination against scavengers is rampant. Most scavengers live in segregated rural colonies and are unable to make use of common resources. According to an Andhra Pradesh activist:
In one toilet there can be as many as 400 seats which all have to be manually cleaned. This is the lowest occupation in the world, and it is done by the community that occupies the lowest status in the caste system. Even other scheduled-caste people won't touch the safai karamcharis [cleaning workers]. It is "untouchability" within the "untouchables," yet nobody questions it.
Human Rights Watch was taken to various tea stalls to witness the separate tea tumbler system in which scavengers are made to wash and handle their own tumblers so that glasses reserved for caste Hindus are not "polluted."
When we are working, they ask us not to come near them. At tea canteens, they have separate tea tumblers and they make us clean them ourselves and make us put the dishes away ourselves. We cannot enter temples. We cannot use upper-caste water taps. We have to go one kilometer away to get water.
Despite their appalling work conditions, manual scavengers are unable to demand higher wages or sanitary instruments for use in the collection of human excreta: "When we ask for our rights from the government, the municipality officials threaten to fire us. So we don't say anything. This is what happens to people who demand their rights." According to Macwan, in Ranpur town, Ahmedabad district, women who arrived late for work were made to clean men's urinals as punishment, "even if the men were still inside." Another social worker active in Gujarat added that Bhangis were forced to deliver messages of death to upper-caste family relatives; "They will be boycotted and beaten so they cannot say no."
Human Rights Watch spoke to an activist working to organize Sikkaliars in the Theni district of southern Tamil Nadu. He works with fifty Sikkaliar families in a Thevar-dominated area. The interview revealed that apart from having to perform degrading tasks, the Sikkaliars are also subject to physical and sexual abuse as well as restrictions on their right to vote.
Sikkaliars have to bury the Thevars' dead animals, and women have to collect waste. They only get meals for their work, even for burying animals. Sometimes Sikkaliars take the dead animal's meat and divide it among themselves. The Thevars harass women laborers, particularly young ladies. Once a girl attains puberty, she is harassed by Thevar men. If anyone opposes it, they will be severely punished. Sikkaliars depend on Thevars, and because there is no other support they often leave for other villages out of fear when fighting occurs. They are doing scavenger work as well as [agricultural] laborer work for which they are paid less than minimum wage. They clean the latrines, the bathrooms, the drains, and they do cremation work. If not they are severely punished by the Thevars. The children are not able to go to school.
The activist also described how Dalits are unable to freely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. During the February 1998 elections, Sikkaliars were forced to vote according to the demands of the Thevar community or risk losing the little income they had: "Because Thevars are in the majority, they will come inside the voting booth and tell them who to vote for. If they don't act according to instructions, then they don't get employment, or they will be beaten."
Thevars treat Sikkaliars as slaves so they can utilize them as they wish. They exploit them sexually and make them dig graveyards for high-caste people's burials. They have to take the death message to Thevars. These are all unpaid services. Maybe they give them Rs. 10 [US$0.25] for the message. There are also very meager wages for grave digging. Still they have to do these things or they will be thrown out of the village.
The activist referred to the women in his village as "sexual slaves" and claimed that Thevar men frequently enter Dalit houses at night to rape the women: "Dalit people have anger against Thevar people in mind. Thevars use their women, but Dalits cannot do anything." According to R. Balakrishnan, director of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the raping of Dalit women exposes the hypocrisy of the caste system: "No one practices untouchability when it comes to sex."
The relationship between scavenging and debt bondage
When interviewed in early 1998, thirty-year-old Parsotambhai, a mother of three in Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, earned Rs. 10 (US$0.25) a month for each house she cleaned. She also received small amounts of food once a day and complained that there was too much work. Others voiced similar complaints:
They give one person too much work so they have to take their family members, even their children, at night to finish the work; otherwise they would get fired. It takes four people to do the work that they give one person. None of the children are really studying. Girls sometimes study up to fifth standard, boys up to seventh.
Given the insignificant amounts of remuneration and the need to engage several family members in work assigned to one, it comes as little surprise that many families borrow money from their upper-caste neighbors and consequently going into bondage. Their poverty is so acute that Macwan has even documented a Bhangi practice of separating non-digested wheat from buffalo dung to make chappatis (flat bread). One scavenger commented:
There is no health care, no benefits from the government. We cannot live on what we get paid, but we have to. We also have to take loans from the upper caste. They charge 10 percent in interest per month. We have no clothes, no soap, no wages, and no payments on time.
Failure to implement protective legislation
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 punishes the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine as high as Rs. 2,000 (US$50). Offenders are also liable to prosecution under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In 1992 the government launched a national scheme that called for the identification, training, and rehabilitation of safai karamcharis throughout the country.
According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, the progress "has not been altogether satisfactory." As a result it has benefited only "a handful of safai karamcharis and their dependents. One of the reasons for unsatisfactory progress of the Scheme appears to be inadequate attention paid to it by the State Governments and concerned agencies." When confronted with the existence of manual scavenging and dry latrines within their jurisdiction, state governments often deny their existence altogether or claim that a lack of water supply prevents states from constructing flush latrines. This despite the fact that a sum of Rs. 4,640,000,000 (US$116 million) was allocated to the scheme under the government's Eighth Five Year Plan. Activists claim that the resources, including government funds, exist for construction and for the rehabilitation of scavengers; what is lacking is the political will to do so. Members of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis consider it imperative that the commission be "vested with similar powers and facilities as are available to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes." Currently the commission only has advisory powers and no authority to summon or monitor cases.
The Devadasi System: Ritualized Prostitution
The practice of devadasi, in which a girl, usually before reaching the age of puberty, is ceremoniously dedicated or married to a deity or to a temple, continues in several southern states including Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Literally meaning "female servant of god,"devadasis usually belong to the Dalit community. Once dedicated, the girl is unable to marry, forced to become a prostitute for upper-caste community members, and eventually auctioned into an urban brothel. The age-old practice continues to legitimize the sexual violence and discrimination that have come to characterize the intersection between caste and gender. The patrons of the devadasis
are generally from the higher castes because those from the devadasis own castes are too poor to afford to [pay] for the ritualsÿ In many cases a patron kept many girls and the number of girls used to be a yard stick of the status of that man. This system of patronage has given way to [a system of] commercial prostitution in the populated big cities.
Activists involved in the Dalit women's movement explain that the nexus between caste and forced prostitution is quite strong and that the devadasi system is no exception. Most Indian girls and women in India's urban brothels come from lower-caste, tribal, or minority communities. Like other forms of violence against women, ritualized prostitution, activists believe, is a system "designed to kill whatever vestiges of self-respect the untouchable castes have in order to subjugate them and keep them underprivileged." By keeping Dalit women as prostitutes, and by tying prostitution to bondage in rural areas, upper-caste men reinforce their declaration of social and economic superiority over the lower castes.
According to the Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace, a Canada-based NGO:
Thousands of untouchable female children (between 6 and 8 years) are forced to become maidens of God (Devadasis, Jogins, a Hindu religious practice in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka State, Maharashtra, Orissa State, to mention only a few). They are taken from their families, never to see them again. They are later raped by the temple priest and finally auctioned secretly into prostitution and ultimately die from AIDS. It is estimated by NGOs that 5,000 to 15,000 girls are auctioned secretly every year.
In an interview with Human Rights Watch, the head of an NGO active in Karnataka explained that in her state the girl is offered to the Goddess Yellamma in a village ceremony:
Earlier it was for priests, but now it is for high-caste men. They used to live in the templesÿ now anyone can use them including lorry driversÿ Dreadlocked hair is taken as a sign from the Goddess Yellamma that the girl is meant to be a devadasi. In a festival, a marriage ceremony takes place between the girl and god. The eldest lady of the devadasi community ties the mangal sutra[marriage necklace]. In some ceremonies the girl was paraded almost naked. The girl is then given some money but still works in the fields. She lives separately in the village and is used by all the men, including Dalit men.
In 1992 the Karnataka state government passed the Karnataka Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act and called for the rehabilitation of devadasi women. Like many laws aimed at protecting women and lower castes, the act suffers from a lack of enforcement. Moreover, the police themselves have been known to use devadasis. As the Karnataka activist explained, the law works to the disadvantage of women because it criminalizes their actions and not the actions of their patrons. Police will even go so far as to demand sex as a bribe: "They will threaten to file charges under the act if the woman says no." Their perceived status in society, as women who are supposed to serve men sexually, also makes it more difficult for devadasis to approach the police for help: "When a devadasi is raped, it is not considered rape. She can be had by any man at any time."
In reviewing India's third periodic report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in July 1997, the Human Rights Committee regretted "the lack of national legislation to outlaw the practice of Devadasi, the regulation of which is left to the states," and added that "it appears that the practice continues and that not all states have effective legislation against it." The committee emphasized that the practice was incompatible with the ICCPR and recommended that "all necessary measures be taken urgently" toward its eradication.
With [few] or no amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1870, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1930, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the same laws that were used by the British to keep the Indians down are now being used by the upper castes to keep the Dalits down.
- Dalit attorney
It is generally known that false criminal cases are sometimes engineered merely for the sake of making arrests to humiliate and embarrass some specified enemies of the complainant, in league with the police for corrupt reasons.
- National Police Commission, Government of India
In violation of the right to equal protection before the law, as guaranteed by Article 14 of the constitution and Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, local police routinely abuse vaguely worded provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, and various preventive detention statutes to thwart attempts by Dalits to demand their legal rights. The arbitrary detention of Dalits and treatment of Dalit men and women in custody are also clear violations of laws governing police conduct.
State agents have acted directly and forcefully against those attempting to claim their rights. Dalit activists throughout the country face charges as "terrorists," "threats to national security," and "habitual offenders." Many have to spend much of their income on lawyers' fees or anticipatory bail. Dalit activists are frequently charged under the National Security Act, 1980, the Indian Explosives Act, 1884, and even the Terrorism and Anti-Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). The most common charges under the Indian Penal Code include sections 147 and 148 on rioting and rioting with a deadly weapon; Section 341 for wrongful restraint; sections 323 and 324 for voluntarily causing hurt; sections 302 and 307 for murder and attempted murder; and Section 427 for mischief. Provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code are also used to detain Dalit activists and deter them from organizing Dalit community members.
The criminalization of social activism in India is a pattern that has been previously documented by Human Rights Watch. Dalits are easy targets for the police. With little knowledge of their rights, limited access to attorneys, and no money for hearings or bail, they often languish in prison even for minor offenses. This section briefly outlines the rights of the accused upon arrest and the treatment of Dalit activists in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka.
Rights of the Accused
When an accused is arrested, he or she has the right to: be informed of the reasons for the arrest; see the warrant if arrested under a warrant; consult a lawyer of his or her choice; appear before the nearest magistrate within twenty-four hours; and be told whether he or she is entitled to be released on bail.
Section 163 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits any officer from making any threat or promise for the purpose of obtaining a statement from a witness or an accused. Causing harm to obtain a confession or to obtain information regarding an offense is also punishable by up to ten years imprisonment under Section 330 of the Indian Penal Code. Police torture of an accused is a violation of the detainee's fundamental rights to life and liberty guaranteed under articles 20 and 21 of the constitution. Nevertheless, police torture persists. Several Supreme Court cases have also determined that victims of police torture are entitled to compensation.
D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal
In December 1996 the Supreme Court established detailed instructions for proper police procedure to be followed by the police in cases of arrest or detention. These requirements, as articulated in D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal,include:
·Police personnel carrying out arrests and handling the interrogation of an arrestee must wear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags giving their designations. The particulars of all personnel who handle interrogations must be recorded in a register.
·The police officer carrying out the arrest must prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest; this memo must be attested by a witness who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a responsible person of the locality where the arrest has been made.
·The person arrested or detained shall be entitled to have a friend, relative or other person known to him, or having an interest in his welfare, informed as soon as practicable.
·The arrestee should, when he or she so requests, be medically examined at the time of arrest, and major injuries, if any are present on his or her body, must be recorded in a memo. The inspection memo should be signed by both the arrestee and by the police officer concerned, and a copy should be given to the arrestee.
·The arrested person should undergo a medical examination by a trained doctor every forty-eight hours of his or her detention in custody.
·The arrestee should be permitted to meet his or her lawyer during interrogation.
The Supreme Court has given weight to the enforceability of these instructions-which are in line with international guidelines for the treatment of persons under arrest or detention-by adding that those in violation of these directions would be liable for contempt. As illustrated in chapters IV and V on the pattern of abuse in rural Bihar and Tamil Nadu, respectively, police officers and other state agents have generally disregarded proper procedure in arresting Dalits, subjecting them to physical abuse and torture. The arrest of Dalit activists on falsified charges has also been a common occurrence.
Human Rights Watch spoke to many Dalit lawyers and NGOs with legal aid divisions in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. Many claimed that defending Dalits against false charges constituted most of their workload. Prominent activist Henry Thiagaraj of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust explained:
Most of [our] legal people go to court to get anticipatory bail for false arrests of Dalits... The police will file the FIR [first information report] in such a way to say that the Dalit went to pick a fight. They take complaints only from upper-caste people. Then they say that the Dalits created the conflict, that they are contributing to communal violence. Then they ask the magistrate to pass an order that they should stay fifty kilometers away from the village. The women and children who remain behind end up starving and living in fear.
A team of Dalit attorneys in southern Tamil Nadu who represent Dalits in the Rajapalayam and Sriviliputhur districts added the following on the role of corruption:
If there is a fight between Dalits and upper castes in which a Dalit is attacked or property is damaged, and if he chooses to go to the police station, the police officer, usually an upper-caste fellow, will refuse to do an FIR, saying that his [the Dalit's] version is false. Conversely, the Dalit gets charged by the people he is accusing. In all police stations, all work can only be done with the aid of a lot of money. Even for FIRs or arresting an accused, bribes are needed. Dalit people are penniless, and the police are also influenced by caste.
False Arrests During the Tamil Nadu Southern District Clashes
Apart from specific offenses, the police also customarily arrest large numbers of people under preventive arrest laws. This practice may be linked to caste tensions in various ways. For example, according to the Dalit attorneys interviewed, in Tamil Nadu, Dalits are often charged under the Tamil Nadu Public Properties (Prevention of) Destruction Act, 1992. During a June 1997 police raid on Desikapuram village, Virudhunagar district, dozens of Dalit men and women were arrested and charged under the Public Properties Act for allegedly setting fire to a Thevar van. Several eyewitnesses reported, however, that the police themselves had set the van on fire. Charges under the Public Properties Act are non-bailable; those arrested under the act spend a minimum of one month in prison. The police also charge them with non-bailable Indian Penal Code offenses. With the more minor charges, "they have to be released within seven to ten days. But in cases of murder or charges under the Public Properties Act, it could be three months or more."
In another case, police spread an even wider net to criminalize those caste Hindus that did not toe the police line. After a caste Hindu attack on the Dalit colony of Veludavur, Villapuram district, in January 1998, police arrested twenty-three people under the Atrocities Act. The arrests, activists claimed, were meant to punish those caste Hindus who did not endorse the attack: "They arrested high-caste people who weren't involved, to punish non-Dalits who did not support the attacks." Affected villagers named fifteen aggressors in the FIR, but only three of the fifteen named were arrested. The rest of the detainees, those not named in the FIR, could be arrested because of the police practice of adding "and others" to the ends of the names of the accused. "Then they can arrest anyone they want," one activist said, "usually, this is how it works." On the basis of the FIR-which concerned a caste Hindu attack-the police went on to arrest four Dalits who did not belong to the village, charging them with attempted murder under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code and under the Public Properties Act for allegedly carrying petrol pumps. Two of the detainees were members of the Dalit Panthers of India.
Tirumavalavan is the head of the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) for Tamil Nadu. DPI is a nonviolent awareness-raising and organizing movement concentrating primarily on women's rights and land issues and claims. Since the mid-1990s, DPI has helped to promote a new Dalit political leadership in Tamil Nadu, unaligned to mainstream political parties. Its platform includes demands for land to Dalits for living and for cultivation, for the inclusion of Dalits in government land auctions, and for implementation of the Atrocities Act. Tirumavalavan has been involved in many protests against government inaction in Dalit murder cases, such as the Mellavalavu murders described in Chapter V. He told Human Rights Watch about the following incident.
In early October 1997 an armed group of caste Hindus entered the village of Nantiswaramangalam. Six Dalit youths were taken back to the assailants' village, tied to a tree, and beaten. The attack was reportedly triggered by a Dalit resident's attempt to draw water from the village water pond. When the police arrived, they released the youths but did not register a case under the Atrocities Act. After DPI's involvement, the police booked a case under Section 3(1)(10) for name-calling, the least serious offense under the Atrocities Act. The district administration suggested that the police initiate "peace talks" between the communities, but no action was taken. According to Tirumavalavan, "The government usually tries to make a compromise in these cases but does not take action against caste Hindu people." Violence continued in the village for more than a week and included further beatings, arson, and physical and sexual assaults on women. A DPI member who attempted to intervene and call for peace talks was severely beaten by caste Hindus and admitted to the hospital for head injuries after being struck with a sickle. Dalit residents were soon forced to leave their village and sought refuge in the neighboring village of Sholadurum. More than a month later the district administration had done nothing to get them back to their homes.
Increasing tensions in the area led to a staged roadblock in the first week of November 1997. Buses were burned, for which thirty people, all Dalits, were arrested. Of those thirty, five were arrested under the National Security Act, 1980, and two were below fifteen years of age. Tirumavalavan claimed that they were not involved in the burning of buses. He explained that the arrests were examples of a typical police pattern:
They were picked up in their house, and all thirty are still in jail. The two underage people are no longer being charged under the National Security Act but they are still in jail because of pressure from the community. But you cannot arrest below fifteen years of age. The police gave their age as nineteen, but we proved that they were under fifteen. The police have to catch someone so they indiscriminately arrest. A lot of others burn buses and destroy property but only Dalits get arrested. When there is any public law and order problem they come to Dalit homes.
Tirumavalavan himself has been arrested numerous times. He told Human Rights Watch that he and other members of his movement are targeted by the police for organizing Dalits to claim their rights:
We are very pessimistic because the government is dominated by the high castes. They immobilize people. I am often arrested under Indian Penal Code sections 153(a) [for promoting enmity between different groups] and 120(b) [for criminal conspiracy], and also under the Sedition Act and the National Security Act. When I speak in a public meeting they disperse the meeting. In late 1992 I was abducted by the police in a jeep. They said the superintendent of police wanted to meet me. Another accusation is that we are called extremist Naxalite groups. We are a powerful group, so we are automatically linked with Naxalites. We are not underground. We boycott elections. We do not advocate violence. We just organize Dalits to emancipate their slavery.
The Sedition Act, embodied under Indian Penal Code Section 124A, reads as follows:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added....
In 1962 the Supreme Court held that Section 124A-though susceptible to abuse by state agents-was not in violation of the constitutional right to free speech found under Article 19(1)(a). The court added that it is only when the words have "the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in." However, as with the police's propensity to abuse vaguely worded provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, the law has been used to prohibit peaceful meetings and protests, in clear violation of Article 19 of the constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and a right to peaceful assembly.
According to a Dalit activist working in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts, Tamil Nadu, many "young, educated youths" were also detained under the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act during the southern district clashes in 1997. A goonda is defined as a habitual criminal, usually associated with a criminal gang.
Human Rights Watch interviews with activists in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu revealed that the National Security Act, 1980 is also commonly used against Dalit protesters and organizers. One activist exclaimed, "Organizing untouchables is a threat to national security?" The act allows the central and state governments to make orders to detain a person with a view to "preventing him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India," or with a view to "preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State Government, or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order...". Upon obtaining confirmation from an advisory board under Section 12 of the act, a person may be detained for up to twelve months.
Maharashtra Case Studies
Human Rights Watch spoke with several activists working to train Dalits in the registration of Atrocities Act cases in the "atrocity-prone" Marathwada region of eastern Maharashtra. Several were suffering a legal backlash as a result of their activism.
Shankar Pawar works among Dalits in the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka-Maharashtra border region. In 1993 he was detained under Criminal Procedure Code Section 151 for fifteen days for organizing Dalits to demand their due share of auctioned temple lands. Under Section 151, "a police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from the Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot otherwise be prevented."
Although sub-section (2) of Section 151 does not allow for the detention to exceed twenty-four hours, in the state of Maharashtra the section has been amended to allow for detention up to fifteen days. After his detention, Pawar was jailed for fifty-two days and concurrently tried under the National Security Act. Only after his case was pleaded before three High Court judges was he released.
Datta Khandagale is a social worker in Chorakali village, Usmanabad district, Maharashtra. He works with fifty Dalit families who are segregated from the majority caste Hindus in the village. In September 1992, Khandagale asked the police to register an Atrocities Act case against upper castes who had instituted a social boycott against Dalit villagers. The boycott was in retaliation for the Dalits' attempt to enter a village temple for prayer. As they entered, the upper-caste villagers began to throw stones and, as a result, one woman's head was cut open. When Khandagale approached the police with a complaint, the police responded, "You're the one making trouble in the village, increasing tensions between communities," and then proceeded to file a Criminal Procedure Code Section 107 case against him. Section 107 allows the police to preventively detain any person "likely to commit a breach of the peace of disturb the public tranquility." Nine Dalits were arrested, including Khandagale. Because they could not pay the bond, they remained in jail for five days.
The harassment did not end with the police. After his release, Khandagale was approached by local politicians in his district. He was told, "If you don't [drop] the case [Atrocities Act case] it will be bad for you." Other politicians followed suit: "They said you should reject the case. We said, 'No, we can't.' Then they threatened the other eight and said, 'If you don't leave the case alone, we will kill you.'" The politicians were accompanied by ten to fifteen police during their visit. The other eight arrestees eventually dropped the case. Khandagale was later summoned by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Usmanabad district. When he arrived he found over twenty upper-caste villagers in the SP's office.
In front of them he scolded me and said, "Why are you causing trouble and agitating the Dalits?" "You fool," he said, "Why are you creating trouble between the two groups?" I asked him not to swear at me and said, "You are threatening the people that need your protection, and you are insulting me in front of them [upper-caste villagers]." Then he kicked me out of the office. I came home and wrote down everything that happened and sent him the letter. I asked, "If you talk against me and pressure me in front of the upper caste then what's to keep them from killing me?"
He also sent the letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The SP eventually apologized for his behavior, but the upper castes continued with their threats. Only after appeals to the chief minister was Khandagale granted police protection, which continued for three years. Police presence also put an end to the upper-caste social boycott in the village, and the village temple is now open to all Dalits. Khandagale is the only one who goes in, "[t]he others are too afraid." The woman who sustained head injuries from the 1992 stone throwing was ultimately persuaded to drop all charges. In 1994, the water supply to the temple was disrupted. The upper-caste villagers attributed the problem to the presence of "untouchables" in the temple. At the time of the Human Rights Watch interview in January 1998, Khandagale continued to be harassed by the police and threatened by upper-caste villagers for his organizing activities.
Vivek Pandit of the NGO Samarthan, who has provided legal literacy training to these and other Maharashtra activists, had seventeen charges pending against him as of December 1998. At one point, he had to appeal to the High Court to get back his passport, it had been impounded by the state government to keep him from leaving the country. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Pandit claimed that the district administration and the police were using laws to "torture and stamp out Dalit leaders." Pandit has been actively involved in the case of a man named Digambar who, at the time of his interview with Human Rights Watch, was fighting an externment (banishment) order from his village "for creating a nuisance and disrupting law and order." Upon receiving his externment notice, Digambar sent a thirteen-point response to district officials. Portions of the response, translated from Marathi, are provided below:
I am a scheduled-caste youth working for my people. I am organizing scheduled castes as per fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution, including the right to freedom of association. Because of my work, some casteist elements are bound to get angry. I have never committed any crimes of a serious nature. You are a representative of the state and have a duty to protect scheduled castes under the constitution. Instead, how can you issue [a notice against] me? The government has to abide by law and not get pressurized by the upper caste. Officers are violating fundamental rights, and now you are too. My duty is to uphold these rights. I am going to mobilize and organize against offenses. If the cases I have registered are false, where is the proof?.. Kindly withdraw the notice.
At the time of the interview, Digambar was awaiting the district administration's response.
Other Case Studies
During our investigations, Human Rights Watch came across several other cases of police harassment of NGO activists, ranging from periodic police visits, to arrests and charges of aiding and abetting in various crimes or interfering in police investigations.
V. T. Rajshekar is the editor of Dalit Voice, India's most widely circulated Dalit journal. Prior to running the journal, he was a journalist with Indian Express for twenty-five years. Rajshekar has often come under attack for his writings. In 1986 his passport was impounded because of "anti-Hinduism writings outside of India." The same year, he was arrested in Bangalore under TADA:
The police came from Chandigarh and arrested me and took me to the Chandigarh jail for an editorial I wrote in Dalit Voice. Another writer who republished the editorial was also arrested. Then they came to me. After fifteen days, after much Dalit agitation, I was released with an apology.
In addition to TADA, Rajshekar has also been arrested under the Sedition Act and under the Indian Penal Code for creating disaffection between communities-all for his writings. He has also endured attempts on his life and has been placed on the Home Ministry's "dangerous persons list."
Gilbert Rodrigo, a member of the Tamil Nadu-based NGO Legal Resources for Social Action told Human Rights Watch that he was "visited" by members of the police special branch each year. They inquire about the sources of his organization's funding and how the money is spent. Nicholas, a member of the Integrated Rural Development Society, who organizes Dalits in Tamil Nadu to register cases under the Atrocities Act, has been charged three times under Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code for aiding and abetting Dalits in their alleged crimes. According to Nicholas, the use of Section 107 "is an attempt by the state to divert us from our work. You have to go very far for the hearings. They make you run around. It is mental torture." Martin Macwan and his team of 180 social workers provide legal aid and training to Dalits in Gujarat. His organization, Navsarjan, has also led a state-wide campaign to abolish the practice of manual scavenging. Many of his team members have been charged under the Criminal Procedure Code for disturbing police investigations.
Singularly positioned at the bottom of India's caste, class, and gender hierarchies, largely uneducated and consistently paid less than their male counterparts, Dalit women make up the majority of landless laborers and scavengers, as well as a significant percentage of the women forced into prostitution in rural areas or sold into urban brothels. As such, they come into greater contact with landlords and enforcement agencies than their upper-caste counterparts. Their subordinate position is exploited by those in power who carry out their attacks with impunity.
Throughout this report, Human Rights Watch has documented the use of sexual abuse and other forms of violence against Dalit women as tools by landlords and the police to inflict political "lessons" and crush dissent and labor movements within Dalit communities. In Laxmanpur-Bathe, Bihar, women were raped and mutilated before being massacred by members of the Ranvir Sena in 1997; in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, women have been beaten, arrested, and sometimes tortured during violent search and raid operations on Dalit villages in recent years. Like other Indian women whose relatives are sought by the police, Dalit women have also been arrested and raped in custody as a means of punishing their male relatives who are hiding from the police. As very young women, they are forced into prostitution in temples under the devadasi system.
Cases documented by India's National Commission for Women, by local and national nongovernmental women's rights organizations, and by the press, reveal a pattern of impunity in attacks on women consistent with our findings. In all cases of attacks on women documented in this report, the accused state and private actors escaped punishment; in most cases, attacks were neither investigated nor prosecuted. Until recently, the plight of Dalit women has also been neglected by various political movements. As explained by Ruth Manorama, head of the newly constituted National Federation for Dalit Women:
Dalit women are at the bottom in our community. Within the women's movement, Dalit issues have not been taken seriously. Within the Dalit movement, women have been ignored. Caste, class, and gender need to be looked at together. Dalit women have contributed to this discourse... Women's labor is already undervalued; when she is a Dalit, it is nil... The atrocities are also much more vulgar.
Other activists echo the notion that women are hit the hardest in everyday life and during caste clashes. One activist told Human Rights Watch, "Sexual violence is linked to debt bondage in rural areas." Another commented on the need to give priority to women's cases:
Making women eat human defecation, parading them naked, gang rapes, these are women-specific crimes. Gang rapes are mostly of Dalit women. These cases should be given top priority, requiring immediate action and immediate punishment.
This chapter examines some of the constitutional, statutory, and international treaty protections afforded to women in India. It then offers several case studies to illustrate the government's failure to prosecute cases of rape and the manner in which differential rates of prosecution are compounded by corruption and caste and gender bias, even at the trial level.
Women and the Law
Article 14 of India's constitution ensures equality by providing that: "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India." Article 15(1) provides that the "State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them," while articles 16(1) and 16(2) prohibit discrimination in general, and gender discrimination in matters of public employment. To promote equality, Article 15(3) provides that the state is free to make "any special provision for women and children."
Part IV of the constitution lists the Directive Principles of State Policy, including Article 39(b) of the constitution which provides that the state direct its policy toward ensuring equal pay for equal work for men and women. Section (a) of the same article provides that the state shall, in particular, direct its policy toward securing that citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Section (c) requires that the state secure the health of workers, men and women, and ensure that children are not abused, and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations that are unsuited to their age and strength. Finally, Article 44 of the constitution, asks that the state strive to introduce a uniform civil code for citizens so that varying religious codes do not dictate the personal laws governing women's lives. These provisions cannot be enforced in the state through courts as they are a "directive principles" of state policy.
Penal and criminal codes
In recognizing the history of police abuse against women, amendments to the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code afford women a variety of legal protections in their dealings with state agents. For instance, when a woman is searched upon arrest, it must be done by a female officer with "strict regard to decency and modesty." A police officer has no power to compel a woman or a child below the age of fifteen to appear in a police station to obtain information from her, and must instead visit the place in which the informant resides. When searching a place occupied by a person sought to be arrested, if the place is occupied by a female (not being the person to be arrested) the police must give notice to her before entering that she has the liberty to withdraw.
The Indian Penal Code also provides for stricter punishments when the crime of rape is committed in custody. Section 376 states that the crime of rape, when committed by a private actor, is punishable by a minimum of seven to ten years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Under subsection (2), the rape is punishable by "rigorous imprisonment" for a term of ten years to life if it is committed by a police officer against a woman in his custody (or in the custody of a police officer subordinate to him), or on the premises of his police station or a station house.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979
Under Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, states parties are required to "establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination." They must also "refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation." Women are also entitled to equal remuneration and protection of health and safety in working conditions.
With respect to the situation of rural women, the convention requires states parties to take into account the "significant roles which rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non‑monetized sectors of the economy," and to, "take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this Convention to women in rural areas."
Failure to Prosecute Rape Cases
Beginning with the lodging of the First Information Report (FIR) at the local police station through to the judge's opinion, should a case reach that far, women in India are faced with daunting obstacles in prosecuting cases of rape. If a woman is poor, belongs to a lower caste, and lives in a rural area, it is even more difficult for her to gain access to the justice system. Those who are able to pursue cases of sexual assault have to battle entrenched biases at every stage of the process: with the police, the doctors, the judges, and even their own families.
Even if the police agree to file the FIR, they often fail to efficiently and deliberately collect the necessary evidence. Witnesses, should they exist, rarely agree to come forward to testify or corroborate the victim's statement for fear of retribution from the perpetrators, who are often in positions of relative power in the community. If the case manages to get filed and investigated despite these obstacles, then new problems arise when the woman goes before a judge whose gender biases and caste affiliations can greatly influence the judgment in the case.
For the reasons outlined above, and because of low reporting, conviction in rape cases is uncommon. From 1989 to 1993, reported crimes against women in India increased by 25.2 percent. At the same time, the National Crime Records Bureau's 1994 report revealed that convictions for crimes against women were minimal.
Out of the total (rape) cases in which trials were completed, 41.5 percent ended in conviction during 1990, 34.2 percent in 1991 and 33.8 percent in 1992 and 30.3 percent in 1993. Thus the acquittal percentage is showing an upward trend over the years. The rate of disposal of cases in courts was 23.9 percent in 1992 and 16.8 percent in 1993. On an average, 80 percent of the cases remained pending for trial. This is a disquieting status.
The average conviction rate for rape has also been consistently lower than the less serious crimes of burglary and theft.
In addition to compiling testimony on cases of rape by the police and during caste clashes, Human Rights Watch also interviewed several victims of rape on their experience with the legal system. Two illustrative cases are outlined below. Also included is the well-known case of Bhanwari Devi-whose rapists were acquitted on a judge's reasoning that "an upper-caste man could not have defiled himself by raping a lower-caste woman."-and other cases illustrating gender bias at the trial level.
M. Meena is a twelve-year-old Dalit girl; her name has been changed to protect her identity. She was raped in September 1997 by a twenty-one-year-old Thevar man in a southern district of Tamil Nadu. Successful prosecution of her case was thwarted when the accused paid bribes to the police. Because of Meena's young age, Human Rights Watch obtained details of her rape and subsequent experience with the police largely from interviewing a social worker who had been active in her case; we then met with Meena to confirm the reports. The social worker described the incident:
On her way home from a local store, a Thevar boy named Karuppaswami called Meena over on the pretext that she would help him pick something up. She refused and kept going. He then showed her a bill hook and threatened her. He pulled her to a nearby tree, undressed her, and raped her. She was unconscious and could not walk. Some people took her home and called the Manur police station. The police said to come and file a report. So they took her there and gave a complaint. The Thevar people also went to the police station and gave Rs. 10,000 (US$250) to the police and threatened the girl's father not to divulge the facts or the family would face dire consequences.
As a result of pressure from the rapist's family, the police filed a case under Section 75 of the Madras City Police Act-instead of sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code for rape and punishment for rape. Section 75 of the Police Act refers to creating a nuisance in a public place and carries a fine as its punishment. With the help of the social worker, Meena's parents again approached the police to file a rape case.
The next day I went to the village and saw the girl. She was in bad condition. She had a fever, and she was unconscious. I talked to the parents and said, "Let's go to the police and government hospital." We took the girl to the superintendent of police's (SP) office. We only saw him at 5:00 p.m. Then the SP said that he will call the police to file a case and asked us to take the girl to a government hospital at High Ground Paliangotti. I was with them the whole time. The doctors refused to do a check-up without an FIR. We then took her in a van and came back to the police station. There was no inspector there. The police refused to register an FIR. At 11:00 p.m. the inspector came and registered an FIR. He then sent the police constable with us to the hospital. At 12:30 a.m. we reached the hospital. They did the check-up. At 10:00 a.m. the next morning we took her to court. The magistrate asked to admit her in the hospital. She was there for ten days. The police collected her panties. There were blood stains on it. She recovered and went back to school.
After much persistence, Meena's parents were finally able to register a case of rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the police refused to simultaneously register the case under the Atrocities Act. The accused spent forty-five days in jail and was subsequently released on bail. In December 1997, soon after his release, he physically assaulted the husband of the social worker who had been helping Meena with her case. According to the social worker, "The rapist and his relatives blocked and damaged my husband's vehicle with their van and beat him. We went back and beat one of those boys, and they filed a case against us. But we also filed a case in a different police station." As of December 1998 no charges had been filed in the rape case, and the accused remained out on bail.
In 1996, twenty-six-year-old R. Chitra (also an alias) of Kammapatti village, Tirunelveli district, southern Tamil Nadu, was gang raped by Thevars from a neighboring village. After much public pressure from residents of her village, the police took up the case, but despite her positive identification of the rapists, and despite many eyewitnesses to the event, they ultimately dropped the investigation. Chitra told Human Rights Watch of her experience with the Thevars:
It happened one and a half years ago. Another girl named Savariammal and I went to the forest for grass for our goats. There is a dilapidated building in the forest. Behind that building, four persons hid themselves... The four people came out and said "Where are you coming from?" I said I am from Kammapatti. They asked my village name, so they knew I was a Dalit. They left and went five steps ahead. When they passed, me and my friend started gathering our goats and prepared to leave. The men were holding bill hooks in their hands, and we knew it was not a safe place to be. All of a sudden, one man turned around and grabbed my hand. I tried to resist them for two hours. Among the four, one hid and the remaining three boys took turns. They had weapons, I only had a stick. They then took away my stick so I had no defense... Some other people from that village saw the struggle but did not come close, because the men had weapons. Three men raped me. It lasted for an hour. There was no bleeding, but there were bruises all over. When one committed penetration, the other two stood by and watched. In turn they all raped me. The fourth one was hiding and saw the whole thing. I had bruises all over, on my chest, my hip. My skin was torn and full of nail marks. I was hurt because I was trying to escape.
After a failed attempt to commit suicide by pouring kerosene on her body and setting herself on fire, Chitra was convinced by her family to go to the police. She did not know her rapists but recognized that they were Thevars from a neighboring village. She was also able to provide the police with details on their clothing, their appearance, and their age: "I gave an oral complain, and the constable reduced it to writing. That was the only time they were sympathetic." The day of her suicide attempt, Chitra visited the Tirunelveli government hospital, where four female doctors examined her and collected specimens. She also handed over to police the clothes she had been wearing when raped. Despite the strength of the evidence, the police told her brothers to persuade her not to register a complaint. But her brothers were persistent, and most of the residents of her Dalit-dominant village insisted that the police arrest the accused. They argued that if "anything was committed by Dalits, the police do not allow it, so why are they allowing this?" The day after the rape, the police arrested two persons and presented them for identification. The following day Chitra's brother complained to the deputy superintendent of police that the two remaining accused had not been arrested. After the police took the mothers of the two absconding men to the police station, they too surrendered.
So I identified all four. The sub-inspector recorded my statement. The police also talked to Savariammal, the girl who was with me. She said she saw it happen but did not know the identity of the people. But she must have known. She simply kept away from saying the truth. She was probably threatened. All surrounding villages belong to Thevars. The police arrested and remanded them to Koilpatti jail. I went for the line-up in
front of the magistrate. They put eighteen persons in a row. They put the four among them. Even then I identified them.
After many promises of state compensation for Chitra, the money never came. Despite initial cooperation from the police, the case never went to trial. Chitra was not even informed if the culprits were arrested after she identified them: "I don't know how many days they were in jail. I haven't been contacted again by the police." She was denied access to her own medical records. "The doctors said they have to give them to police and they will send them to court." For social and monetary reasons, Chitra's family has been unwilling and unable to pursue the case. "My family is afraid to proceed because of their reputation," she explained. "The FIR should be there. I was never invited to court to depose, so I think the trial was not held. I didn't go again... We don't have money for an advocate, and we cannot travel frequently to court. Even if I decide to pursue I have to get permission from my mother and brothers."
Caste and Gender Bias in the Courts
The lack of law enforcement leaves many Dalit women unable to approach the legal system to seek redress. Women are often also unaware of the laws; their ignorance is exploited by their opponents, by the police, and, as illustrated by the cases below, by the judiciary. Even when cases are registered, the lack of appropriate investigation, or the judge's own caste and gender biases, can lead to acquittal, regardless of the availability of evidence or witnesses. The failure to successfully prosecute cases of rape also allows for crimes against women to continue unabated, and in the caste context, encourages the use of rape as a tool to punish and silence Dalit communities.
Bhanwari Devi's case is a typical example of the influence of caste bias on the justice system and the inability of lower-caste women to obtain redress. It is also a striking example of rape as a weapon of retaliation used to punish and silence women's rights advocates. The nature of the district judge's opinion sounded many alarms, and the case itself was taken up by several women's rights organizations in north India.
Bhanwari Devi joined the Rajasthan Government's Women's Development Programme (WDP), called Sathin, in 1985 as a grassroots worker. In April 1992 she reported the child marriage of the one-year-old daughter of Ram Karan Gurjar to WDP authorities. The police came to the village and tried to stop the marriage, but the family proceeded with the ceremony in secret. On September 22, 1992, in the presence of her husband, Bhanwari was gang raped by members of the Gurjar family in retaliation for her intervention in the child marriage. Upon approaching the police, Bhanwari was told, however, that she was too old and unattractive to merit the attentions of young men.
The trial judge acquitted the accused on the reasoning that "rape is usually committed by teenagers, and since the accused are middle-aged and therefore respectable, they could not have committed the crime. An upper-caste man could not have defiled himself by raping a lower-caste woman." Those accused of raping Bhanwari also enjoyed political support. BJP leader Kanhaiya Lal Meena reportedly organized a rally in support of the accused. As of February 1999, Bhanwari was still in court appealing the acquittal.
Bhanwari's case, and in particular the manner in which it was handled by the police and the courts, is not an isolated incident. Cases at all levels have the potential to be influenced by the judge's personal perceptions of caste and gender that are brought to bear in determining the credibility of evidence or the likelihood of guilt. The case material that follows, though not specific to the report, is intended to illustrate the atmosphere of prejudice that Dalit women face-both as Dalits and as women. These biases are pervasive all the way to the top of the legal system. The few cases that manage to reach the Supreme Court still do not escape these deep-seated prejudices.
Shri Satish Mehra v. Delhi Administration and Another
Gender bias that blames women for the actions of men also persists at the Supreme Court level. In Shri Satish Mehra v. Delhi Administration and Another, a July 1996 case of the rape of a three-year-old girl by her father, the Supreme Court concluded that there lacked sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and pointed to the "seemingly incredulous nature of the accusations against a father that molested his infant child." The court instead accused the mother of leveling false accusations to take revenge on her husband for an unhappy marriage.
The opinion added that the judge presiding over the case prior to the Supreme Court appeal ought not to have overlooked the peculiar circumstances of the case, including the fact that the accused's wife found their marital life to be "extremely painful and unhappy from the very inception" and that she had accused him of being an alcoholic and prone to inflicting severe physical violence. Based on these circumstances, the Supreme Court concluded that the wife's "attitude to the petitioner, even de hors the allegation involving the child, was vengeful." As in the Bhanwari Devi case, despite the legal basis it claimed for the decision, the court only briefly touched on evidentiary matters and seemed instead to be motivated by its professed disbelief that such crimes could actually take place.
Suman Rani (Prem Chand and Another v. State of Haryana)
As described in Chapter V, Dalit women are frequent victims of custodial rape. Section 376(2) of the Indian Penal Code mandates minimum sentences for state agents who rape women in their custody. Other loopholes in the law, however, allow the judiciary to sidestep mandatory sentencing. In the famous Suman Rani custodial rape case, the Supreme Court refused to apply the minimum ten-year sentence to the police officers charged because of the victim's "questionable character." The court's opinion quoted a medical officer who testified that the "victim girl [was] used to frequent intercourse and parturition and there was no mark of violence of sexual assault on any part of her body." The opinion further added:
[T]he victim Suman Rani was a woman of questionable character and easy virtue with lewd and lascivious behavior and that the very fact that this girl had not complained of the alleged rape said to have been committed at [the] police station by these two appellants to anyone till [five days after the incident] shows that the present version is not worthy of acceptance.
The court ultimately held that the peculiar facts of the case, coupled with the conduct of the victim, did not warrant the imposition of the minimum ten-year sentence. The court instead invoked the proviso to Section 376(2), which allows for the judge to use his discretion in reducing the minimum sentence, and cut the sentence in half.
The practice of "untouchability," other caste-based discrimination, violence against Dalit men, women, and children, and other abuses documented in this report are in violation of numerous domestic and international laws. A body of international human rights conventions, domestic legislation, and constitutional provisions collectively impose on the government of India a duty to guarantee certain basic rights to the Dalit population and to punish those who engage in caste-based violence and discrimination.
Other chapters of this report describe the pattern of state complicity in attacks on Dalit community members. This chapter outlines the government's legal obligations and the manner in which state complicity extends to the non-registration of cases against caste Hindus, including the government's failure to implement the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. A brief description of the government's two-pronged strategy to improve the socio-economic status of scheduled castes and to provide them with legal protection in the form of social welfare legislation is also provided. Like the Atrocities Act, the strategy has been undermined by a lack of political will to ensure its implementation. The government of India has failed to provide Dalits with the most basic of constitutional guarantees described below.
India's Obligations under Domestic Law
The Constitution of India proclaims the decision of the Constituent Assembly (which framed the constitution) to provide social, political, and economic justice for all. To this end the constitution has several provisions to protect scheduled castes and to improve their position. The constitution affects social justice in two ways. First, it confers rights on men and women alike, through "fundamental rights" which can be enforced by the courts. Second, it directs the states to implement "directive principles of state policy." Although these are not enforceable in Indian courts, they are declared to be fundamental in the governance of the country and as such have moral and political value.
Scheduled castes and the constitution
Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of "untouchability" and punishes the enforcement of any disability arising out of the practice. Article 21 guarantees the right to life and liberty. The Indian Supreme Court has interpreted this right to include the right to be free from degrading and inhuman treatment, the right to integrity and dignity of the person, and the right to speedy justice. When read with Article 39A on equal justice and free legal aid, Article 21 also encompasses the right to legal aid for those faced with imprisonment and those too poor to afford counsel.
Article 23 prohibits traffic in human beings and other similar forms of forced labor. Since the majority of bonded laborers belong to scheduled castes, Article 23 is especially significant for them. Similarly, Article 24 provides that no child under the age of fourteen shall work in any factory or mine or engage in any hazardous employment. Again a majority of children engaged in bonded labor in such hazardous industries are scheduled caste members. Article 45 charges that the state shall endeavor to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they reach the age of fourteen, while Article 43 calls on the state to secure to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, a living wage and conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life.
Article 46 comprises both development and regulatory aspects and stipulates that: "The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and forms of exploitation." As the article falls under the category of directive principles and not fundamental rights, it cannot be enforced by the state's courts. Article 15(4) empowers the state to make any special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, or for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. This particular provision was incorporated into the constitution through the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 and has enabled several states to reserve seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in educational institutions, including technical, engineering, and medical colleges. It has also paved the way for reservations in police forces.
Article 330 provides reservations for seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Lok Sabha (the House of the People), while Article 332 provides for reservations in the state legislative assemblies. Article 334 originally stipulated that the above two provisions would cease to have effect after a period of ten years from the commencement of the constitution. This article has since been amended four times, extending the period by ten years on each occasion. The provision is now set to expire in January 2000.
Through Article 16(4) the state is empowered to make "any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State." The claims of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as per Article 335, shall also be taken into consideration, consistent with maintaining efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments services and posts in connection with the union or of a state.
In addition to constitutional provisions, the government of India has pursued a two-pronged approach to narrowing the gap between the socio-economic status of the scheduled caste population and the national average: one prong involves regulatory measures which ensure that the various provisions to protect their rights and interests are adequately implemented, enforced and monitored; the second focuses on increasing the self-sufficiency of the scheduled caste population through financial assistance for self-employment activities through development programs to increase education and skills.
The protective component of this strategy includes the enforcement of those legal provisions that make up the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; of other state and central government laws; and of "positive discrimination" through reservations in the arenas of government employment and higher education. These protective measures are monitored by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The development measures for the educational, social, and economic upliftment of scheduled castes are administered by the Ministry of Welfare through the state governments.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is a body set up pursuant to Article 338 of the Indian constitution. It has been entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the safeguards and protections that have been given to scheduled castes and tribes are implemented. As part of the National Commission, the Commission on Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes oversees implementation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, though does not have a statutory responsibility to do so. The commission both receives complaints and proactively investigates matters that come to its attention through news reports or by any other means. Under the constitution the commission has the powers of a civil court and can call on anyone for evidence to ensure that the laws are being implemented. The commission lacks the powers of a criminal court, however, and therefore cannot enforce its findings.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955
With an eye to eradicating pervasive discrimination practiced against scheduled-caste members, the central government enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCR Act) to enforce the abolition of "untouchability" under Article 17 of the constitution. The PCR Act punishes offenses that amount to the observance of "untouchability." These include, inter alia, prohibiting entry into places of worship, denying access to shops and other public places, denying access to any water supply, prohibiting entry into hospitals, refusing to sell goods or render services, and insulting someone on the basis of his or her caste.
In 1973 the Protection of Civil Rights Cell was established to respond to a lack of convictions under the PCR Act. According T. K. Chaudary, the inspector general of police for the PCR cell in Maharashtra from 1992 to 1996, and current Joint Commissioner of Police, Mumbai (Bombay) Police:
Until 1973 there was no conviction. It was all at the whims and fancies of police officers. They only took action if the person belonged to the right caste. So in order to streamline the act, the cell came into place. From 1975 onwards they played a coordinating role. They had no power of their own but made sure some cases were registered and the some complaints were heard; still there were hardly any convictions... witnesses turned hostile.
Chaudary added, "Society as a whole never accepted the PCR Act. No one ever thought that name-calling wouldn't be okay. Ill-treatment was very common." The act was also vulnerable to abuse. "It was easy to make an allegation that someone was called by his or her caste name."
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
The greatest deficiency of the Protection of Civil Rights Act was the fact that abuses against Dalits were not limited to name-calling or denial of entry into public spaces: violence was a defining characteristic of the abuse. Thirty-four years after the introduction of the PCR Act, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was enacted to bring these other forms of abuse to an end. "In the Atrocities Actÿ the complainant is given more weight... There are also stringent provisions against the police for negligence."
The promulgation of the act itself was an acknowledgment by the central government that abuses, in their most dehumanizing form, continue to take place against Dalits throughout the country. The Tamil Nadu nodal (implementation) officer for the Atrocities Act explained to Human Rights Watch:
The Atrocities Act is very stringent. It is needed to eradicate the practice, not just control it. It is the second phase of the Protection of Civil Rights Act which is very soft. The 1989 [Atrocities] Act is grounded in the understanding that scheduled castes are being subjected to violence, not just the practice of "untouchability." There was a long period of dialogue before its enactment. After forty years of India, people began to acknowledge that violence continued to be perpetrated and it needed to be stopped. The act presumes that if a non-scheduled-caste member harms a scheduled-caste member then it is because of the culpable mind of "untouchability" [a belief in the inferiority of lower castes]. They don't have to utter the caste name in the 1989 act; any humiliation is an offense.
A list of offenses under the act provides a glimpse into the forms that such violence can take, several of which have been documented in this report. Section 3(1) stipulates that the following acts, when committed by a person who is not a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe, are atrocities and thereby punishable by a term of six months to five years with a fine.
$Forcing a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance (Section 3(1)(i));
$Acting with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighbourhood (Section 3(1)(ii));
$Forcibly removing clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, or parading him naked or with painted face or body, or committing any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity (Section 3(1)(iii));
$Wrongfully occupying or cultivating any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to, a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, or getting the land allotted to him transferred (Section (3)(1)(iv));
$Wrongfully dispossessing a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises, or interfering with the enjoyment of his rights over any land, premises, or water (Section 3(1)(v));
$Compelling or enticing a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to do "beggar" or other similar forms of forced or bonded labour, other than any compulsory service for public purposes imposed by the Government (Section (3)(1)(vi));
$Forcing or intimidating a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe not to vote or to vote [for] a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law (Section (3)(1)(vii));
$Corrupting or fouling the water of any spring, reservoir, or any other source ordinarily used by members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes so as to render it less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used (Section (3)(1(xiii));
$Denying a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructing such members so as to prevent him from using or having access to a place of public resort to which other members of public or any section thereof have a right to use or access to (Section 3(1)(xiv));
$Forcing or causing a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to leave his house, village, or other place of residence (Section 3(1)(xv)).
The act also punishes public servants for committing any of the enumerated offenses. Specific offenses are also designed to protect Dalit and tribal women. Specifically, Sections 3(1)(xi) and 3(1)(xii) criminalize the assault or use of force on any woman belonging to a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, "with the intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty," and the use of a position of dominance to exploit a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe woman sexually.
Section 3(2) of the act prohibits, inter alia, the fabrication of false evidence in cases against members of scheduled castes or scheduled tribes and defines punishments for public servants who commit any of the offenses enumerated in Section 3. In addition to providing for stricter punishments for various offenses, the act also imposes certain positive duties on state and central governments to ensure proper implementation of the act. Many of these duties are listed under Section 21 which, among other things, provides that the central government shall, every year, send to both houses of parliament a report on the measures taken by the center and the states in pursuance of the provisions of the act. The section also includes guidelines for:
Providing legal aid to victims;
$Making provisions for travel and maintenance expenses for witnesses and victims;
$Providing prompt economic and social rehabilitation to victims;
$Appointing officers for initiating or exercising supervision over prosecutions under the act;
$Identifying areas where Dalits would be subject to periodic or large scale atrocities, and;
$Setting up citizens committees to assist the government in the formulation and implementation of measures under the act.
Offenses under the act are cognizable-an officer can arrest without a warrant-and non-bailable. Provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding anticipatory bail do not apply. Property can also be attached, sold, or forfeited to recover fines imposed by the court. When serious crimes such as rape, murder, or assault are proved, the punishments meted out are much greater than those provided for under the Indian Penal Code.
In 1995 the government of India enacted accompanying rules for the Atrocities Act. The rules set out the amounts of, and timetables for, state-allotted compensations for victims of various crimes defined under the act. Rules 16 and 17 call for the constitution of state and district-level vigilance and monitoring committees comprising official and non-official members. The committees are responsible for reviewing, inter alia, implementation of the act, prosecution of cases, victim relief and rehabilitation, and the role of different officers and agencies charged with the act's implementation. The Atrocities Act, and its accompanying rules, could go far in promoting justice and human rights among members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, but only if they are properly implemented and those whom the act is meant to protect are made aware of its existence and the rights that they possess. A full text of the act, and the accompanying rules, are provided in the appendix.
Failure to Implement the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
It is a great irony that we try to implement the act through an agency that is perceived as an agency of oppression.
- Christodas Gandhi, then-Tamil Nadu implementation officer for the Atrocities Act
Higher-caste police already have a biased mind. They assume that complaints of [Dalits] are made up or bogus. It is with this mentality that they investigate. Any person who has already presumed something as wrong will ultimately prove the case wrong to prove him or herself right.
- Dalit district superintendent of police
Although a potentially powerful piece of legislation, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is hampered by the police's lack of willingness to register offenses or their ignorance of the terms of the act itself. Under Indian law, a police officer is bound to enter in the station diary all reports brought to him concerning all cognizable and non-cognizable offenses. Failure to do so, or entering a report that was not made to him, is punishable under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code. In most cases, however, the offending officer escapes punishment. The police take on the role of the judiciary and determine the merits of the case even before pursuing investigations. Cases at all levels are influenced by caste bias, corruption and ignorance of procedures under the Atrocities Act.
The functions of the Indian police are governed by the Indian Police Act, 1861, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1832, the Constitution of India, and other state acts. The government of India has known about the extent of police corruption in the registration of cases at least since 1979 when the National Police Commission issued a devastating indictment of police behavior. Two decades later, none of the police commission's recommendations have been adopted, and police continue to detain, torture, and extort money from Dalits without much fear of punishment. Police often escape liability for their own abuses of Dalits and are rarely punished for their negligence in the non-registration of caste-related cases. Even when cases are registered, the absence of special courts to try them (see below) can delay conviction for up to three to four years. Some state governments, including those of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, have come under upper-caste pressure to repeal the legislation altogether.
Non-registration of cases
Wherever the Atrocities Act is not used properly, it is because there is no knowledge, no strength, so it has failed. It is a tool. On its own it will not be implemented. The use of Atrocities Act as a tool has changed people's lives. There are hundreds of cases I can quote.
- Vivek Pandit, Maharashtra activist
Most beneficiaries of the Atrocities Act know neither the content of the act nor which agencies are responsible for its implementation. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, the then-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes asserted, "Many states do not even have translated copies of the act or the rules. Station-house officers do not even know of its existence." In many instances, however, even knowledge of proper procedures has not led to registration or investigation of cases. Because offenses under the Atrocities Act are non-bailable, the mere registration of certain offenses can result in fifteen to twenty days in jail for the accused. An activist in Tamil Nadu explained, "If any case comes under the Atrocities Act, the accused will go straight to jail without any bail. So caste Hindus cleverly use the police to avoid putting cases under the act." Police manipulate First Information Reports [FIRs] and charge sheets, charging the accused under sections of the Indian Penal Code or under lesser offenses of the Atrocities Act. As explained by C. V. Shankar, director for the Adi Dravida Tribal Welfare Department, government of Tamil Nadu, the non-registration of Atrocities Act cases is deliberate:
They are biased because of their own caste. The police in general try to avoid registration. They want to settle cases with compensation. There are many power politics at the local level. Unless there is public pressure, the police administration tends to side with landowning communities that have political clout. A scheduled-caste person is therefore at the mercy of landlords because there are police pressures and other pressures to compromise the case.
Part of that pressure arises from the exigencies of police corruption: "Whoever gives more money gets their side of the case registered. In more serious cases, they may have to register the case but then subsequent investigations get thwarted." An activist working in over sixty villages in Tamil Nadu described the nexus between the police and upper-caste communities:
The police consider Dalits to be their enemies. They don't register cases. They just say, "Don't fight anymore. After all, they [caste Hindus] are taking care of you; they are giving you employment. They made a mistake, let it go." And in so doing, the Dalits are usually persuaded to let the case go. In rare cases where they make an FIR, they will turn it around in the charge sheet and say that after investigation, they found that the FIR was not true. This is all to try and help the accused escape.
Under Indian law if a police officer suspects the commission of an offense, he is obligated to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case. The officer must then send a report and a copy of the FIR to the magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offense. If the officer-in-charge of the police station believes that there are insufficient grounds for investigation, then the reasons for non-investigation must be communicated to the complainant. In the case of a cognizable offense, if the police officer does not take action on the basis of an FIR, the aggrieved person can submit a complaint to the magistrate having jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offense. Despite these stringent procedures, Dalits generally hesitate to approach the police with their complaints. According to National Commission Chairman Hanumanthappa, "Scheduled caste people hesitate because they feel vulnerable. Even if they do report something, there is a tendency not to register the case. Many times the station-house officer simply chases them away."
Due to the diligent efforts of many Dalit activists and lawyers in the past several years, police have begun to register more cases under the Atrocities Act but often only as a result of immense public pressure. Increases in registration, however, have not resulted in increased convictions. A Dalit lawyer who has been practicing in Tamil Nadu for seventeen years asserted that in his experience only 2 percent of cases end in conviction. "The investigating officers are upper-caste," he said, "and the accused pay large amounts to judges to get an acquittal in the case." The lack of convictions is a reflection of police and judicial corruption, of deficiencies in the investigation process, and of a lack of special courts to try Atrocities Act cases. Each is discussed in turn below.
Police investigations and use of witnesses
In Tamil Nadu, from 1992 to 1997, some 750 cases of atrocities against Dalits were registered annually by the state police. However, the number of convictions secured by protection of civil rights cells established in each district to implement the Atrocities Act was very low. From 1992 to 1997 only four out of 1,500 cases led to a conviction, despite the fact that in 1997, as many as 118 villages were considered by the government to be "atrocity-prone." Police officers have attributed the problem to the lack of a supporting unit to investigate reported crimes (the PCR cell in each district is headed only by an inspector of police) and to the fact that "most police personnel come to the cells either because they are facing action for delinquency or inefficiency, or as punishment for refusing to toe the line of their political bosses." One senior official complained, "With the PCR cells seen as a dumping ground of bad elements in the Police Department, how do you expect us to perform well?"
A lack of witnesses can also hamper an investigation-they either do not exist or are unwilling to come forward out of fear or economic vulnerability. According to T. K. Chaudary, "They would lose wages for the day, so they cannot come to testify."
These cases take place in the privacy of rural areas where there are no witnesses available. The demand of Indian criminal law is that a witness must be available to prove the crime. Indian law does not accept circumstantial evidence easily. That is the basic crux of the matter. Also there is great distrust toward the investigating officer. Good persons do not come forward to become witnesses, only those who can be influenced by the police.
Local police biases are mirrored at the judicial level. Should a case even reach the trial level, the judge's own caste affiliations can color his or her perception of witness credibility: "Judges issue an opinion in favor of the accused because they belong to the same caste."
R. Balakrishnan, director of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, explained the obstacles at the trial level:
The implementing authorities are biased. Caste is inherited, and personal prejudices are put to use. Police don't take the job voluntarily; it is always thrust upon them. At the judicial level at least 90 to 95 percent of cases receive no punishment. I have studied many judgments and have seen that there is a tendency to accept evidence only from non-scheduled caste/scheduled tribe people. I have studied fifty to sixty cases; invariably the judge concluded that scheduled caste/scheduled tribe [SC/ST] evidence is not valid because they are an interested party. To attribute a pattern to a community is a prejudice in and of itself. That itself is an atrocity. They do not give weight to SC/ST evidence, but it is too much to expect evidence from a non-SC/ST when the victim is a Dalit. That is the dichotomy: if they did come forward, we would not need the act.
Lack of special courts and special prosecutors
Even when cases are registered, there is no court to try them. No cases have gone to trial, so there are no convictions. Aside from paltry amounts from the prime minister's relief fund, no compensation is given in the registered cases, as is required by the 1995 rules.
- Bharathan, NGO activist
The backlog of cases is largely due to a lack of special courts and special prosecutors. Pursuant to the act, each revenue district within each state must designate a special court for the trial of such offenses. According to lawyers with the People's Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu), almost all Atrocities Act cases go to regular sessions courts, which are already overburdened with original and appellate jurisdiction over district-level civil and criminal cases. Terrorism and Anti-Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) cases are also being sent to these courts. According to a PUCL attorney:
One court has so many nomenclatures. The whole purpose of a speedy trial is defeated. Even with all these new cases, not a single extra typewriter is added. In reality there is no special court. Half the day goes into calling names, calling civil court matters, dealing with civil and criminal appeals, interim orders, and bail applications.
An activist who runs a legal aid organization in Gujarat claims that Atrocities Act cases can take up to three years to reach trial while all others "take only one year. Existing sessions courts are named as special courts, existing public prosecutors are named as special public prosecutors. Cases take so long that people are forced to compromise." Chairman Hanumanthappa confirmed that the problem persisted throughout the country: "In practice, sessions courts are designated as special courts. They are already overburdened. More than judges, special prosecutors are required. There should be exclusive special courts."
In 1997 and 1998 four special courts were created in Tamil Nadu, in the districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Trichi, and Kumbakanam, to try Atrocities Act cases. Human Rights Watch spoke to the judge assigned to the Madurai district court, which at the time was handling cases from five districts; hundreds of cases had already been transferred to his court.
Compensation in these cases was handled by the district collector and the district magistrate, not by the court itself. Without more special courts to share the caseload, the judge explained, the rate at which cases were tried would remain slow. Because of the length of time it takes to reach trial, and because of the severity of punishments under the act, the judge added that the accused were attempting to compromise cases by influencing witnesses, most of whom were already afraid to come forward for fear of the consequences: "I can depose only one or two cases a week. It takes so long that people are starting to compromise the case."
Unless special courts are established in each revenue district in each state, and unless witnesses feel protected by the police, the backlog of cases will continue, and increases in case registration will not result in increased convictions. All states should ensure establishment of these courts and appoint special prosecutors for trying cases that arise under the act.
Under-reporting of Atrocities Act cases: the Gujarat experience
An investigation conducted by Navsarjan, an NGO that has been working with Dalits in Gujarat since 1989, exposed the under-reporting of Atrocities Act cases and the biases of officers charged with its implementation. The study covered eleven "atrocity-prone" districts between 1990 and 1993 and showed that 36 percent of atrocities cases were not registered under the Atrocities Act. Moreover, in 84.4 percent of cases where the act was applied, cases were registered under the provision for name-calling (Section 3(1)(10)). That is, in many cases the actual and violent nature of abuses was concealed.
Martin Macwan, founder and director of Navsarjan, told Human Rights Watch that the under-reporting continues to be a problem in his state and throughout the country. "The police say, 'Give me the complaint in writing,' and the complainant leaves. They take the writing as an application and do the preliminary inquiry but do not make it into an FIR. Without an FIR, the case cannot be registered." Macwan added that apart from personal caste biases, this phenomenon could also be explained by pressures on the police to keep reported crime rates low in their jurisdictions. In the four years studied, police records showed that atrocities were up by 90 percent (both due to increased reporting and increased incidents), yet police reports also reflected that the general crime rate was down by 1.35 percent.
The police see their primary duty as the maintenance of law and order. An increased crime rate sends the message that they are not doing their job and can often lead to suspensions, demotions, and other punishments. To keep up the facade of lower crime rates, police send information on only a portion of cases to district headquarters. Under-reporting at the district level gets reflected in state-level statistics and presumably gets even more diluted at the national level. Ultimately, "there is no system for getting authentic information, and the public has no way of counter-checking the information that is there."
The Navsarjan study also interviewed ninety-eight police officers of all ranks in the eleven districts surveyed, on their knowledge of and attitude toward the Atrocities Act. Dalits constituted a minority of the officers interviewed. Several deputy superintendents of police (DSP) in charge of implementing the act viewed the act as an obstacle between caste communities. "Because of the act," one officer said, "Dalits have become more powerful, thus having an adverse impact on society." Another added that "Dalits are dependent on non-Dalits for economic reasons. Because of this act they are spoiling their own chances of employment." One DSP even complained, "We high-caste pay income tax which goes to the social welfare department that pays Dalits and they are the ones who make us accused and put us behind bars." According to the survey, 75 percent of DSPs charged that Dalits were misusing the act and filing false cases for monetary gain. A Dalit superintendent of police rejected that assertion, saying, "Almost all laws are misused, but this act is for harijans [Dalits] and has direct provisions for stringent punishment. Therefore even a little misuse creates uproar in society." Such uproar is best illustrated by the Maharashtra experience described below.
Attempts to repeal the Atrocities Act: the Maharashtra experience
That the Atrocities Act is perceived as a serious threat to upper-caste interests was readily apparent in the state of Maharashtra where, in 1995, a promise to repeal the act became a centerpiece of the Shiv Sena party's electoral campaign. Caste-based violence is common in parts of rural Maharashtra. In September 1995 the Maharashtra state government began withdrawing over 1,100 cases registered under the act, alleging that many of the cases were false and registered out of personal bias. The stated goal of the drastic move, which began in 1994, was to "promote communal harmony." On January 14, 1994, the state government renamed a university in Marathwada, eastern Maharashtra, as Dr. Ambedkar University. The renaming led to rioting and abuses by caste Hindus in the community. Many cases were registered under the Atrocities Act in the aftermath of the riots. In the week following the renaming, at least four Dalits were stabbed, Dalit huts and shops were burned in seven villages, and statues of Dr. Ambedkar were desecrated throughout the region.
The withdrawal of cases by then-Chief Minister Manohar Joshi was in fulfillment of a promise made by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray during his election campaign in Marathwada. The government also announced its intention to ask the central government to amend the act to limit its potential "abuse." But the move to simultaneously withdraw so many cases was an illegal one. Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires the court's consent for any case to be withdrawn from prosecution. Attempts to circumvent a piece of central legislation also raise fundamental questions about the state government's constitutional responsibility.
Despite the withdrawal of so many cases, a tremendous backlog in Atrocities Act cases remained in the state's court system. According to the Protection of Civil Rights cell in Maharashtra, as of 1996, the average age of a case registered under the act was more than five years. A 1996 PCR cell report stated that of the 875 cases registered under the act in 1994, 692 were still pending at the investigation level. In 1993, of the 1,921 cases registered, 1,918 were still pending. In 1992 a total of 1,449 cases were registered under the Atrocities Act and the Protection of Civil Rights Act; 1,066 remained unsettled in the courts. In the same year, only eleven people were convicted under the Atrocities Act.
As a senior official within the PCR cell observed, such delay "defeats the purpose of promulgation of such welfare legislation." The PCR cell has repeatedly asked the Home Ministry to form special courts in the state to clear the backlog. As of December 1998, none had been established.
The Atrocities Act was enacted in part to increase convictions against those accused of caste abuses who would otherwise escape conviction under the Indian Penal Code. The withdrawal of cases ensured that "no one [would] take the law seriously anymore." Its purpose was effectively subverted. NGOs working in the area also raised similar concerns: "Once this law becomes toothless it would become difficult for the Dalits to survive in the vicious rural setting."
Human Rights Watch spoke with Vivek Pandit, head of the NGO Samarthan and an activist credited with securing registration of many cases in Maharashtra since 1991. Pandit has seen written instructions by state officials not to implement certain provisions of the Atrocities Act, particularly provisions related to physical abuse and land alienation.
In Maharashtra, the election campaign was run on a promise to repeal the act. They tried to withdraw 1,128 atrocities cases. Samarthan kept the pressure on. I personally presented the case before the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. But the state government's resolution to repeal cases won't do it. Each case has to go through formal proceedings. They are throwing smoke in the constituency's eyes and saying that they are going to repeal it because of the "false cases" being registered. But there is not a single false case. We have the documents for each and every case. By saying that they are going to withdraw, they are sending the message to the police not to register the cases and that they are in favor of the upper castes.
With the aim of eradicating "untouchability" and deterring the increased incidence of crimes against Dalits throughout the country, states should make a concerted effort to ensure full implementation of the Atrocities Act. Attempts to withdraw cases and delays in setting up special courts and appointing special prosecutors send the wrong message to implementing agencies and effectively subvert the stated aims of the act. Without immediate action, the Atrocities Act, like many other pieces of social welfare legislation, will remain a paper tiger.
India's Obligations under International Law
The abuses documented in this report are in violation of the international human rights treaties outlined below. As a party to these treaties, India is obligated to comply with their provisions. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Human Rights Committee (HRC), monitoring bodies under the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively, have both expressed concern over the severe social discrimination still practiced against members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Both committees have also recommended measures that can be taken to ameliorate the situation.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965
In the concluding observations of its forty-ninth session held in August 1996, as it reviewed India's tenth to fourteenth periodic reports under the convention, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) affirmed that "the situation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes falls within the scope of" the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965. Article 6 of the convention provides that state parties shall "assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this Convention, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination."
The committee added that the provisions of Article 6 are mandatory and that "the State party [should] continue to and strengthen its efforts to improve the effectiveness of measures aimed at guaranteeing to all groups of the population, and especially to the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the full enjoyment of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, as mentioned in article 5 of the Convention." It recommended that:
$special measures be taken by the authorities to prevent acts of discrimination towards persons belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, and in the case where such acts have been committed, to conduct thorough investigations, to punish those found responsible and provide just and adequate reparation to the victims;
$a continuing campaign be undertaken to educate the Indian population on human rights, in line with India's constitution and with universal human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and aimed at eliminating the institutionalized thinking of the high-caste and low-caste mentality;
$legal provisions be adopted to make it "easier for individuals to seek from the courts just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of acts of racial discrimination, including acts of discrimination based on belonging to caste or a tribe."
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
In July 1997 the sixtieth session of the Human Rights Committee considered India's third periodic report submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The committee made the following observations pertaining to caste:
The Committee notes with concern that, despite measures taken by the Government, members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as well as the so‑called backward classes and ethnic and national minorities continue to endure severe social discrimination and to suffer disproportionately from many violations of their rights under the Covenant, inter alia, inter‑caste violence, bonded labour and discrimination of all kinds. It regrets that the de facto perpetuation of the caste system entrenches social differences and contributes to these violations. While the Committee notes the efforts made by the State party to eradicate discrimination:
it recommends that further measures be adopted, including education programmes at national and state levels, to combat all forms of discrimination against these vulnerable groups, in accordance with articles 2, paragraph 1, and 26 of the Covenant.
In addition to the violations outlined above, Articles 7, 9, 14, and 26 of the ICCPR are of particular relevance to the abuses documented in this report. Article 7 prohibits the use of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right to liberty and security of person is guaranteed by Article 9 and includes freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, entitlement to a trial within a reasonable time or to release, and compensation for victims of unlawful arrest or detention. Illegal arrests and detentions are by definition "arbitrary"; such acts can also be arbitrary if not in conformity with international standards of human rights and procedural fairness, regardless of specific provisions of domestic law.
While noting India's reservation to Article 9, the Human Rights Committee commented that this reservation, "does not exclude, inter alia, the obligation to comply with the requirement to inform promptly the person concerned of the reasons for his or her arrest."
The committee also added that:
preventive detention is a restriction of liberty imposed as a response to the conduct of the individual concerned, that the decision as to continued detention must be considered as a determination falling within the meaning of article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, and that proceedings to decide the continuation of detention must, therefore, comply with that provision. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the requirements of article 9, paragraph 2, of the Covenant be complied with in respect of all detainees. The question of continued detention should be determined by an independent and impartial tribunal constituted and operating in accordance with article 14, paragraph 1, [the right to equality before all courts and tribunals] of the Covenant. It further recommends, at the very least, that a central register of detainees under preventive detention laws be maintained and that the State party accept the admission of the International Committee of the Red Cross to all types of detention facilities, particularly in areas of conflict.
Finally, Article 26 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to equal protection before the law and prohibits discrimination on any ground including, among others, race, sex, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, birth, or other status.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) provides that state parties shall "recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work." These include "fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind," and "safe and healthy work conditions."
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984
Succumbing in part to pressure from domestic human rights NGOs and the National Human Rights Commission, India signed the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment on October 14, 1997. The provisions of the convention will become binding upon its ratification.
The convention defines torture as:
[A]ny act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Severe beatings of Dalit men and women by the police documented in this report fall well within this definition. Indian police routinely employ torture techniques in police stations, lock-ups, and detention centers throughout the country. The sexual abuse of women by state agents in a custodial setting amounts to torture if the agent uses force, the threat of force, or other means of coercion to compel a woman to engage in sexual intercourse. If the agent uses force or coercion to engage in sexual touching of prisoners, including aggressively squeezing, groping, or prodding women's genitals or breasts, and the acts cause severe physical and mental suffering, that too would amount to torture.
Acts that do not rise to the level of torture or cruel or inhuman treatment may nevertheless be classified as degrading treatment, which is defined as treatment that causes or is intended to cause gross humiliation or an insult to a person's dignity. The prohibition on degrading treatment also extends to the use of demeaning language where the employment of such language is intended to dehumanize and weaken an incarcerated person.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, and Forced Labour Convention, 1930
Finally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC) and the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 mandate protections that are particularly relevant for bonded laborers. Article 32 of CRC dictates that states parties recognize the "right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or... be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development." Similarly, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Forced Labour Convention requires signatories to "suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms in the shortest period possible." In 1957, the ILO explicitly incorporated debt bondage and serfdom within its definition of forced labor.
As this report demonstrates, more than 160 million people in the "world's largest democracy" remain at risk of systematic human rights violations on the basis of the caste into which they are born. Despite the fact that India constitutionally abolished the practice of "untouchability" in 1950, the practice continues in the constitution's fiftieth year, and violence has become a defining characteristic of the abuse. In 1989 India enacted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to prevent and punish state and private actors for abuses against Dalits, to establish special courts for the trial of such offenses, and to provide for the rehabilitation and relief of the victims. However, without a serious and sustained commitment to implementing constitutional safeguards and other national and international legal protections, human rights abuses in their most degrading forms will continue against scheduled-caste community members.
As documented throughout this report, the response of state administrations to incidents of caste violence amounts to a failure to ensure equal protection under the law and exposes a pattern of complicity and collusion on behalf of police and local officials. Despite ambitious calls for action by central and state governments in the aftermath publicity of massacres and police raids, the Indian authorities have shown little commitment to resolving the root causes of caste conflicts. In Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and other states where massacres and large-scale police attacks on Dalits in rural and urban settings continue to take place, state administrations should act swiftly and without bias to bring offending state and private actors to justice. They must heed calls for protection from Dalit communities and work to address those issues of inequity that are at the heart of the class-caste conflict. To dismiss the violence as purely a "law and order" concern, or to depict it as the inevitable consequence of ancient feuds between caste Hindus and Dalits, or between the haves and the have-nots, is misleading and irresponsible. Such a characterization erroneously suggests that the state has no protective role to play, or that the state itself has not contributed to the abuse.
At the same time, other forms of human rights violations should not go unaddressed. The false arrests and detentions of social activists are insidious, as they punish those members of the population who attempt to peacefully and democratically claim their rights and protect the rights of others. The exploitation of agricultural laborers and the rigid assignment of demeaning occupations on the basis of caste keeps Dalits in a position of economic and physical vulnerability. The triple burden of caste, class, and gender effectively ensures that Dalit women are the furthest removed from legal protections. Only with the honest implementation of laws designed to protect agricultural laborers and abolish manual scavenging and forced prostitution, and the systematic prosecution of those responsible for attacks on Dalit men and women, can the process of attaining economic and physical security begin.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has the potential to bring about social change by sending the message that human rights violations against scheduled-caste members will not go unpunished. The implementation of the Atrocities Act and other legislation, however, depends largely on the ability and willingness of the police to follow proper procedure and overcome caste biases, economic hurdles, and other obstacles. More than twenty years ago, the Indian government set up the National Police Commission to examine the causes of police abuse and police negligence. The commission's 1980 eight-volume report, which followed a series of similar reports by state-level commissions, is a comprehensive account of police brutality and corruption, providing serious recommendations to address the problems. It documents deficiencies in training, salaries, and the de facto immunity from punishment that police continue to enjoy.
Civil rights activists and attorneys in India have argued that even partial implementation of the reports' detailed recommendations would substantially curb police abuses and improve their overall performance. The importance of implementing the recommendations was reiterated in a recent Supreme Court judgment. Despite repeated calls for reform from former Home Minister Indrajit Gupta, the National Human Rights Commission, and civil rights activists, little action has been taken. Without an immediate and comprehensive commitment to police reform, abuses against the countries lowest castes, and indeed against all marginalized communities, will continue. India's emerging human rights discourse, and the innovative work of the women's movement and the Dalit movement, are already helping to generate solutions to the problem of police corruption and caste issues generally. The Indian government should solicit the participation of these local groups and of the international community in tackling the problem.
The government of India has also consistently refused to allow relevant U.N. bodies, including working groups and special rapporteurs, to gain access to the country. Simultaneously, the difficulty of slotting caste-based abuses into standard categories of human rights violations, as well as the prevalence of constitutional and legislative protections at the national-level, have allowed for these abuses to escape international scrutiny. As a signatory to several international human rights conventions, India is obligated to abide by their provisions.
The Indian government should enlist the support of the United Nations, multilateral financial institutions, India's trading partners, and national and international nongovernmental organizations to eradicate the pervasive problem of caste-based abuse. It should also place a priority on strengthening institutional mechanisms aimed at addressing issues of violence and discrimination. In 1997 India celebrated its fiftieth anniversary of independence from British rule. In 1998 the world celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Indian government should mark these occasions by dismantling a system that in practice relegates millions of people to a lifetime of violence, servitude, segregation, and discrimination, all on the basis of caste.
Article 14. Equality before law. -The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
Article 15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. -
(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to-
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.
(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
(4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Article 16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. -
(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
Article 17. Abolition of Untouchability. -"Untouchability" is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of "Untouchability" shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
Article 19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. -
(1) All citizens shall have the right-
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; [and]
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
(3) Nothing in sub-clause (b) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.
(4) Nothing in sub-clause (c) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.
(5) Nothing in sub-clauses (d) and (e) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub-clauses either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.
(6) Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,-
(i) the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or
(ii) the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.
Article 20. Protection in respect of conviction for offences. -
(1)No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.
(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
Article 21. Protection of life and personal liberty. -
(1) No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
Article 23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour. -
(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion. race, caste or class or any of them.
Article 24. Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc. -
No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
Article 39. Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State. -
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing-
(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;
(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;
(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;
Article 43. Living wage, etc., for workers. -
The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organisation or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to promote cottage industries on an individual or co-operative basis in rural areas.
Article 44. Uniform civil code for the citizens. -
The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
Article 45. Provision for free and compulsory education for children. -
The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
Article 46. Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections. -
The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Article 51A: Fundamental Duties. -
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India-
(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Article 243D. Reservation of seats. -
(1) Seats shall be reserved for-
(a) the Scheduled Castes; and
(b) the Scheduled Tribes, in every Panchayat and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the, total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Panchayat as the population of the Scheduled Castes in that Panchayat area or of the Scheduled Tribes in that Panchayat area bears to the total population of that area and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat.
(2) Not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes or, as the case may be, the Scheduled Tribes,
(3) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat.
(4) The offices of the Chairpersons in the Panchayats at the village or any other level shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the Legislature of a State may, by law, provide:
Provided that the number of offices of chairpersons reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Panchayats at each level in any State shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of such offices in the Panchayats at each level as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State bears to the total population of the State:
Provided further that not less than one-third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women:
Provided also that the number of offices reserved under this clause shall be allotted by rotation to different Panchayats at each level.
Article 243T. Reservation of seats. -
(1) Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the Municipal area or of the Scheduled Tribes in the Municipal area bears to the total population of that area and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.
(2) Not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes or as the case may be the Scheduled Tribes,
(3) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.
(4) The officers of Chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the Legislature of a State may, by law, provide.
(5) The reservation of seats under clauses (1) and (2) and the reservation of offices of Chairpersons (other than the reservation for women) under clause (4) shall cease to have effect on the expiration of the period specified in Article 334.
(6) Nothing in this Part shall prevent the Legislature of a State from making any provision for reservation of seats in any Municipality or offices of Chairpersons in the Municipalities in favour of backward class of citizens.
Article 330. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People. -
(1) Seats shall be reserved in the House of the People for-
(a) the Scheduled Castes;
(b) the Scheduled Tribes except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam; and
(c) the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam.
(2) The number of seats reserved in any State or Union territory for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes under clause (1) shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats allotted to that State or Union territory in the House of the People as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or Union territory or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State or Union territory or part of the State or Union territory, as the case may be, in respect of which seats are so reserved, bears to the total population of the State or Union territory.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (2), the number of seats reserved in the House of the People for the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam shall bear to the total number of seats allotted to that State a proportion not less than the population of the Scheduled Tribes in the said autonomous districts bears to the total population of the State.
Article 332. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States. -
(1) Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam, in the Legislative Assembly of every State.
(2) Seats shall be reserved also for the autonomous districts in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Assam.
(3) The number of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of any State under clause (1) shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats in the Assembly as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State or part of the State, as the case may be, in respect of which seats are so reserved, bears to the total population of the State.
(3A) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (3), until the taking effect, under article 170 , of the readjustment, on the basis of the first census after the year 2000, of the number of seats in the Legislative Assemblies of the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, the seats which shall be reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of any such State shall be,-
(a) if all the seats in the Legislative Assembly of such State in existence on the date of coming into force of the Constitution (Fifty-seventh Amendment) Act, 1987 (hereafter in this clause referred to as the existing Assembly) are held by members of the Scheduled Tribes, all the seats except one;
(b) in any other case, such number of seats as bears to the total number of seats, a proportion not less than the number (as on the said date) of members belonging to the Scheduled Tribes in the existing Assembly bears to the total number of seats in the existing Assembly.
(3B) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (3), until the re-adjustment, under article 170 , takes effect on the basis of the first census after the year 2000, of the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Tripura, the seats which shall be reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly shall be, such number of seats as bears to the total number of seats, a proportion not less than the number, as on the date of coming into force of the Constitution (Seventy-second Amendment) Act, 1992, of members belonging to the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly in existence on the said date bears to the total number of seats in that Assembly.
(4) The number of seats reserved for an autonomous district in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Assam shall bear to the total number of seats in that Assembly a proportion not less than the population of the district bears to the total population of the State.
(5) The constituencies for the seats reserved for any autonomous district of Assam shall not comprise any area outside that district.
(6) No person who is not a member of a Scheduled Tribe of any autonomous district of the State of Assam shall be eligible for election to the Legislative Assembly of the State from any constituency of that district
Article 334. Reservation of seats and special representation to cease after [fifty years]. -
Not withstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part, the provisions of this Constitution relating to-
(a) the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States; and
(b) the representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States by nomination, shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a period of [fifty years] from the commencement of this Constitution:
Provided that nothing in this article shall affect any representation in the House of the People or in the Legislative Assembly of a State until the dissolution of the then existing House or Assembly, as the case may be.
Article 335. Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts. -
The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, constantly with the maintenance of the efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
No. 33 of 1989
[11th September, 1989]
An Act to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Be it enacted by Parliament in the Fortieth Year of the Republic of India as follows:-
1. Short title, extent and commencement-
(1) This Act may be called the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "atrocity" means an offence punishable under Section 3;
(b) "Code" means the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974);
(c) "Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes" shall have the meanings assigned to them respectively under clause (24) and clause (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution;
(d) "Special Court" means a Court of Session specified as a Special Court in section 14;
(e) "Special Public Prosecutor" means a Public Prosecutor specified as a Special Public Prosecutor or an advocate referred to in section 15;
(f) words and expressions used but not defined in this Act and defined in the Code or the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) shall have the meanings assigned to them respectively in the Code, or as the case may be, in the Indian Penal Code.
(2) Any reference in this Act to any enactment or any provision thereof shall, in relation to an area in which such enactment or such provision is, not in force, be construed as a reference to the corresponding law, if any, in force in that area.
OFFENCES OF ATROCITIES
3. Punishments for offences of atrocities-
(1) Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, -
(i) forces a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance;
(ii) acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighborhood;
(iii) forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity;
(iv) wrongfully occupies or cultivates any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to, a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or gets the land allotted to him transferred;
(v) wrongfully dispossesses a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises or interferes with the enjoyment of his rights over any land, premises or water;
(vi) compels or entices a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to do 'begar' or other similar forms of forced or bonded labor other than any compulsory service for public purposes imposed by Government;
(vii) forces or intimidates a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe not to vote or to vote to a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law;
(viii) institutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or other legal proceedings against a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;
(ix) gives any false or frivolous information to any public servant and thereby causes such public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;
(x) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;
(xi) assaults or uses force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with intent to dishonor or outrage her modesty;
(xii) being in a position to dominate the will of a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and uses that position to exploit her sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed;
(xiii) corrupts or fouls the water of any spring, reservoir or any other source ordinarily used by members of the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribes so as to render it less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used;
(xiv) denies a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructs such member so as to prevent him from using or having access to a place of public resort to which other members of public or any section thereof have a right to use or access to;
(xv) forces or causes a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to leave his house, village or other place of residence, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.
(2) Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe,-
(i) gives or fabricates false evidence intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to be convicted of an offence which is capital by the law for the time being in force shall be punished with imprisonment for life and with fine; and if an innocent member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe be convicted and executed in consequence of such false or fabricated evidence, the person who gives or fabricates such false evidence, shall be punished with death;
(ii) gives or fabricates false evidence intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to be convicted of an offence which is not capital but punishable with imprisonment for a term of seven years or upwards, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to seven years or upwards and with fine;
(iii) commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance intending to cause or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause damage to any property belonging to a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to seven years and with fine;
(iv) commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance intending to cause or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause destruction of any building which is ordinarily used as a place of worship or as a place for human dwelling or as a place for custody of the property by a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, shall be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine;
(v) commits any offence under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member, shall be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine;
(vi) knowingly or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed under this Chapter, causes any evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment, or with that intention gives any information respecting the offence which he knows or believes to be false, shall be punishable with the punishment provided for that offence; or
(vii) being a public servant, commits any offence under this section, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to the punishment provided for that offence.
4. Punishment for neglect of duties-
Whoever, being a public servant but not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, wilfully neglects his duties required to be performed by him under this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year.
5. Enhanced punishment for subsequent conviction-
Whoever, having already been convicted of an offence under this Chapter is convicted for the second offence or any offence subsequent to the second offence, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to the punishment provided for that offence.
6. Application of certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code-
Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the provisions of section 34, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter V-A, section 149 and Chapter XXIII of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of this Act as they apply for the purposes of the Indian Penal Code.
7. Forfeiture of property of certain persons-
(1) Where a person has been convicted of any offence punishable under this Chapter, the Special Court may, in addition to awarding any punishment, by order in writing, declare that any property, movable or immovable or both, belonging to the person which has been used for the commission of that offence, shall stand forfeited to Government.
(2) Where any person is accused of any offence under this Chapter, it shall be open to the Special Court trying him to pass an order that all or any of the properties, movable or immovable or both, belonging to him, shall, during the period of such trial, be attached, and where such trial ends in conviction, the property so attached shall be liable to forfeiture to the extent it is required for the purpose of realization of any fine imposed under this Chapter.
8. Presumption as to offences-
In a prosecution for an offence under this Chapter, if it is proved that B
(a) the accused rendered any financial assistance to a person accused of, or reasonably suspected of committing, an offence under this Chapter, the Special Court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that such person had, abetted the offence;
(b) a group of persons committed an offence under this Chapter and if it is proved that the offence committed was a sequel to any existing dispute regarding land or any other matter, it shall be presumed that the offence was committed in furtherance of the common intention or in prosecution of the common object.
9. Conferment of powers-
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code or in any other provision of this Act, the State Government may, if it considers it necessary or expedient so to do,-
(a) for the prevention of and for coping with any offence under this Act, or
(b) for any case or class or group of cases under this Act, in any district or part thereof, confer, by notification in the Official Gazette, on any officer of the State Government, the powers exercisable by a police officer under the Code in such district or part thereof or, as the case maybe, for such case or class or group of cases, and in particular, the powers of arrest, investigation and prosecution of persons before any Special Court.
(2) All officers of police and all other officers of Government shall assist the officer referred to in sub-section (1) in the execution of the provisions of this Act or any rule, scheme or order made thereunder.
(3) The provisions of the Code shall, so far as may be, apply to the exercise of the powers by an officer under sub-section (1).
10. Removal of person likely to commit offence-
(l) Where the Special Court is satisfied, upon a complaint or a police report that a person is likely to commit an offence under Chapter II of this Act in any area included in 'Scheduled Areas' or 'Tribal areas' as referred to in Article 244 of the Constitution, it may, by order in writing, direct such person to remove himself beyond the limits of such area, by such route and within such time as may be specified in the order, and not to return to that area from which he was directed to remove himself for such period, not exceeding two years, as may be specified in the order.
(2) The Special Court shall, along with the order under sub-section (1), communicate to the person directed under that sub-section the grounds on which such order has been made.
(3) The Special Court may revoke or modify the order made under subsection (1), for the reasons to be recorded in writing, on the representation made by the person against whom such order has been made or by any other person on his behalf within thirty days from the date of the order.
11. Procedure on failure of person to remove himself from area and enter thereon after removal-
(1)If a person to whom a direction has been issued under Section 10 to remove himself from any area-
(a) fails to remove himself as directed; or
(b) having so removed himself enters such area within the period specified in the order, otherwise than with the permission in writing of the Special Court under sub-section (2), the Special Court may cause him to be arrested and removed in police custody to such place outside sucharea as the Special Court may specify.
(2) The Special Court may, by order in writing, permit any person in respect of whom an order under section 10 has been made, to return to the area from which hewas directed to remove himself for such temporary period and subject to such conditions as may be specified in such order and may require him to execute a bond with or without surety for the due observation of the conditions imposed.
(3) The Special Court may at any time revoke any such permission.
(4) Any person who, withsuch permission, returns to the area from which he was directed to remove himself shall observe the conditions imposed and at the expiry of the temporary period for which he was permitted to return or on the revocation of such permission before the expiry of such temporary period shall remove himself outside such area and shall not return thereto within the unexpired portion specified under Section 10 without a fresh permission.
(5) If a person fails to observe any of the conditions imposed or to remove himself accordingly or having so removed himself enters or returns to such area without fresh permission the Special Court may cause him to be arrested and removed in police custody to such place outside such area as the Special Court may specify.
12. Taking measurements and photographs, etc. of persons against whom order under section 10 is made-
(l) Every person against whom an order has been made under Section 10 shall, if so required by the Special Court, allow his measurements and photographs to be taken by a police officer.
(2) If any person referred to in sub-section (1) when required to allow his measurements or photographs to be taken, resists or refuses to allow the taking of such measurements or photographs, it shall be lawful to use all necessary means to secure the taking thereof.
(3) Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements or photographs under sub-section (2) shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
(4) Where an order under section 10 is revoked, all measurements and photographs (including negatives) taken under sub-section (2) shall be destroyed or made over to the person against whom such order is made.
13. Penalty for non-compliance of order under section 10-
Any person contravening an order of the Special Court made under Section 10 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine.
14. Special Court-
For the purpose of providing for speedy trial, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify for each district a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under this Act.
15. Special Public Prosecutor-
For every Special Court, the State Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years, as a Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose of conducting cases in that Court.
16. Power of State Government to impose collective fine-
The provisions of Section 10-A of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (22 of 1955) shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of imposition and realization of collective fine and for all other matters connected therewith under this Act.
17. Preventive action to be taken by the law and order machinery-
(1) A District Magistrate or a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate or any police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police may, on receiving information and after such enquiry as he may think necessary, has reason to believe that a person or a group of persons not belonging to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes, residing in or frequenting any place within the local limits of his jurisdiction is likely to commit an offence or has threatened to commit any offence under this Act and is of the opinion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, declare such an area to be an area prone to atrocities and take necessary action for keeping the peace and good behavior and maintenance of public order and tranquillity and may take preventive action.
(2) The provisions of Chapters VIII, X and XI of the Code shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of sub-Section (1).
(3) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make one or more schemes specifying the manner in which the officers referred to in sub-Section (1) shall take appropriate action specified in such scheme or schemes to prevent atrocities and to restore the feeling of security amongst the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
18. Section 438 of the Code not to apply to persons committing an offence under the Act-
Nothing in Section 438 of the Code shall apply in relation to any case involving the arrest of any person on an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act.
19. Section 360 of the Code and the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act not to apply to persons guilty of an offence under the Act-
The provisions of Section 360 of the Code and the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 (20 of 1958) shall not apply to any person above the age of eighteen years who is found guilty of having committed an offence under this Act.
20. Act to override other laws-
Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or any custom or usage or any instrument having effect by virtue of any such law.
21. Duty of Government to ensure effective implementation of the Act-
(1) Subject to such rules as the Central Government may make in this behalf, the State Government shall take such measures as may be necessary for the effective implementation of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, such measures may include,-
(i) the provision for adequate facilities, including legal aid, to the persons subjected to atrocities to enable them to avail themselves of justice-
(ii) the provision for travelling and maintenance expenses to witnesses including the victims of atrocities, during investigation and trial of offences under this Act;
(iii) the provision for the economic and social rehabilitation of the victims of the atrocities;
(iv) the appointment of officers for initiating or exercising supervision over prosecutions for the contravention of the provisions of this Act;
(v) the setting up of committees at such appropriate levels as the State Government may think fit to assist that Government in formulation or implementation of such measures;
(vi) provision for a periodic survey of the working of the provisions of this Act with a view to suggesting measures for the better implementation of the provisions of this Act;
(vii) the identification of the areas where the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are likely to be subjected to atrocities and adoption of such measures so as to ensure safety for such members.
(3) The Central Government shall take such steps as may be necessary to co-ordinate the measures taken by the State Governments under sub-Section (1).
(4) The Central Government shall, every year, place on the table of each House of Parliament a report on the measures taken by itself and by the State Governments in pursuance of the provisions of this Section.
22. Protection of action taken in good faith-
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central Government or against the State Government or any officer or authority of Government or any other person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act.
23. Power to make rules-
(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
(2) Every rule made under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament, while it is in session for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.
G.S.R. 316 (E), dated 31st March, 1995.- In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-Section (1) of Sec. 23 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 1989 (33 of 1989), the Central Government hereby makes the following rules, namely:
1. Short title and commencement.-
(1) These rules may be called the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995.
(2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.
In these rules. unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "Act" means the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (33 of 1989).
(b) "dependent", with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, includes wife, children, whether married or unmarried, dependent parents, widowed sister, widow and children of pre-deceased son of a victim of atrocity;
(c) "identified area" means such area where State Government has reason to believe that atrocity may take place or there is an apprehension of re-occurrence of an offence under the Act or an area prone to victim of atrocity;
(d) "Non-Government Organization" means a voluntary organization engaged in the welfare activities relating to the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes and registered under the Societies Registration Act.- 1860 (21 of 1860) or under any law for the registration of documents of such Organization for the time being in force;
(e) "Schedule" means the Schedule annexed to these rules;
(f) "Section" means Section of the Act;
(g) "State Government", in relation to a Union territory, means the Administrator of that Union territory appointed by the President under Art. 239 of the Constitution;
(h) words and expressions used herein and not defined but defined in the Act shall have the meanings respectively assigned to them in the Act.
3. Precautionary and preventive measures.-
With a view to prevent atrocities on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes the State Government shall,-
(i) identify the area where it has reason to believe that atrocity may take place or there is an apprehension of reoccurrence of an offence under the Act ;
(ii) order the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police or any other officer to visit the identified area and review the law and order situation;
(iii) if deem necessary, in the identified area cancel the arm licenses of the persons, not being member of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, their near relations, servants or employees and family friends and get such arms deposited in the Government Armory;
(iv) seize all illegal fire-arms and prohibit any illegal manufacture of fire-arms;
(v) with a view to ensure the safety of person and property, if deem necessary, provide arms licenses to the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes;
(vi) constitute a high power State-level committee, district and divisional level committees or such number of other committees as deem proper and necessary for assisting the Government in implementation of the provisions of the Act.
(vii) set up a vigilance and monitoring committee to suggest effective measures to implement the provisions of the Act;
(viii) set up Awareness Centers and organize Workshops in the identified area or at some other place to educate the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes about their rights and the protection available to them under the provisions of various Central and State enactments or rules, regulations and schemes framed thereunder;
(ix) encourage Non-Government Organizations for establishing and maintaining Awareness Centers and organizing Workshops and provide them necessary financial and other sort of assistance;
(x) deploy special police force in the identified area;
(xi) by the end of every quarter, review the law and order situation, functioning of different committees, performance of Special Public Prosecutors, Investigating Officers and other Officers responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act and the cases registered under the Act.
4. Supervision of prosecution and submission of report.-
(1) The State Government on the recommendation of the District Magistrate shall prepare for each District a panel of such number of eminent senior advocates who has been in practice for not less than seven years, as it may deem necessary for conducting cases in the Special Courts. Similarly, in consultation with the Director-Prosecution in charge of the prosecution, a panel of such number of Public Prosecutors as it may deem necessary for conducting cases in the Special Courts, shall also be specified. Both these panels shall be notified in the Official Gazette of the State and shall remain in force for a period of three years.
(2) The District Magistrate and the Director of prosecution in charge of the prosecution shall review at least twice in a calendar year, in the month of January and July, the performance of Special Public Prosecutors so specified or appointed and submit a report to the State Government.
(3) If the State Government is satisfied or has reason to believe that a Special Public Prosecutor so appointed or specified has not conducted the case to the best of his ability and with due care and caution, his name may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing, denotified.
(4) The District Magistrate and the Officer-in-charge of the prosecution at the District level, shall review the position of cases registered under the Act and submit a monthly report on or before 20th day of each subsequent month to the Director of Prosecution and the State Government. This report shall specify the actions taken/proposed to be taken in respect of investigation and prosecution of each case.
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1) the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate may, if deem necessary or if so desired by the victim of atrocity engage an eminent Senior Advocate for conducting cases in the Special Courts on such payment of fees as he may consider appropriate.
(6) Payment of fee to the Special Public Prosecutor shall be fixed by the State Government on a scale higher than the other panel advocates in the State.
5. Information to Police Officer in-charge of a Police Station.-
(1) Every information relating to the commission of an offence under the Act, if given orally to an officer in-charge of a police station shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction. and be read over to the informant, and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the persons giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be maintained by that police station.
(2) A copy of the information as so recorded under sub-rule (1) above shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.
(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred in sub-rule (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who after investigation either by himself or by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, shall make an order in writing to the officer in-charge of the concerned police station to enter the substance of that information to be entered in the book to be maintained by the police station.
6. Spot inspection by officers.-
(1) Whenever the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other executive Magistrate or any police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police receives an information from any person or upon his own knowledge that an atrocity has been committed on the members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes within his jurisdiction he shall immediately himself visit the place of occurrence to assess the extent of atrocity, loss of life, loss and damage to the property and submit a report forthwith to the State Government.
(2) The District Magistrate or the sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other executive Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police after inspecting the place or area on the spot,-
(i) draw a list of victims, their family members and dependents entitled for relief;
(ii) prepare a detailed report of the extent of atrocity, loss and damage to the property of the victims;
(iii) order for intensive police patrolling in the area;
(iv) take effective and necessary steps to provide protection to the witnesses and other sympathizers of the victims;
(v) provide immediate relief to the victims.
7. Investigating Officer.-
(1) An offence committed under the Act shall be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. The investigating officer shall be appointed by the State Government, Director-General of Police, Superintendent of Police after taking into account his past experience, sense of ability and justice to perceive the implications of the case and investigate it along with right lines within the shortest possible time.
(2) The investigating officer so appointed under sub-rule (1) shall complete the investigation on top priority within thirty days and submit the report to the Superintendent of Police who in turn will immediately forward the report to the Director-General of Police of the State Government.
(3) The Home Secretary and the Social Welfare Secretary to the State Government, Director of Prosecution the officer-in-charge of Prosecution and the Director-General of Police shall review by the end of every quarter the position of all investigations done by the investigating officer.
8. Setting up of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Protection Cell.-
The State Government shall set up a Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Protection Cell at the State headquarter under the charge of Director of Police, Inspector-General of Police. This Cell shall be responsible for,-
(i) conducting survey of the identified area;
(ii) maintaining public order and tranquillity in the identified area;
(iii) recommending to the State Government for deployment of special police force or establishment of special police post in the identified area;
(iv) making investigations about the probable causes leading to an offence under the Act;
(v) restoring the feeling of security amongst the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes;
(vi) informing the nodal officer and special officer about the law and order situation in the identified area;
(vii) making enquiries about the investigation and spot inspections conducted by various officers;
(viii) making enquiries about the action taken by the Superintendent of Police in the cases where an officer in-charge of the police station has refused to enter an information in a book to be maintained by that police station under sub-rule (3) of rule 5;
(ix) making enquiries about the wilful negligence by a public servant;
(x) reviewing the position of cases registered under the Act, and
(xi) submitting a monthly report on or before 20th day of each subsequent month to the State Government, nodal officer about the action taken proposed to be taken, in respect of the above.
9. Nomination of Nodal Officer.-
The State Government shall nominate a nodal officer of the level of a Secretary to the Government preferably belonging to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes, for coordinating the functioning of the District Magistrates and Superintendent of Police or other officers authorized by them investigating officers and other officers responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act. By the end of the every quarter, the nodal officer shall review,-
(i) the reports received by the State Government under sub-rules (2) and (4) of rule 4, rule 6, Cl. (xi) of rule 8.
(ii) the position of cases registered under the Act;
(iii) law and order situation in the identified area;
(iv) various kinds of measures adopted for providing immediate relief in cash or kind or both to the victims of atrocity or his or her dependent;
(v) adequacy of immediate facilities like rationing, clothing, shelter, legal aid, travelling allowance, daily allowance and transport facilities provided to the victims of atrocity of his/her dependents;
(vi) performance of non-Governmental organizations, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Protection Cell, various committees and the public servants responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act.
10. Appointment of a Special Officer.-
In the identified area a Special Officer not below the rank of an Additional District Magistrate shall be appointed to co-ordinate with the District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police or other officers responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act, various committees and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Protection Cell.
The Special Officer shall be responsible for:
(i) providing immediate relief and other facilities to the victims of atrocity and initiate necessary measures to prevent or avoid re-occurrence of atrocity;
(ii) setting up an awareness center and organizing workshop in the identified area or at the District headquarters to educate the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes about their rights and the protection available to them under the provisions of various Central and State enactments or rules and schemes, etc. framed therein;
(iii) coordinating with the non-governmental organizations and providing necessary facilities and financial and other type of assistance to non-governmental organizations for maintaining centers or organizing workshops.
11. Travelling allowances, daily allowance, maintenance expenses and transport facilities to the victim atrocity, his or her dependent and witnesses.B
(1) Every victim of atrocity or his/her dependent and witnesses shall be paid to and for rail fare by second class in express / mail/ passenger train or actual bus of taxi fare from his / her place of residence or actual bus or taxi fare from his /her place of residence or place of stay to the place of investigation or hearing of trial of an offence under the Act.
(2) The District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall make necessary arrangements for providing transport facilities or reimbursement of full payment thereof to the victims of atrocity and witnesses for visiting the investigating officer, Superintendent of Police/Deputy Superintendent of Police, District Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate.
(3) Every woman witness, the victim of atrocity or her dependent being a woman or a minor, a person more than sixty years of age and a person having 40 per cent or more disability shall be entitled to be accompanied by an attendant of her/ his choice. The attendant shall also be paid travelling and maintenance expenses as applicable to the witness or the victim of atrocity when called upon during hearing, investigation and trial of an offence under the Act.
(4) The witness, the victim of atrocity or his/her dependent and the attendant shall be paid daily maintenance expenses for the days he/she is away from the place of his/her residence or stay during investigation, hearing and trial of an offence, at such rates but not less than the minimum wages, as may be fixed by the State Government for the agricultural laborers.
(5) In additional to daily maintenance expenses the witness' the victim of atrocity (or his/her dependent) and the attendant shall also be paid diet expenses at such rates as may be fixed by the State Government from time to time.
(6) The payment of travelling allowance, daily allowance, maintenance expenses and reimbursement of transport facilities shall be made immediately or not later than three days by the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate to the victims, their dependents/attendant and witnesses for the days they visit the investigating officer or in-charge police station or hospital authorities or Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police or District Magistrate or any other officer concerned or the Special Court.
(7) When an offence has been committed under Sec. 3 of the Act, the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall reimburse the payment of medicines, special medical consultation, blood transfusion, replacement of essential clothing, meals and fruits provided to the victim(s) of atrocity.
12. Measures to be taken by the District Administration.-
(1)The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police shall visit the place or area where the atrocity has been committed to assess the loss of life and damage to the property and draw a list of victim, their family members and dependents entitled for relief.
(2) Superintendent of Police shall ensure that the First Information Report is registered in the book of the concerned police station and effective measures for apprehending the accused are taken.
(3) The Superintendent of Police, after spot inspection, shall immediately appoint an investigation officer and deploy such police force in the area and take such other preventive measures as he may deem proper and necessary.
(4) The District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall make arrangements for providing immediate relief in cash or in kind or both to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents according to the scale as in the schedule annexed to these Rules (Annexure-I read with Annexure-II). Such immediate relief shall also include food, water, clothing, shelter, medical aid, transport facilities and other essential items necessary for human beings.
(5) The relief provided to the victim of the atrocity or his /her dependent under sub-rule (4) in respect of death, or injury to, or damage to property shall be in addition to any other right to claim compensation in respect thereof under any other law for the time being in force.
(6) The relief and rehabilitation facilities mentioned in sub-rule (4) above shall be provided by the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate in accordance with the scales provided in the Schedule annexed to these rules.
(7) A report of the relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims shall also be forwarded to the Special Court by the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or the Executive Magistrate or Superintendent of Police. In case the Special Court is satisfied that the payment of relief was not made to the victim or his/her dependent in time or the amount of relief or compensation was not sufficient or only a part of payment of relief or compensation was made, it may order for making in full or part the payment of relief or any other kind of assistance.
13. Selection of Officers and other State Members for completing the work relating to atrocity.-
(1) The State Government shall ensure that the administrative officers and other staff members to be appointed in an area prone to atrocity shall have the right aptitude and understanding of the problems of the Scheduled Castes and posts and police station.
(2) It shall also be ensured by the State Government that persons from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are adequately represented in the administration and in the police force at all levels, particularly at the level or police posts and police station.
14. Specific responsibility of the State Government.-
The State Government shall make necessary provisions in its annual budget for providing relief and rehabilitation facilities to the victims of atrocity. It shall review at least twice in a calendar year, in the month of January and July the performance of the Special Public Prosecutor specified or appointed under Sec. 15 of the Act, various reports received, investigation made and preventive steps taken by the District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims and the reports in respect of lapses on behalf of the concerned officers.
15. Contingency Plan by the State Government.-
(1) The State Government shall prepare a model contingency plan for implementing the provisions of the Act and notify the same in the Official Gazette of the State Government. It should specify the role and responsibility of various departments and their officers at different levels, the role and responsibility of Rural/ Urban Local Bodies and Non-Government Organizations. Inter alia this plan shall contain a package of relief measures including the following:
(a) scheme to provide immediate relief in cash or in kind or both;
(b) allotment of agricultural land and house-sites;
(c) the rehabilitation packages;
(d) scheme for employment in Government or Government undertaking to the dependent or one of the family members of the victim;
(e) pension scheme for widows, dependent children of the deceased, handicapped or old age victims of atrocity;
(f) mandatory compensation for the victims;
(g) scheme for strengthening the socioeconomic condition of the victim;
(h) provisions for providing brick/stone masonry house to the victims;
(i) such other elements as health care, supply of essential commodities, electrification, adequate drinking water facility, burial/cremation ground and link roads to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
(2) The State Government shall forward a copy of the contingency plan or a summary thereof and a copy of the scheme, as soon as may be, to the Central Government in the Ministry of Welfare and to all the District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates, Inspectors-General of Police and Superintendents of Police.
16. Constitution of State-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee.-
(1) The State Government shall constitute high power vigilance and monitoring committee of not more than 25 members consisting of the following:
(i) Chief Minister/Administrator-Chairman (in case of a State under President's Rule Governor-Chairman).
(ii) Home Minister, Finance Minister and Welfare Minister-Members (in case of a State under the President's Rule Advisors-Members);
(iii) all elected Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council from the State belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes- Members
(iv) Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Director-General of Police, Director/ Deputy Director, National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes- Members;
(v) the Secretary in-charge of the welfare and development of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes- Convener.
(2) The high power vigilance and monitoring committee shall meet at least twice in a calendar year, in the month of January and July to review the implementation of the provisions of the Act, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims and other matters connected therewith, prosecution of cases under the Act, rule of different officers/agencies responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act and various reports received by the State Government.
17. Constitution of District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee.-
(1) In each district within the State, the District Magistrate shall set up a vigilance and monitoring committee in his district to review the implementation of the provisions of the Act, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims and other matters connected therewith, prosecution of cases under the Act, role of different officers /agencies responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act and various reports received by the District Administration.
(2) The district level vigilance and monitoring committee shall consist of the elected Members of the Parliament and State Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, Superintendent of Police, three-group 'A' Officers, Gazetted Officers of the State Government belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, not more than 5 non-official members belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and not more than 3 members from the categories other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes having association with Non-Government Organizations. The District Magistrate and District Social Welfare Officer shall be Chairman and Member-Secretary respectively.
(3) The district level committee shall meet at least once in three months.
18. Material for Annual Report.-
The State Government shall every year before the 31st March, forward the report to the Central Government about the measures taken for implementing provisions of the Act and various schemes/plans framed by it during the previous calendar year.
[See rule 12 (4)]
Norms for Relief Amount
Name and Section Number of Offense
Minimum Amount of Relief
1. Drink or eat inedible or obnoxious substance [Sec. 3 (1)(i)]
2. Causing injury insult or annoyance
[Sec. 3 (1)(ii)]
3. Derogatory Act [Sec. 3 (1)(iii)]
Rs. 25,000 or more depending upon the nature and gravity of the offense to each victim and also commensurate with the indignity, insult and defamation suffered by the victim. Payment to be made as follows: 25% when the chargesheet is sent to the court; 75% when accused are convicted by the lower court.
4. Wrongful occupation or cultivation of land. etc. [Sec. 3 (1)(iv)]
5. Relating to land, premises and water [Sec. 3 (1)(v)]
At least Rs. 25,000 or more depending upon the nature and gravity of the offense. The land/premises/water supply shall be restored where necessary at Government cost. Full payment to be made when chargesheet is sent to the Court.
6. Begar or forced of bonded labor
[(Sec. 3 (1)(vi)]
At least Rs. 25,000 to each victim. Payment of 25% at First Information Report stage and 75% on conviction in the lower court.
7. Relating to right to franchise
[Sec. 3 (1)(vii)]
Up to Rs. 20,000 to each victim depending upon the nature and gravity of offense.
8. False, malicious or vexatious legal proceedings [Sec. 3 (1)(viii)]
9. False and frivolous information
[Sec. 3 (1)(ix)]
Rs. 25,000 or reimbursement of actual legal expenses and damages whichever is less after conclusion of the trial of the accused.
10. Insult, intimidation and humiliation [Sec. 3 (1)(x)]
Up to Rs. 25,000 to each victim depending upon the nature of the offense. Payment of 25% when chargesheet is sent to the court and the rest on conviction.
11. Outraging the modesty of a woman [Sec. 3 (1)(xi)]
12. Sexual exploitation of a woman
[Sec. 3 (1)(xii)]
Rs. 50,000 to each victim of the offense. 50% of the amount may be paid after medical examination and remaining 50% at the conclusion of the trial.
13. Fouling of water [Sec. 3 (1)(xiii)]
Up to Rs. 1,00,000 or full cost of restoration of normal facility, including cleaning when the water is fouled. Payment may be made at the stage as deemed fit by District Administration.
14. Denial of customary rights of passage [Sec. 3 (1)(xiv)]
Up to Rs. 1,00,000 or full cost of restoration of right of passage and full compensation of the loss suffered, if any. Payment of 50% when chargesheet is sent to the court and 50% on conviction in lower court.
15. Deserting one from their place of residence [Sec. 3 (1)(xv)]
Restoration of the site/right to stay and compensation of Rs. 25,000 to each victim and reconstruction of the house at Govt. cost, if destroyed. To be paid in full when chargesheet is sent to the lower court.
16. Giving false evidence [Sec. 3(2)(i) and (ii)]
At least Rs. 1,00,000 or full compensation of the loss or harm sustained. 50% to be paid when chargesheet is sent to Court and 50% on conviction by the lower court.
17. Committing offences under the Indian Penal Code punishable with imprisonment for a term of 10 years or more [Sec. 3(2)]
At least Rs. 50,000 depending upon the nature and gravity of the offense to each victim and or his dependents. The amount would vary if specifically provided for otherwise in the Schedule.
18. Victimization at the hands public servant [Sec. 3 (2)]
Full compensation on account of damages or loss or harm sustained. 50% to be paid when chargesheet is sent to the Court and 50% on conviction by lower court.
(a) 100% incapacitation.
(i) Non-earning member of a family.
(ii) Earning member of a family.
(b) Where incapacitation is less than 100%.
-At least Rs. 1,00,000 to each victim of offense. 50% on FIR and 25% at chargesheet and 25% on conviction by the lower court.
-At least Rs. 2,00,000 to each victim of offense. 50% to be paid on FIR/medical examination stage, 25% when chargesheet sent to court and 25% at conviction in lower.
-The rates are laid down in (i) and (ii) above shall be reduced in the same proportion, the stages of payment also being the same. However, not less than Rs. 15,000 to a non-earning member and not less than Rs. 30,000 to an earning member of the family.
(a) Non-earning member of a family.
(b) Earning member of a family.
-At least Rs. 1,00,000 to each case. Payment of 75% after postmortem and 25% on conviction by the lower court.
-At least Rs. 2,00,000 to each case. Payment of 75% after postmortem and 25% on conviction by the lower court.
21. Victim of murder, death, massacre, rape, mass rape and gang rape, permanent incapacitation and dacoity.
In addition to relief amount paid under above items, relief may be arranged within three months of date of atrocity as follows:
(i) Pension to each widow and/or other dependents of deceased SC/ST at Rs. 1,000 per month, or employment to one member of the family of the deceased, or provision of agricultural land, a house, if necessary by outright purchase.
(ii) Full cost of the education and maintenance of the children of the victims. Children may be admitted to the Ashram Schools/residential schools.
(iii) Provision of utensils, rice, wheat, dals, pulses, etc. for a period of three months.
22. Complete destruction/ burnt houses.
Brick/stone masonry house to be constructed or provided at Government cost where it has been burnt or destroyed.
Appendix D: The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993
(No. 46 of 1993)*
[5th June, 1993]
An Act to provide for the prohibition of employment of manual scavengers as well as construction or continuance of dry latrines and for the regulation of construction and maintenance of water-seal latrines and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
WHEREAS fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual has been enshrined in he Preamble to the Constitution;
AND WHEREAS article 47 of the Constitution, inter alia, provides that the State shall regard raising the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties;
AND WHEREAS the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging of human excreta still continues in many parts of the country;
AND WHEREAS the municipal laws by themselves as a measure for conversion of dry latrines into water-seal latrines and prevention of construction of dry latrines are not stringent enough to eliminate this practice;
AND WHEREAS it is necessary lo enact a uniform legislation for the whole of India for abolishing manual scavenging by declaring employment of manual scavengers for removal of human excreta an offence and thereby ban the further proliferation of dry latrines in the country;
AND WHEREAS it is desirable for eliminating the dehumanizing practice of employment of manual scavengers And for protecting and improving the human environment to make it obligatory to convert dry latrines into water-seal latrines or to construct water-seal latrines in new construction;
AND WHEREAS Parliament has no power to make laws for the States with respect to the matters aforesaid, except as provided in article 249 and 250 of the Constitution.
AND WHEREAS in pursuance of clause (1) of article 252 of the Constitution, resolutions have been passed by all the Houses of the Legislature of the States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and West Bengal that the matters, aforesaid should be regulated in those State by Parliament by law;
Be it enacted by Parliament in the Forty-fourth Year of the Republic of India as follows:-
1. Short title, application and commencement.-
(1)This Act may be called the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
(2) It applies in the first instance to the whole of the States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and West Bengal and to all the Union territories and it shall also apply to such other States which adopts this Act by resolution passed in that behalf under clause (1) of Article 252 of the Constitution.
(3) It shall come into force in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and West Bengal and in the Union territories on such date as the Central Government may, by notification, appoint and in any other State which adopts this Act under clause (1) of Article 252 of the Constitution, on the date of such adoption.
In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "area", in relation to any provision of this Act, means such area as the State Government may, having regard to the requirements of that provision, specify by notification;
(b)"building" means a house, out-house stable, latrine, urinal, sheet house, hut, wall (other than a boundary wall) or any other structure whether made of masonry, bricks, wood, mud, metal or other material;
(c) "dry latrines" means a latrine other than a water-seal latrine;
(d) "environment" includes water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exist among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, ro-organism and property;
(e) "environmental pollutant" means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment;
(f) "environmental pollution" means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant;
(g) "Executive Authority" means an Executive Authority appointed under sub-Section (1) Section 5;
(h) "HUDCO" means the Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited, a Government company registered by that name under the Companies Act, 1956;
(i) "latrine" means a place set apart for defecation together with the structure comprising such place, the receptacle therein for collection of human excreta and the fittings and apparatus, if any, connected therewith;
(j) "manual scavenger" means a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta and the expression "manual scavenging" shall be construed accordingly;
(k) "notification" means a notification published in the official Gazette;
(l) "prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act;
(m) "State Government", in relation to a Union territory, means the Administrator thereof appointed under Article 239 of the Constitution;
(n) "water-seal latrine" means a pour-flush latrine, water flush latrine or a sanitary latrine with a minimum water-seal of 20 milimetres diameter in which human excreta is pushed in or flushed by water.
PROHIBITION OF EMPLOYMENT OF MANUAL SCAVENGERS, ETC.
3. Prohibition of employment of manual scavengers etc.-
(1) Subject to sub-Section (2) and the other provisions of this Act, with effect from such date and in such area as the State Government may, by notification, specify in this behalf, no person shall-
(a) engage in or employ for or permit to be engaged in or employed for any other person for manually carrying human excreta; or
(b) construct or maintain a dry latrine.
(2) The State Government shall not issue a notification under sub-Section (1) unless-
(i) it has, by notification, given not less than ninety days' notice of its intention to do so;
(ii) adequate facilities for the use of water-seal latrines in that area exist; and
(iii) it is necessary or expedient to do so for the protection and improvement of the environment or public health in that area.
4. Power to exempt.-
The State Government may, by a general or special order published in the Official Gazette, and upon such conditions, if any, as it may think fit to impose, exempt any area, category of buildings or class of persons from any provisions of this Act or from any specified requirement contained in this Act or any rule, order, notification or scheme made thereunder or dispense with the observance of any such requirement in a class or classes of cases, if it is satisfied that compliance with such provisions or such requirement is or ought to be exempted or dispensed with in the circumstances of the case.
IMPLEMENTING AUTHORITIES AND SCHEMES
5. Appointment of Executive Authorities and their powers and functions.-
(1) The State Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, appoint a District Magistrate or a Sub-Divisional Magistrate, as an Executive Authority to exercise jurisdiction within such area as may be specified in the order and confer such powers and impose such duties on him, as may be necessary to ensure that the provisions of this Act are properly carried out and the Executive Authority may specify the officer or officers, subordinate to him, who shall exercise all or any of the powers, and perform all or any of the duties, so conferred or imposed and the local limits within which such powers or duties shall be carried out by the officer or officers so specified.
(2) The Executive Authority appointed under sub-Section (1) and the officer or officers specified under that sub-Section shall, as far as practicable, try to rehabilitate and promote the welfare of the persons who were engaged in or employed for as manual scavengers in any area in respect of which a notification under sub-Section (1) of Section 3 has been issued by securing and protecting their economic interests.
6. Power of State Government to make schemes.-
(1) The State Government may, by notification, make one or more schemes for regulating conversion of dry latrines into, or construction and maintenance of, water-seal latrines, rehabilitation of the persons who were engaged in or employed for as manual scavengers in any area in respect of which a notification under sub-Section(l) of Section 3 has been issued in gainful employment and administration of such schemes and different schemes may be made in relation to different areas and for different purposes of this Act:
Provided that no such schemes as involving financial assistance from the HUDCO shall be made without consulting it.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such schemes may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:-
(a) time-bound phased programme for the conversion of dry latrines into water-seal latrines;
(b) provisions of technical or financial assistance for new or alternate low cost sanitation to local bodies or other agencies;
(c) construction and maintenance of community latrines and regulation of their use on pay and use basis;
(d) construction and maintenance of shared latrines in slum areas or for the benefit of socially and economically backward classes of citizens;
(e) registration of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation;
(f) specification and standards of water-seal latrines;
(g) procedure for conversion of dry latrines into water-seal latrines;
(h) licensing for collection of fees in respect of community latrines or shared latrines.
7. Power of State Government to issue directions.-
Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law but subject to the other provisions of this Act, the State Government may, in the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions under this Act, issue directions in writing to any person, officer or local or other authority and such person, officer or a local or other authority shall be bound to comply with such directions.
8. Executive authorities, inspectors, officers and other employees of such authorities to be public servants.-
All Executive Authorities, all officers and other employees of such authorities including the officers authorized under sub-Section (1) of Section 5, all inspectors appointed under sub-Section (1) of Section 9 and all officers and other employees authorized to execute a scheme or order made under this Act, when acting or purporting to act in pursuance of any provisions of this Act or the rules or schemes made or orders or directions issued thereunder, shall be deemed to be public servants within the meaning of Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
9. Appointment of inspectors and their powers of entry and inspection.-
(1) The State Government may, by notification, appoint such persons as it may think fit to be inspectors for the purposes of this Act, and define the local limits within which they shall exercise their powers under this Act.
(2) Every inspector within the local limits of jurisdiction of an Executive Authority shall be subordinate to such authority.
(3) Subject to any rules made in this behalf by the State Government, an inspector may, within the local limits of his jurisdiction, enter, at all reasonable times, with such assistance as he considers necessary, any place for the purpose of-
(a) performing any of the functions of the Executive Authority entrusted to him;
(b) determining whether and if so in what manner, any such functions are to be performed or whether any provisions of this Act or the rules, orders or schemes made thereunder or any notice, directions or authorization served, made, given or granted under this Act is being or has been complied with;
(c) examining and testing any latrine or for conducting an inspection of any building in which he has reasons to believe that an offense under this Act or the rules, orders or schemes made thereunder has been or is being or is about to be committed and to prevent or mitigate environmental pollution.
10. Power of Executive Authority to prevent environmental pollution in certain cases.-
(1) On receipt of information with respect to the fact or apprehension of any occurrence of contravention of the provisions of Section 3, whether through intimation by some person or on a report of the inspector or otherwise, the Executive Authority shall, as early as practicable, besides taking any other action under this Act, direct the owner or occupier of the promises to take such remedial measures, as may be necessary, within such reasonable time as may be specified therein and in case the owner or occupier, as the case may be, fails to comply with such directions, cause such remedial measures to be taken as are necessary to prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution at the cost of such owner or occupier of the premises.
(2) The expenses, if any, incurred by the Executive Authority with respect to the remedial measures referred to in sub-Section (1), together with interest at such rate as the State Government may specify from the date when a demand for the expenses is made until it is paid, may be recovered by such authority or agency from the person concerned as arrears of land revenue or of public demand.
11. Duty of HUDCO to extend financial assistance in certain cases.-
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in its Memorandum of Association or Articles of Association or schemes for the grant of loans for housing and urban development, it shall be the duty of HUDCO to extend, in suitable cases, financial assistance for the implementation of such schemes for the construction of water-seal latrines as may be made under Section 6.
(2) The financial assistance referred to in sub-Section (1) may be extended by HUDCO on such terms and conditions (including on easy and concessional rates of interest) and in such manner as it may think fit in each case or class of cases.
12. Power to levy fee.-
Any order or scheme which the State Government is empowered to make under this Act may notwithstanding the absence of any express provision to that effect, provide for levy of fees in respect of-
(a) community latrines constructed under a scheme on pay and use basis; or
(b) shared latrines constructed under a scheme; or
(c) supply of copies or documents of orders or extracts thereof; or
(d) licensing of contractors for construction of water-seal latrines; or
(e) any other purpose or matter fit involving rendering of service by any officer, committee, or authority under this Act or any rule, direction, order or scheme made thereunder:
Provided that the State may, if it considers necessary so to do, in the public interest, by general or special order published in the Official Gazette, grant exemption on such grounds as it deems fit from the payment of any such fee either in part or in full.
13. Constitution of committees.-
(1) The Central Government may, by notification, constitute
(a) one or more Project Committees for appraising of the schemes for the construction of water-seal latrines in the country;
(b) one or more Monitoring Committees to monitor the progress of such schemes;
(c) such other committees for such purposes of the Act and with such names as the Central Government may deem fit.
(2) The composition of the committees constituted by the Central Government, the powers and functions thereof, the terms and conditions of appointment of the members of such committees and other members connected therewith shall be such as the Central Government may prescribe.
(3) The members of the committee under sub-Section (1) shall be paid such fees and allowances for attending the meetings as may be prescribed.
(4) The State Government may, by notification, constitute-
(a) one or more State Co-ordination Committees for co-ordinating and monitoring of the programmes for the construction of water-seal latrines in the State and rehabilitation of the persons who were engaged in or employed for as manual scavengers in any area in respect of which a notification under sub-Section (1) of Section 3 has been issued
(b) such other committees for such purpose of the Act and with such names as the State Government may deem fit.
(5) The composition of the committees constituted by the State Government the powers and functions thereof, the terms and conditions of the members of such committees and other matters connected therewith shall be such as the State Government may prescribe.
(6) The members of the committees under sub-Section (4) shall be paid such fees and allowances for attending the meetings as may be prescribed.
PENALTIES AND PROCEDURE
14. Penalty for contravention of the provisions of the Act and rules, orders, directions and schemes.-
Whoever fails to comply with or contravenes any of the provisions of this Act, or the rules or schemes made or orders or directions issued thereunder, shall, in respect of each such failure or contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both; and in case the failure or contravention continues, with additional fine which may extend to one hundred rupees for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention.
15. Offenses by companies.-
(1) If the person committing an offense under this Act is a company, the company as well as every person in charge of, and responsible to, the company for the conduct of its business at the time of the commission of the offense, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly:
Provided that nothing contained in this sub-Section shall render any such person liable to any punishment, if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-Section (1), where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or contrivance of, or that the commission of the offence is attributable to any neglect on the part of any director, manager, managing agent or such other officer of the company, such director, manager, managing agent or such other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this Section.-
(a) "company" means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals; and
(b)"director", in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm.
16. Offences to be cognizable.- Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, every offence under this Act shall be cognizable.
17. Provision in relation to jurisdiction.-
(1) No Court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under this Act.
(2) No prosecution for any offence under this Act shall be instituted except by or with the previous sanction of the Executive Authority.
(3) No Court shall take cognizance of any offence under this act except upon a complaint made by a person generally or specially authorized in this behalf by the Executive Authority.
18. Limitation of prosecution.-
No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under this Act unless the complaint thereof is made within three months from the date on which the alleged commission of the offence came to the knowledge of the complaint.
19. Information, reports or returns.-
The Central Government may, in relation to its functions under this Act, from time to time, require any person, officer, State Government or other authority to furnish to it, any prescribed authority or officer any reports, returns, statistics, accounts and other information as may be deemed necessary and such person, officer, State Government or other authority, as the case may be, shall be bound to do so.
20. Protection of action taken in good faith.-
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Government or any officer or other employee of the Government or any authority constituted under this Act or executing any scheme made under this Act or any member, officer or other employee of such authority or authorities in respect of anything which is done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of this Act or the rules or schemes made, or the orders or directions issued, thereunder.
21. Effect of other laws and agreements inconsistent with the Act.-
(1) Subject to the provisions of sub-Section (2), the provisions of this Act, the rules, schemes or orders made thereunder shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act, customs tradition, contract, agreement or other instrument.
(2)If any act or omission constitutes an offence punishable under this Act and also under any other Act, then, the offender found guilty of such offence shall be liable to be punished under the other Act and not under this Act.
22. Power of Central Government to make rules.-
(1) The Central Government may, by notification, make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:-
(i) the composition of the Project Committees, Monitoring Committees and other committees constituted by the Central Government under sub-Section (1) of Section 13, the powers and functions thereof, the number of members and their terms and conditions of appointment and other matters connected therewith;
(ii) the fees and allowances to be paid to the members of the committees constituted under sub-Section (1) of Section 13.
(3) Every rule made by the Central Government under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament, while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so however that any such modification shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.
23. Power of State Government to make rules-
(1) The State Government may, by notification, make rules, not being a matter for which the rules are or required to be made by the Central Government, for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:-
(i) the composition of the State Co-ordination Committees and other committees constituted by the State Government under sub-Section (4) of Section 13, the powers and functions thereof, the number of members and their terms and conditions of appointment and other matters connected therewith;
(ii) the fees and allowances to he paid to the members of the committees constituted under sub-Section (4) of Section 13;
(iii) any other matter which is required to be, or may be prescribed.
(3) Every rule and every scheme made by the State Government under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before the State Legislature.
24. Power to remove difficulties.-
(1) If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as may appear to it to be necessary or expedient for the removal of the difficulty:
Provided that no such order shall be made in relation to a State after the expiration of three years from the commencement of this Act in that State.
(2) Every order made under this Section shall, as soon as may be after it is made, be laid before each House of Parliament.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
17 September 1996
1. At its 1161st, 1162nd and 1163rd meetings, held on 7 and 8 August 1996 (see CERD/C/SR.1161‑1163), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered the tenth to fourteenth periodic reports of India (CERD/C/299/Add.3) and adopted, at its 1182nd meeting, held on 22 August 1996, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation for the opportunity to resume its dialogue with the State party on the basis of its tenth to fourteenth periodic reports. It regrets the brevity of the report, all the more so since 10 years have passed since the previous report was submitted. It also regrets that the report does not provide concrete information on the implementation of the Convention in practice; it furthermore regrets that the report and the delegation claim that the situation of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes does not fall within the scope of the Convention.
3. The Committee notes that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention. Some of the members of the Committee requested that the possibility of making such a declaration be considered.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention
4. It is noted that India is a large multi‑ethnic and multicultural society. It is also noted that the extreme poverty of certain groups in the population, the system of castes and the climate of violence in certain parts of the country are among the factors which impede the full implementation of the Convention by the State party.
C. Positive aspects
5. The leading role played by India in the struggle against racial discrimination and apartheid at the international level is welcomed by the Committee. The Committee also acknowledges the far‑reaching measures adopted by the Government to combat discrimination against members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
6. The demographic data on the composition of the population and on the representation of various communities in the public service at the central and state level of government provided by the delegation during the meetings are welcomed.
7. The broad functions and powers of the recently established National Commission on Human Rights, as defined by the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993), which include the capacity to inquire into complaints of violations of human rights, to intervene in any proceeding involving allegations of violation of human rights pending before a court, to review constitutional and legal safeguards, to study treaties and other international instruments on human rights, to recommend measures for their effective implementation and to spread human rights literacy among the population, are welcomed by the Committee. It is noted with interest that the Commission encourages the states within the federation to create human rights commissions, as well as tribunals dealing specifically with human rights.
8. The Committee takes note of the plurality of newspapers and the mass media, and their awareness of human rights problems. The Committee holds that they play an important role in the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
9. Note is also taken of the procedure of public interest litigation adopted by the Supreme Court, which affords the possibility to anyone, and not only to the victims of human rights violations, to seek redress from the court by any means, even by means of a postcard.
10. Articles 15(i) and 15(ii) of the Constitution of India, prohibiting all forms of discrimination by the State and its agents, or between individuals, including discrimination based on race and castes, as well as article 153, paragraphs (a) and (b), and article 505 of the Penal Code, which prohibit actions that promote disharmony, hatred, feelings of enmity and ill‑will on grounds of race or religion, are found to be mainly in conformity with article 2, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
11. The Committee welcomes the statement in the State party's report to the effect that no organization which promotes and incites racial discrimination can legally exist in India and that the Constitution and the laws in this regard make it clear that the State party will take all necessary measures within the law to prevent activities and propaganda which promote and incite racial discrimination.
12. The lapse of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), which applied in parts of the north‑eastern part of the country and in Jammu and Kashmir, under which the right to personal security of some members of ethnic and religious minorities living in those areas was often reported to be violated by security forces, is welcomed.
13. The importance accorded by the authorities to education as a means to spread awareness of human rights and literacy among the population and to struggle against all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination, as well as the activities of the National Commission on Human Rights and the inclusion of human rights in the training of law enforcement officials, are welcomed.
D. Principal subjects of concern
14. Noting the declaration in paragraph 7 of the report, reiterated in the oral presentation, the Committee states that the term "descent" mentioned in article 1 of the Convention does not solely refer to race. The Committee affirms that the situation of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes falls within the scope of the Convention. It emphasizes its great concern that within the discussion of the report, there was no inclination on the side of the State party to reconsider its position.
15. The Committee is seriously concerned that the Kashmiris, as well as other groups, are frequently treated, on account of their ethnic or national origin, in ways contrary to the basic provisions of the Convention.
16. Clause 19 of the Protection of Human Rights Act prevents the National Commission on Human Rights from directly investigating allegations of abuse involving the armed forces. This is a too broad restriction on its powers and contributes to a climate of impunity for members of the armed forces. Moreover, it is regretted that the Commission is debarred from investigating cases of human rights violation that occurred more than a year before the making of the complaint.
17. The absence of information on the functions, powers and activities of the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and of the National Commission on Minorities makes it impossible to assess whether these Commissions have a positive impact upon the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by members of the groups in question. 18. It is regretted that no information has been provided to the Committee on the effective implementation of the penal provisions referred to in paragraph 10 above. In this regard, concern is expressed at numerous reports of acts of discrimination based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, although it was stated that no such case has yet been brought before the courts; this leads the Committee to wonder whether individuals are sufficiently informed about their rights.
19. The lack of concrete information on the legal provisions in force to prohibit organizations which incite and promote racial discrimination and hatred, and to punish members of such organizations in accordance with article 4 of the Convention, as well as on their application in practice, including eventual court decisions, is regretted. This is most serious in view of widespread violence against certain minorities actively sponsored by extremist organizations that have not been declared illegal.
20. The lack of information on the text of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution relating to the promotion of social, economic and cultural rights, and on measures to give them effect, makes any evaluation of the implementation of article 5 of the Convention more difficult.
21. Regrets are expressed that the National Security Act and, in some areas of India, the Public Safety Act, remain in force.
22. It is noted with concern that the denial of the equal enjoyment of political rights, as provided for in article 5 (c) of the Convention, has led to an increase of violence, in particular in Jammu and Kashmir.
23. It is noted that although constitutional provisions and legal texts exist to abolish untouchability and to protect the members of the scheduled castes and tribes, and although social and educational policies have been adopted to improve the situation of members of scheduled castes and tribes and to protect them from abuses, widespread discrimination against them and the relative impunity of those who abuse them point to the limited effect of these measures. The Committee is particularly concerned at reports that people belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes are often prevented from using public wells or from entering cafés or restaurants and that their children are sometimes separated from other children in schools, in violation of article 5 (f) of the Convention.
24. The Committee regrets that certain communities do not enjoy representation in proportion to their size.
25. Although it is noted that the Supreme Court and the high courts have the jurisdiction to award compensation to victims of human rights violations, including in the field of racial discrimination, concern is expressed that there exists no specific statute providing for the right of individuals to seek from the courts just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of acts of racial discrimination, as required by article 6 of the Convention.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
26. The Committee recommends that the State party continue and strengthen its efforts to improve the effectiveness of measures aimed at guaranteeing to all groups of the population, and especially to the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the full enjoyment of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, as mentioned in article 5 of the Convention. In this regard, the Committee recommends that the next report to be submitted by the State party contain full and detailed information on the legislative aspects and the concrete implementation of the Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Constitution.
27. The Committee recommends that special measures be taken by the authorities to prevent acts of discrimination towards persons belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and, in cases where such acts have been committed, to conduct thorough investigations, to punish those found responsible and to provide just and adequate reparation to the victims. In this regard, the Committee particularly stresses the importance of the equal enjoyment by members of these groups of the rights to access to health care, education, work and public places and services, including wells, cafés or restaurants.
28. The Committee recommends that clause 19 of the Protection of Human Rights Act be repealed to allow inquiries of alleged abuses committed by members of the armed and security forces to be conducted by the National Commission on Human Rights and that the Commission be enabled to look into complaints of acts of racial discrimination that occurred more than a year before the filing of the complaint.
29. The Committee recommends that the next periodic report of the State party include information on the powers and functions, as well as on their effective implementation, of the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and of the National Commission on Minorities.
30. The Committee also recommends that the Government provide in its next periodic report information, including the number of complaints lodged and sentences passed, about the implementation in practice of the legal provisions prohibiting acts of racial discrimination and organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination, in accordance with articles 2 and 4 of the Convention.
31. The Committee recommends a continuing campaign to educate the Indian population on human rights, in line with the Constitution of India and with universal human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This should be aimed at eliminating the institutionalized thinking of the high‑caste and low‑caste mentality.
32. The Committee reaffirms that the provisions of article 6 of the Convention are mandatory and that the Government of India should adopt legal provisions making it easier for individuals to seek from the courts just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of acts of racial discrimination, including acts of discrimination based on belonging to a caste or a tribe. 33. The Committee suggests that the State party ensure wide publicity, as far as possible in the official and state languages, to its tenth to fourteenth reports and to the present concluding observations.
34. The Committee recommends that the State party ratify at its earliest convenience the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted by the fourteenth meeting of States parties.
35. The Committee recommends that the State party's next periodic report, due on 4 January 1998, be a comprehensive report and that it address all the points raised in these concluding observations.
1/ The comments of the Government of India were submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pursuant to article 9, paragraph 2, of the Convention and are reprinted in annex IX to the annual report of the Committee (A/51/18).
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: India. 04/08/97. CCPR/C/79/Add.81. (Concluding Observations/Comments)
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDERARTICLE 40 OF THE COVENANT
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee
1. The Committee considered the third periodic report of India (CCPR/C/76/Add.6) at its 1603rd to 1606th meetings on 24 and 25 July 1997 and subsequently adopted, at its 1612th meeting (sixtieth session), held on 30 July 1997, the following observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the third periodic report of India, although it regrets the delay in submitting it to the Committee. While noting that the report provides comprehensive information on the constitutional and legislative norms applicable in India in the field of human rights, and makes reference to the Committee's previous comments during consideration of the State party's second periodic report, as well as to a number of court decisions, the Committee regrets the lack of information therein on difficulties encountered in implementing the provisions of the Covenant in practice. The delegation acknowledged in some measure these difficulties and it provided the Committee with detailed and comprehensive written and oral information in the course of the consideration of the report. In this regard, the Committee appreciates the cooperation which India has thus extended to the Committee in the discharge of its mandate.
3. The information submitted by a wide range of non‑governmental organizations also assisted the Committee in its understanding of the human rights situation in the State party.
B. Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Covenant
4. The Committee recognizes that terrorist activities in the border states, which have caused the death and injury of thousands of innocent people, force the State party to take measures to protect its population. It stresses, however, that all measures adopted must be in conformity with the State party's obligations under the Covenant.
5. It notes, moreover, that the size of the country, its huge population, the massive poverty and the great disparities in the distribution of wealth among various social groups affect the advancement of rights. The persistence of traditional practices and customs, leading to women and girls being deprived of their rights, their human dignity and their lives, and to discrimination against members of the underprivileged classes and castes and other minorities, and ethnic, cultural and religious tensions constitute impediments to the implementation of the Covenant.
C. Positive aspects
6. The Committee notes with satisfaction the existence of a broad range of democratic institutions and a comprehensive constitutional and legal framework for the protection of human rights. The Committee also welcomes frequent references to provisions of international human rights instruments by the courts, in particular the Supreme Court.
7. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission in 1993 and the respect which the Government of India accords to its recommendations. The Committee notes that the Commission has been given powers, limited though these are, under the Protection of Human Rights Act, to inquire into complaints of human rights violations, to intervene in court proceedings involving allegations of human rights violations or otherwise dealing with human rights issues, to review constitutional and legal norms and the conformity of laws with international human rights instruments, to make specific recommendations to the Parliament and other authorities and to undertake activities in the field of human rights education. It also welcomes the recent setting up of human rights commissions in six states, including Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, and of human rights courts in several other states of the Union.
8. The Committee also welcomes the establishment of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the National Commission for Women in 1992, and the National Commission for Minorities in 1993. These commissions have initiated some improvements, in particular in the levels of education and in the representation of the various groups concerned within elected bodies and other authorities.
9. The Committee welcomes the lapse, in 1995, of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), under which members of the security and armed forces enjoyed special powers in the use of force, arrest and detention. It also welcomes the related review of cases under this Act, following which a number of cases were dropped, and the directives given by the Supreme Court to deal with questions of bail under the TADA, though a number of cases still require to be dealt with.
10. The Committee has noted that positions in elected bodies are reserved for members of scheduled castes and tribes and that a constitutional amendment has reserved one third of the seats in elected local bodies (Panchayati Raj) for women. The Committee also notes the introduction of a bill to reserve one third of the seats for women in the Federal Parliament and in state legislatures.
11. The Committee welcomes the restoration of elected legislatures and governments in all states within the Union, including Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the holding of federal parliamentary elections in April‑May 1996. In addition, the Committee welcomes the constitutional amendment giving a statutory basis to Panchayati Raj ‑ village self‑rule institutions ‑ and the enactment of the Panchayati Raj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 24 December 1996, which are designed to increase participation in the conduct of public affairs at the community level.
12. The Committee further welcomes the declared intention of the Government to introduce legislative measures to further freedom of information.
D. Subjects of concern and the Committee's recommendations
13. The Committee, noting that international treaties are not self‑executing in India:
recommends that steps be taken to incorporate fully the provisions of the Covenant in domestic law, so that individuals may invoke them directly before the courts. The Committee also recommends that consideration be given by the authorities to ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, enabling the Committee to receive individual communications relating to India.
14. The Committee, noting the .reservations and declarations made by the Government of India to articles 1, 9, 13, 12, 19, paragraph 3, 21 and 22 of the Covenant:
invites the State party to review these reservations and declarations with a view to withdrawing them, so as to ensure progress in the implementation of the rights contained in those articles, within the context of article 40 of the Covenant.
15. The Committee notes with concern that, despite measures taken by the Government, members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as well as the so‑called backward classes and ethnic and national minorities continue to endure severe social discrimination and to suffer disproportionately from many violations of their rights under the Covenant, inter alia, inter‑caste violence, bonded labour and discrimination of all kinds. It regrets that the de facto perpetuation of the caste system entrenches social differences and contributes to these violations. While the Committee notes the efforts made by the State party to eradicate discrimination:
it recommends that further measures be adopted, including education programmes at national and state levels, to combat all forms of discrimination against these vulnerable groups, in accordance with articles 2, paragraph 1, and 26 of the Covenant.
16. While acknowledging measures taken to outlaw child marriages (Child Marriages Restraint Act), the practice of dowry and dowry related violence (Dowry Prohibition Act and the Penal Code) and sati ‑ self‑immolation of widows ‑ (Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act), the Committee remains gravely concerned that legislative measures are not sufficient and that measures designed to change the attitudes which allow such practices should be taken. The Committee is also concerned that giving male children preferred treatment persists, and deplores that practices such as foeticide and infanticide of females continue. The Committee further notes that rape in marriage is not an offence and that rape committed by a husband separated from his wife incurs a lesser penalty than for other rapists. The Committee therefore recommends:
that the Government take further measures to overcome these problems and to protect women from all discriminatory practices, including violence. Additional information should be provided in the State party's next periodic report on the functions, powers and activities of the National Commission for Women.
17. The Committee is concerned that women in India have not been accorded equality in the enjoyment of their rights and freedoms in accordance with articles 2, paragraph 1, 3 and 26 of the Covenant. Nor have they been freed from discrimination. Women remain under-represented in public life and at the higher levels of the public service, and are subjected to personal laws which are based on religious norms and which do not accord equality in respect of marriage, divorce and inheritance rights. The Committee points out that the enforcement of personal laws based on religion violates the right of women to equality before the law and non‑discrimination. Therefore:
it recommends that efforts be strengthened towards the enjoyment of their rights by women without discrimination and that personal laws be enacted which are fully compatible with the Covenant.
18. The Committee remains concerned at the continuing reliance on special powers under legislation such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act in areas declared to be disturbed and at serious human rights violations, in particular with respect to articles 6, 7, 9 and 14 of the Covenant, committed by security and armed forces acting under these laws as well as by paramilitary and insurgent groups. The Committee, noting that the examination of the constitutionality of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, long pending before the Supreme Court is due to be heard in August 1997, hopes that its provisions will also be examined for their compatibility with the Covenant. In this respect, bearing in mind the provisions of articles 1, 19 and 25 of the Covenant:
the Committee endorses the views of the National Human Rights Commission that the problems in areas affected by terrorism and armed insurgency are essentially political in character and that the approach to resolving such problems must also, essentially, be political, and emphasizes that terrorism should be fought with means that are compatible with the Covenant.
19. The Committee regrets that some parts of India have remained subject to declaration as disturbed areas over many years ‑ for example the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been applied throughout Manipur since 1980 and in some areas of that state for much longer ‑ and that, in these areas, the State party is in effect using emergency powers without resorting to article 4, paragraph 3, of the Covenant. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the application of these emergency powers be closely monitored so as to ensure its strict compliance with the provisions of the Covenant.
20. The Committee expresses concern at the lack of compliance of the Penal Code with article 6, paragraphs 2 and 5, of the Covenant. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the State party abolish by law the imposition of the death penalty on minors and limit the number of offences carrying the death penalty to the most serious crimes, with a view to its ultimate abolition.
21. The Committee notes with concern that criminal prosecutions or civil proceedings against members of the security and armed forces, acting under special powers, may not be commenced without the sanction of the central Government. This contributes to a climate of impunity and deprives people of remedies to which they may be entitled in accordance with article 2, paragraph 3, of the Covenant. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the requirement of governmental sanction for civil proceedings be abolished and that it be left to the courts to decide whether proceedings are vexatious or abusive. It urges that judicial inquiries be mandatory in all cases of death at the hands of the security and armed forces and that the judges in such inquiries, including those under the Commission of Enquiry Act of 1952, be empowered to direct the prosecution of security and armed forces personnel.
22. The Committee regrets that the National Human Rights Commission is prevented by clause 19 of the Protection of Human Rights Act from investigating directly complaints of human rights violations against the armed forces, but must request a report from the central Government. The Committee further regrets that complaints to the Commission are subject to a one‑year time limit, thus preventing the investigation of many alleged past human rights violations. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that these restrictions be removed and that the National Human Rights Commission be authorized to investigate all allegations of violations by agents of the State. It further recommends that all states within the Union be encouraged to establish human rights commissions.
23. The Committee expresses concern at allegations that police and other security forces do not always respect the rule of law and that, in particular, court orders for habeas corpus are not always complied with, particularly in disturbed areas. It also expresses concern about the incidence of custodial deaths, rape and torture, and at the failure of the Government of India to receive the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Therefore:
while the Committee welcomes the requirement by the National Human Rights Commission that all such alleged incidents be reported and investigated, and that all post‑mortem examinations be taped, it recommends:
(a) The early enactment of legislation for mandatory judicial inquiry into cases of disappearance and death, ill‑treatment or rape in police custody;
(b) The adoption of special measures to prevent the occurrence of rape of women in custody;
(c) The mandatory notification of relatives of detainees without delay;
(d) That the right of detainees to legal advice and assistance and to have a medical examination be guaranteed;
(e) That priority be given to providing training and education in the field of human rights to law enforcement officers, custodial officers, members of the security and armed forces, and judges and lawyers, and that the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials be taken into account in this regard.
24. The Committee regrets that the use of special powers of detention remains widespread. While noting the State party's reservation to article 9 of the Covenant, the Committee considers that this reservation does not exclude, inter alia, the obligation to comply with the requirement to inform promptly the person concerned of the reasons for his or her arrest. The Committee is also of the view that preventive detention is a restriction of liberty imposed as a response to the conduct of the individual concerned, that the decision as to continued detention must be considered as a determination falling within the meaning of article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, and that proceedings to decide the continuation of detention must, therefore, comply with that provision. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the requirements of article 9, paragraph 2, of the Covenant be complied with in respect of all detainees. The question of continued detention should be determined by an independent and impartial tribunal constituted and operating in accordance with article 14, paragraph 1, of the Covenant. It further recommends, at the very least, that a central register of detainees under preventive detention laws be maintained and that the State party accept the admission of the International Committee of the Red Cross to all types of detention facilities, particularly in areas of conflict.
25. The Committee notes with concern that, although the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act has lapsed, 1,600 people remain in detention under its provisions. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that measures be taken to ensure either the early trial of these people or their release. It is also concerned that there are legislative proposals to reintroduce parts of the Act and that this could lead to further violations of the Covenant.
26. The Committee expresses concern at the overcrowding and poor health conditions and sanitation in many prisons, the inequality of treatment of prisoners and the lengthy periods of pre‑trial detention, all of which are incompatible with articles 9 and 10, paragraph 1, of the Covenant. Therefore:
the Committee, while welcoming the initiative to give the central Government a greater role in the administration and management of prisons, recommends that measures be taken to reduce overcrowding, to release those who cannot be given a speedy trial and to upgrade prison facilities as quickly as possible. In this respect, the Committee recommends that attention be given to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
27. Concerning court procedure:
the Committee urges the institution of reforms to the procedure of the courts to ensure a speedy trial of those charged with offences, prompt hearing in civil cases and similar urgency in hearing appeals.
28. The Committee expresses its concern at reports that fines have been imposed, without a hearing, on communities in areas declared disturbed. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the imposition of such fines be prohibited.
29. The Committee expresses concern at the extent of bonded labour, as well as the fact that the incidence of this practice reported to the Supreme Court is far higher than is mentioned in the report. The Committee also notes with concern that eradication measures which have been taken do not appear to be effective in achieving real progress in the release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that a thorough study be urgently undertaken to identify the extent of bonded labour and that more effective measures be taken to eradicate this practice, in accordance with the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 and article 8 of the Covenant.
30. The Committee expresses concern at reports of forcible repatriation of asylum seekers, including those from Myanmar (Chins), the Chittagong Hills and the Chachmas. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that, in the process of repatriation of asylum seekers or refugees, due attention be paid to the provisions of the Covenant and other applicable international norms.
31. The Committee deplores the high incidence of child prostitution and trafficking of women and girls into forced prostitution, and it regrets the lack of effective measures to prevent such practices and to protect and rehabilitate the victims. The Committee also regrets that women who have been forced into prostitution are criminalized by the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and, further, that article 20 of the Act puts the burden of proof on a woman to prove that she is not a prostitute, which is incompatible with the presumption of innocence. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that the application of this law to women in the situation described be repealed and that measures be taken to protect and rehabilitate women and children whose rights have been violated in this way.
32. The Committee further regrets the lack of national legislation to outlaw the practice of Devadasi, the regulation of which is left to the states. However, it appears that the practice continues and that not all states have effective legislation against it. The Committee emphasizes that this practice is incompatible with the Covenant. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that all necessary measures be taken urgently to eradicate the practice of Devadasi.
33. The Committee expresses its concern at the plight of street children and at the reported high level of violence against children within society. It is particularly concerned at reports of child mutilation. Therefore:
the Committee recommends that urgent measures be taken to address the problem of violence against children and that specific mechanisms be set up for the protection of children.
34. The Committee expresses concern that, despite actions taken by the State party, there has been little progress in implementing the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. In this respect:
the Committee recommends that urgent steps be taken to remove all children from hazardous occupations, that immediate steps be taken to implement the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission that the constitutional requirement that it should be a fundamental right for all children under 14 to have free and compulsory education be respected, and that efforts be strengthened to eliminate child labour in both the industrial and rural sectors. The Committee also recommends that consideration be given to establishing an independent mechanism with effective national powers to monitor and enforce the implementation of laws for the eradication of child labour and bonded labour.
35. Concerning the periodic report:
the Committee draws to the attention of the Government of India the provisions of paragraph 6 (a) of the guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports from States parties, and requests that, accordingly, its next period report, due on 31 December 2001, should contain material which responds to all these concluding observations. The Committee further requests that these concluding observations be widely disseminated among the public at large in all parts of India.
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Name of person/organization:
Date of birth:
Ethnic background (if relevant):
Date: Time: Location/country:
Number of assailants:
Are the assailant(s) known to the victim?
Description of the assailant(s) (include any identifiable features):
Description of the incident:
Does the victim believe she was specifically targeted because of gender? If yes, why?
Has the incident been reported to the relevant State authorities?
If so, which authorities and when?
Actions taken by the authorities after the incident:
Were there any witnesses?
PLEASE RETURN TO THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1211 GENEVA 10, SWITZERLAND
Reprinted from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/women/womform.htm
MODEL QUESTIONNAIRE TO BE COMPLETED BY PERSONS ALLEGING ARBITRARY ARREST OR DETENTION
I. Identity of the person arrested or detained
1. Family name:
2. First name:
3. Sex: (Male) (Female)
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention):
6. (a) Identity document (if any):
(b) Issued by:
(c) On (date):
7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):
8. Address of usual residence:
1. Date of arrest:
2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible):
3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out:
4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority?
5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision:
6. Relevant legislation applied (if known):
1. Date of detention:
2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration):
3. Forces holding the detainee under custody:
4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention):
5. Authorities that ordered the detention:
6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities:
7. Relevant legislation applied (if known):
IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest and/or the detention and indicate precise reasons why you consider the arrest or detention to be arbitrary:
V. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken:
VI. Full name and address of the person(s) submitting the information (telephone and fax number, if possible):
Date: ........................................ Signature:....................................................................
This questionnaire should be addressed to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Centre for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, 8‑14 avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, fax No. (022) 9170123.
a.A separate questionnaire must be completed for each case of alleged arbitrary arrest or detention. As far as possible, all details requested should be given. Nevertheless, failure to do so will not necessarily result in the inadmissibility of the communication.
b.For the purpose of this questionnaire, "arrest" refers to the initial act of apprehending a person. "Detention" means and includes detention before, during and after trial. In some cases, only Section II, or Section III may be applicable. None the less, whenever possible, both Sections should be filled in.
c.Copies of documents that prove the arbitrary nature of the arrest or detention, or help to better understand the specific circumstances of the case, as well as any other relevant information, may also be attached to this questionnaire.
d.If a case is submitted to the Working Group by anyone other than the victim or his family, such person or organization should indicate authorization by the victim or his family to act on their behalf. If, however, the authorization is not readily available, the Working Group reserves the right to proceed without the authorization. All details concerning the persons(s) submitting the information to the Working Group, and any authorization provided by the victim or his family, will be kept confidential.
COMMUNICATIONS UNDER EXTRA-CONVENTIONAL MECHANISMS
Country and thematic mechanisms which are extra‑conventional have no formal complaints procedures, differing in that regard from certain treaty‑based bodies, namely: Human Rights Committee, Committee against Torture, and Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (please refer to Individual complaints Section on the aforementioned bodies).
The activities of the country and thematic mechanisms are based on communications received from various sources (the victims or their relatives, local or international NGO's, etc.) containing allegations of human rights violations. Such communications may be submitted in various forms (e.g. letters, faxes, cables) and may concern individual cases as well as details of situations of alleged violations of human rights.
With regard to the submission of communications to the extra‑conventional mechanisms, there is no differentiation between country‑oriented and thematic mechanisms. Both require the same minimum criteria, namely:
$identification of the alleged victim(s);
$identification of the perpetrators of the violation;
$identification of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication (anonymous communications are, therefore, not admissible);
$detailed description of the circumstances of the incident in which the alleged violation occurred.
Other details pertaining to the alleged specific violation, may be required for the relevant thematic mechanism, (e.g. past and present places of detention of the victim; any medical certificate issued to the victim, identification of witnesses to the alleged violation; any measures undertaken to seek redress locally, etc.)
In principle, communications will not be considered if they are also submitted under ECOSOC resolution 1503 and/or the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As a general rule, communications containing abusive language or which are obviously and patently politically‑motivated are not considered. Communications should describe the facts of the incident and the relevant details referred to above, clearly and concisely.
In order to facilitate the examination of reported violations, a questionnaire was drawn up on several thematic mechanisms and is made available to persons wishing to report cases of alleged violations to these mechanisms. In addition, some country‑oriented rapporteurs may also use questionnaires in order to facilitate their task, particularly in the context of field missions. It should, however, be noted that communications are considered even when they are not submitted in the form of a questionnaire.
Reprinted from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/8/ex_conv.htm
Examining Body or
Protection of Minorities
Sub‑Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
c/o Support Services Branch,
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights
Human Rights Committee
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Article 22 of the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Committee against Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Committee on the
Elimination of Racial
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution
Special Rapporteur on
or Arbitrary Executions
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Violence against women
Special Rapporteur on
violence against women,
its causes and consequences
Special Rapporteur on Violence
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
FAX: (41-22) 917-0092
Working Group on
Working Group on
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva,
8‑14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
FAX: (41-22) 917-0123