New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh has yet again earned the dubious distinction of recording the highest number of crimes against the Scheduled Castes, or Dalits, in India, shows the Crime in India 2021 report released Monday by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which functions under the Union Home Ministry.
But, a deeper look at the statistics show that Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan present some even more troubling trends.
These two states recorded the two highest crime rates (cases per lakh of the population) against Dalits in 2021, well ahead of UP and more than twice the national average.
ThePrint used NCRB data to calculate the five-year average rate of crime against Dalits from 2016 till 2020 and then compared this to the figures from 2021. Here, too, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh showed the greatest increase in the crime rate against SCs.
For its counting of crimes/atrocities committed against SCs, the NCRB includes only those cases that are filed under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, better known as the SC/ST Act. It does not count cases that are filed just under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) since “those cases refer to crimes against SCs by SC/STs”, the report says.
Overall, the new NCRB report shows, India reported six crimes against Dalits every hour in 2021, with the total number of cases increasing to 50,900 last year from 50,291 in 2020.
In absolute terms, Uttar Pradesh reported the greatest number of crimes against Dalits — 13,146 cases — which amounts to almost a quarter of the total such incidents in 2021. Following it were Rajasthan (7,524), Madhya Pradesh (7,214), and Bihar (5,842). Out of these states, UP, Rajasthan, and MP saw a higher number of cases than in 2020, but Bihar witnessed a dip.
A more accurate picture, however, can be derived from the crime rate rather than the absolute numbers.
MP and Rajasthan show highest crime rates against SCs
Uttar Pradesh is home to the country’s highest population of Dalits — over 4 crore according to the 2011 census (which the NCRB uses to calculate the rate of crimes against SCs). Last year, UP recorded a crime rate of 31.8. This means that for every 1 lakh Dalits, the state reported around 31 caste-based crimes in 2021.
This is much lower than the crime rate for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which stood at 63.6 per cent and 61.6 per cent respectively. Each of these states has a Dalit population of over 1 crore, according to the 2011 census.
For context, the national average crime rate against SCs is 25 crimes per 1 lakh population of this community. The crime rate in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is more than twice this average.
Several other states also reported a crime rate above the national average, with three among them faring worse than UP: Bihar (35.3), and Telangana (32.6), and Odisha (32.4). Other states with a higher than average crime rate against Dalits were Haryana (31.8, the same as UP), Kerala (31.1), and Gujarat (29.5).
It is worth noting that in absolute terms, West Bengal has the second highest Dalit population in India, at about 2.1 crore. However, the crime rate against the community in the state is extremely low — just 0.5 per 1 lakh population. Tamil Nadu, home to about 1.4 crore Dalits, also has a relatively low rate of crimes against SCs at 9.5.
In Punjab, where every one in three persons belongs to the Scheduled Castes community, the crime rate against Dalits is also low. Just about two in 1 lakh Dalits faced crimes in 2021.
Using earlier NCRB reports, ThePrint calculated the five-year average rate of crime against Dalits from 2016 till 2020, and then compared it to data from 2021.
Data shows that crime rate against SCs in Rajasthan has shown the most dramatic increase. In the last five years, the state reported around 45 crimes per lakh population on average. In 2021, this number increased to 61 per lakh, or 16 additional crimes for every 1 lakh Dalits in the state.
Similarly, Madhya Pradesh reported almost 15 additional crimes against Dalits compared to the last five years’ average of 49.
The next greatest increase in 2021, when compared to the five-year average, was in Haryana, with crimes against Dalits rising by more than 13 per lakh of the SC population.
In UP, compared to the five-year average for 2016-2020, crimes against Dalits rose by ‘only’ 3.6 per lakh in 2021.
In contrast, in states like Bihar and Gujarat, which also have high rates of caste-based crimes, the crime rate in 2021 compared to the average of the last five years has actually fallen by about 5 crimes per lakh each.
‘People are not taking insults lightly’
According to experts, the trends in Rajasthan and MP are at least partly attributable to slow economic growth and correspondingly lagging social change. Another aspect is that people may be more willing to speak up and approach the police in the face of caste-based crimes or discrimination.
“Most of the jobs in Rajasthan are tourism based and traditional occupations continue to dominate the social equations. Lack of metropolitan areas in the state coupled with higher cost of movement hinders economic mobility and people seldom come out of their traditional segregated settings. This could partly explain why these communities remain relatively more casteist in nature,” said Khinvraj Jangid, professor at Jindal Global University, Sonipat, and an expert on caste-based issues in western Rajasthan.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a Dalit activist and author of the book I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS, told ThePrint that the Marwar region in Rajasthan and Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh share similar cultural practices, so it’s “not surprising to see MP also topping the charts”.
So, why is it that the caste collisions in these two states are being amplified in statistics?
Rising awareness and the advent of social media is helping young people counter these atrocities via legal help, Meghwanshi believes.
“In Rajasthan, over the last couple of years, there has been a significant rise in atrocities against Dalits. However, the new generation of youngsters is not taking any of these insults lightly. Today we have phones, a video goes viral and the police and administration take these cases seriously,” he told the Print over phone. “Nowadays, all it takes is a video of the crime to reach the police and a case is filed. You do not need a crowd of 5,000 people to register an FIR.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)