Only timely and effective legal action will reduce attacks on Dalits
25 January 2018 5:00 pm
By Karthik Navayan
Business and Human Rights Manager
On 14 January, a video circulated online appeared to show Vipin Kumar, a Dalit youth in Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh, being beaten with sticks by three men. Kumar is seen being abused, kicked and forced to chant ‘Jai Mata Di’, with the attackers claiming he had insulted their gods.
A report by NDTV said that the attack may have happened in response to an incident a month ago, when a group of Dalit men allegedly replaced pictures and idols of Hindu gods in the homes of other Dalits with photographs of B.R. Ambedkar. Local Hindu groups had subsequently filed a criminal complaint. Vipin’s father told the Indian Express newspaper that over a hundred Dalits had converted to Buddhism in October, and voluntarily discarded their Hindu idols.
Dalits, like everyone else, also have the right to choose their religion. Incidents of targeted violence against Dalits for asserting their rights are widespread in India.The state is equipped to respond to this by enforcing the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – a law that makes hate crimes against Dalits punishable as an “atrocity”. Unfortunately, crimes are not often registered under this law by the police, ensuring impunity for the attackers. Timely and effective legal action alone can reduce such attacks on Dalits.