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Crime against dalits on rise in State

By W. Chandrakanth

HYDERABAD, SEPT. 2. Koteswara Rao of Prakasam district was killed on April 29, 2002, over a petty dispute. Dasari Sivaiah of the same district was killed on December 16 the following year for filing a case against some landlords. Both were dalits. Even refusal by a dalit to work could lead to his death, the homicide of T. Sankaraiah of Nellore district on February 17, this year indicates so.

Painstaking efforts of the Dalith Bahujan Shramik Union has brought to light several such instances. On May 9 last year, R. Rajasekhar of Rangareddy district was playing cricket when the ball went inside a landlord's house. The dalit boy later committed suicide. Activists of the union alleged that humiliation was heaped on Rajasekhar for playing cricket.

Annavarapu Sridevi breathed her last in Maddipadu police lock-up in the same district sometime ago because she warmed up to an upper caste man.

TDP action

The Telugu Desam Government's answer to the Punnaiah Commission's report, which suggested several preventive mechanisms after a careful study of the atrocities, was the release of 20 GOs.

In murder cases, criminals must be booked under IPC Sections 302, 306 and 307 and also under SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which rarely happens. Police prefer cases under Section 126. Moreover, while the Act stipulates that inquiry must be conducted by a deputy superintendent of police, it is usually the local sub-inspector who does the job.

Atrocities are only mounting every year with law enforcers turning a blind eye to the crime in many of the cases. In 1999-2000, 226 cases were reported and the following year they went up to 452 followed by 474 in 2001-02 and 286 in 2002-03. This year by April 216 cases were reported. Till July end, 82 more cases were reported.

Rights forum study

Saakshi Human Rights Forum, which is fighting for dalit rights, has conducted an interesting study. In all, 22 per cent of the atrocities were committed for asserting their right over land or water, 15.2 per cent for participating in cultural events like `jataras', 10.2 per cent for seeking legal recourse against injustice and 7.2 per cent for choosing a particular occupation.

The self-dignity of a dalit is an unbearable factor for upper castes in many villages, which is proved by the fact that 20.8 per cent of the cases came under this category.

Deprived of justice

Deprivation of justice begins at the police station itself as registration of FIR is done only in 43.6 per cent of cases whereas 27.6 per cent of crimes go unregistered and 17.8 per cent attract wrong provisions.

The stipulation that charge-sheet must be filed within 30 or 90 days is rarely honoured as is proved by its compliance in a paltry 4.9 per cent of cases.

The State stands fourth in crime against dalits going by the National Crime Records Bureau.

The question that dalit organisations pose is, "will the Congress Government be any different from its predecessor?"

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