Casteism at the time of lock-down: A Preliminary Review
The World Health Organization (WHO), on March 11, 2020, declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Since then, many have imposed restrictions on personnel living in their respective countries. Such regulation was also imposed in India, labelled as “lockdown”. Prime Minister of India declared it for 21 days in the beginning and subsequently was extended for the coming days and months. India has had four lockdowns (25 March 2020–31 May 2020), and two unlock periods (1 June–31 July 2020). As all Indians were fighting against the deadliest disease, we were expected to be united as humans against this invisible, deadly virus. However, because of the sudden unplanned announcement of the lockdown, horrible, unbearable and inhuman incidences of deaths have happened. These incidences were heartbreaking. Equally heartbreaking was the number of atrocity cases occurring during the lockdown period. It was shocking to observe that even in this period, humans were not “together”. As the report “No lockdown on Caste Atrocities” put it, “As India went into a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Caste animosity continued its rampage and destroyed the lives of hundreds of Dalit persons across the country.” As we observed, the atrocities have increased in this period. Here we come up with the data from the state of Maharashtra to substantiate our proposition.
This article is just a primary effort to analyse the atrocities in this period, and we hope to bring a more detailed analysis later on behalf of CARVA. We will publish the detailed statistical figures available on our portal soon, and we appeal to all activists and academicians to develop a more nuanced analysis of the same. We would also welcome personal experiences and stories regarding caste atrocities.
Table No. 1 indicates the number of cases registered under PoA each month for six months and four years. This data is received in reply to an application filed with the Protection of Civil Rights Units of Maharashtra Police by CARVA. The table follows with two charts to facilitate the interpretation and easy display of data and a short analysis.
Table No. 1: Number of PoA Crimes Registered from 2017 to 2020 in 2 Quarters (April to September) in the State of Maharashtra
As the table indicates, in 2017 number of PoA cases was 849 from April 2017 to September 2017. For the same months, the number was 902, 1149 and 1265 in 2018, 2019, and 2020 respectively. The number of cases in 2020, amounting to 1265 in total from April to September, is higher than in 2019 and 2018 and 2017 for the same period. The growth in cases in this period in 2020 compared to 2019 is 10%.
It is evident from the table that Cases for April 2020 number 106 are the lowest compared to 165 cases in 2019, 132 cases in 2018 and 130 cases in 2017. For all the rest of the months, from May to September 2020, the number of issues remained higher than any previous year for the respective month. With 249 cases in June 2020, the number remains highest compared to any other month (in this period) for any of these four years. The Chart below (Chart 1) displays that the number of cases in 2020 was always higher than the number in 2019, 2018 and 2017, as indicated by The green bar, except in April.
COVID-19 affected everyone’s life in the world in different ways. The lockdown and other preventive measures pose a very critical impact on the people from marginalised sections. Sc/St are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 in terms of the violation of their fundamental rights as human beings. In General, due to the low social positioning of these sections in society, they are victimising faster and are worst affected.
Governments have implemented the lockdown policy to prevent the spread of covid-19 infection. On the contrary, our data analysis shows this policy has a negative impact on the lives of Sc/St peoples in terms of the increase of caste-based atrocities. Since all the government systems were engaged in implementing the lockdown policies, we would say there was a lack of access to the justice system for these communities. The police had majorly played the frontline worker role during the lockdown policy. They had no focus on the other issues in society. Whatever the increased number of atrocity cases are visible, they are self-reported. Since there was no chance of social mobilisation against the injustice due to the covid restrictions, these communities lacked support from social movements. Even after all these odds, there is an increase in cases reflecting the density of caste-based rights violations. We will probably develop a detailed analysis of the nature of crime in our next paper draft.
The hypothesis that the number of cases of caste atrocities during the 6sixmonths of lockdown (including the beginning phases of unlocking) has increased compared to previous years is thus proved. Though cases were lesser in April, in May, when the lockdown was stringent, the cases have increased drastically. The graphical representation in Chart 2 below speaks for itself.
As said in the introduction, this is just a primary analysis. The more detailed data is available, which can lead to a more nuanced understanding of the situation. We are trying to bring this data into the public domain to highlight the gravity of caste crimes. Hoping that such awareness generation will contribute to better implementation of the PoA and the required policy and legislative changes. For now, we stop here with one question, is lockdown not applicable to those who inflict caste violence or is it that the ex-untouchable community – which promotes constitution and constitutional principles at every possible opportunity, is still not considered Indian? Going further, human beings threaten this nation more than the COVID-19 virus.
- by Dr Sawankumar Somwanshi, State Co-Director, Research and Analysis Cell, CARVA.