The Indian Express opinion piece “Equality denied”, written by Sukhadeo Thorat, professor emeritus at JNU, and published October 12, 2017, argues that atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat has gone up considerably after 2013. The article quickly refers to the Una incident of last year and claims that the government has done nothing to prevent such atrocities. The problem with the article is that it appears to have misrepresented facts. Given that it has been published with the Gujarat assembly elections round the corner, questions may be raised about the intent. Nevertheless, let us look at the facts first.
Problem With the Data
If we go by the data provided by the writer, the annual number of cases of atrocities has jumped from 212 in 2013 to 1,010 in 2015. There may or may not be an implication here of changes brought about by the change of government at the Centre, but the choice of dates is not likely to be insignificant. Although Thorat mentions the Protection of Civil Rights Act (PCR Act) (1955) and the Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA), 1989, while citing the incidents, there is no clarity as to where exactly he has got his figures from.
The official figures for the period under comparison do not just appear to be different from the writer’s data. In fact, what we see is that such cases have decreased from 2013 to 2015. The annual report (page 189) of the Ministry of Social justice & Empowerment provides state-wise cases registered during 2015 under the PoA. Accordingly, Gujarat registered 1,257 cases in total, of which 1,009 are in the SC category and 248 under the ST category. The article’s claim that the cases spiked during the period must be juxtaposed against the Ministry’s annual report of 2014-15, where we get the 2013 data of registered cases (page 183). Here, Gujarat registered 1,414 cases, among them 1,190 in the SC category and 224 in the ST category. It would appear then that there has been a reduction in the number of such cases between 2013 and 2015. (See Figures 1 & 2)
There is no denying that atrocities against Dalits and the SC/ST community at large are issues that India has been contending with for a long time. But the data does not show any abnormal spike, meaning that these may be longstanding issues, which we have battled for long and still need to address. And in Gujarat’s case, as we have seen, there is actually a reduction.
Why Only Gujarat?
The article begs the question why Gujarat has been singled out.
If we consider the registered cases data of 2012, we see that the number of cases registered per lakh of population was higher in Kerala, SC 26.7% and ST 25.8%, as compared to Gujarat in the same period — SC 25.2% and ST 2.5%. Andhra Pradesh recorded SC 22%, ST 8.9%. Rajasthan had a very high of SC 45.5% and ST 14.6% in 2012. Odisha was SC 31.5% and ST 7.2%.
In 2015, the number of cases registered per lakh population in Odisha was SC 25.4% and ST 7.2%. Andhra was SC 26.8% and ST 13.8%, Telangana SC 23.8% and ST 11.7%. Kerala’s figure was SC 22.9% and ST 32.4%, Bihar was SC 38% and ST 0.3%, while Gujarat stood at SC 24.8% and ST 2.8%.
Since the data on atrocities for several other states appears to be either similar to that for Gujarat, or often much higher, ignoring the rest of the data would perhaps be tantamount to deliberately building up a certain kind of perception about Gujarat. In this case, that perception would be that atrocities against Dalits are rising alarmingly in Gujarat and only in Gujarat. As we have seen from the data, that is very far from the truth.