ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

Scheduled Castes, Dalits and Criminalisation by ‘descent’

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State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)

Zia Akhtar (LLB LLM Gray’s Inn)

The Scheduled Castes/“Dalits” represent the “untouchables” in India’s constitutional framework and are traditionally outside the four-tiered rung of the Hindu religion. The notion of “superiority, pollution and separateness” is ingrained in the stratification of caste and the victim complex is subsumed in the unwritten public code. Despite the safeguards in the constitution and affirmative legislation they still suffer from institutional discrimination and structural violence inherent in the caste system. It takes the form of hierarchy which is an intrinsic part of the Hindu faith and the Dalits are employed in occupations such as human scavenging. The prevalence of caste discrimination in the rural areas of India makes for any affirmative legislation to be ineffective for the majority of the population. The issue has been magnified in recent times by the ascension of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power which has retrenched Hindutva, with the consequence that Dalits who convert from Hinduism to Islam or Christianity have to forfeit access to welfare benefits. This paper analyses the cause of the institutional discrimination that criminalizes the Dalit communities and the lack of impact of the legal protections afforded to them. It will argue that the victimization of the “untouchables” will continue because of the rigid caste structure, lack of enforcement of legal protection in villages, economic privilege and the resort to ideology of the current government…(read more)

State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)