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India has seen a rigorous rise in the hate crimes towards minority communities in the last five years. Muslims and Dalits constituted a significant share of the victims of religious hate crimes. In almost all of the attacks, Human Rights Watch found, the authorities have delayed investigations, and in some cases justified the attacks or filed charges against the victims’ families.

Be it before Independence or after Independence, Dalits have suffered innumerably since the dawn of the caste system. The caste system was introduced by Manusmriti which, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law, dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, “acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society”. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras, completely discarding the existence of Dalits, also known as the untouchables. The actual table goes like this: Brahmin>Kshatriyas>Vaishyas – (The Aryans)>Shudras Dalits – (The Non- Aryans).

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This system bestowed incredible amounts of privileges upon the upper castes while a vermin treatment upon the lower castes. Earlier with Indians unaware about the importance of words such as equality and equity, crimes against Dalits weren’t such an issue. After overcoming exceedingly painful obstacles some Dalits and lower castes Indian such as BR Ambedkar, who drafted the Indian Constitution and KR Narayan, the first Dalit president, rose to hold prestigious positions in the country. After the Independence of India, the new constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste. And to undo the injustices of the past and give an equal opportunity to everyone, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy, in 1950. In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest castes. The influence of caste system has declined in the recent decades due to the spread of secular education and urbanization but discrimination and hate towards the Dalits still persists in the roots of independent India.

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One of the worst cases that I recently read about was of July 2020; a 14 year old boy was forced to carry and eat excreta by an upper class Hindu man named K Rajasekar who had assaulted the boy, yelled casteist slurs at him and verbally abused him. He was immediately arrested under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC and Section 3 (j) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for “forcing SC persons to do manual scavenging.” Crimes against Dalits are still on the rise and a total number of 619 alleged hate crimes have been committed between September 2015- June 2019 in the nature of assaults, harassment, killing, property damage, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape. The triggers were mainly cow-vigilantism, religion based and caste based.

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Now, let’s talk about Muslims. Many massacres took place before and after the Independence, some of which are The Great Calcutta killings in 1946, Bihar and Garmukhteshwar in 1946 after Noakhali riot in East Bengal, the massacre of Muslims in Jammu in 1947, large-scale killing of Muslims following the Operation Polo in Hyderabad, anti-Muslim riots in Kolkata in the aftermath of 1950 Barisal Riots and 1964 East-Pakistan riots, 1969 Gujarat riots, 1984 Bhiwandi riots, 1985 Gujarat riots, 1989 Bhagalpur riots, Bombay riots, Nellie in 1983, Gujarat riots in 2002 and the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

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The first ever mob lynching case in India was in 2015 of Mohammad Akhlaq and the reason being was just a random suspicion of cow slaughtering. And since then a chain reaction has started, multiple mob lynchings and hate crime cases have erupted all over India. A total of 196 hate crimes have been recorded against Muslims from September 2015 – June 2019. Mostly were either in the suspicion of cow-slaughtering or consuming beef and others were purely religion based discrimination. The highest record of hate crimes was in 2019 which saw a 45% rise and triggers were the Pulwama attack, cow- vigilantism and the victim’s Muslim identity. The nature of the crime is likewise to the ones committed against Dalits such as rape, assaults, killing, murder etc.

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A recent statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that the number of Dalits and Muslims in prisons is way more than the actual population of both of these communities each.

Muslims make up only 14.2 percent of India’s population but 16.6 percent of convicts, 18.7 percent of under trials and 35.8 percent of detainees in Indian prisons are Muslims as of 31 December, 2019. On the other hand, over 21.7 percent of convicted inmates, 21 percent of under trials and 18.15 percent of detainees in Indian prisons are Dalits whereas their share in the country’s population is only around 16.6 percent.

India still hasn’t got independence from caste, religion and gender discrimination; minorities are still fighting to be identified as equals; and we all are aware about the fantastic condition of women in our country.

Saher Hiba Khan is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Varda Ahmad

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.

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Written by Saher Hiba Khan

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