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Between 2016 and 2020, at least 300 murder victims in Tamil Nadu were Dalits: NGO

Dalits
Students hold banners during a protest at Jantar Mantar. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

During the last five years, between January 2016 and December 2020, around 300 persons who were murdered in Tamil Nadu belonged to the Scheduled Caste or Tribes, according to information obtained by Evidence, an NGO, through the Right To Information (RTI) Act. However, the reasons for the crime -- whether the murders were a fallout of caste-related issues or personal enmity -- were not available.

Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Evidence’s executive director A. Kathir said that the organisation had filed the application in all the 38 districts, but obtained information from only 33 districts. Some officials in Tirunelveli and Tirupur districts had refused to share the information citing “vague” reasons and if these were added, the total number of victims who belonged to SC/ST, could be around 350 during this period, Mr. Kathir said.

A study of the information based on police stations in the districts indicated that on an average, five murders had been reported every month.

While Thoothukudi had 29 murders, Madurai accounted for 28 and Kallakurichi (bifurcated from Villupuram), 24, Nagapattinam: 19 and Coimbatore had 17 murders during the above period.

Over 80% cases pending

The information showed that only in 13 cases, had courts had convicted the guilty. In, at least 30 incidents, the accused were acquitted by the courts, 28 cases were pending in police stations and 229 cases were pending in courts at different stages, Mr Kathir said.

The amended SC/ST (Prevention and Atrocities) Act of 2015 stated that from the time chargesheets were framed, the cases had to be expedited in 60 days. However, ignoring this, a whopping 86 % of cases were pending.

According to Mr. Kathir, in general, atrocities against the SC/STs had risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. While financial assistance and pension were given to the families, only in very few cases had their families had got government jobs, while the order to give cultivable land had not been given at all, the inform1eation showed.

Likewise, Mr. Kathir said that the Supreme Court had directed the establishing of exclusive courts, judges, premises, government advocates among other infrastructural facilities for trying SC/ST atrocity cases. However, very few districts had initiated even the first steps towards this directive.

Thanking Chief Minister M K Stalin for his announcement to form a high-level committee to review crimes against SC/STs, Mr. Kathir said that the committee should mandatorily meet twice a year. However, the information revealed that it had only met thrice over the last 30 years in Tamil Nadu. He hoped that under the new government, the Scheduled Caste community may get a new meaning and a good beginning.