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9 January 2020


India: Treatment of Dalits by society and authorities; availability of state protection (2016-January 2020)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

According to sources, the term Dalit means "'broken'" or "'oppressed'" (Dalit Solidarity n.d.a; MRG n.d.; Navsarjan Trust n.d.a). Sources indicate that this group was formerly referred to as "'untouchables'" (Dalit Solidarity n.d.a; MRG n.d.; Navsarjan Trust n.d.a). They are referred to officially as "Scheduled Castes" (India 13 July 2006, 1; MRG n.d.; Navsarjan Trust n.d.a). The Indian National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) identified that Scheduled Castes are communities that "were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of [the] age-old practice of untouchability" (India 13 July 2006, 1). The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) [1] indicates that the list of groups officially recognized as Scheduled Castes, which can be modified by the Parliament, varies from one state to another, and can even vary among districts within a state (CHRI 2018, 15).

According to the 2011 Census of India [the most recent census (World Population Review [2019])], the Scheduled Castes represent 16.6 percent of the total Indian population, or 201,378,086 persons, of which 76.4 percent are in rural areas (India 2011). The census further indicates that the Scheduled Castes constitute 18.5 percent of the total rural population, and 12.6 percent of the total urban population in India (India 2011).

1.1 Indian Caste System

Dalit Solidarity [2] describes the caste system as a "rigid social order" (Dalit Solidarity n.d.a). In this system, caste is determined by birth (Dalit Solidarity n.d.a; India 19 Jan. 2018). According to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Country Information Report on India,

Hindu tradition divided society into hereditary groups associated with occupation, commonly called "castes". The caste system had four principal groups: Brahmin priests and teachers, Kshatriya warriors and rulers, Vaishya farmers, traders and merchants and Shudra labourers. Each group encompassed thousands of sub-groups within a hierarchy. While Hindu in origin, castes have become a cultural phenomenon that also exists within other religions and across India's many social, linguistic and religious communities. (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 2.7)

According to the same source, the Dalits fell outside the four principal groups, and were referred to as "Untouchables" as they were "historically associated with work seen as less desirable, including work involving cleaning or waste, and traditional taboos existed against members of the four castes touching them" (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.48). The report also indicates that "[m]any Dalits continue to work in occupations that include scavenging, street cleaning and handling of human or animal waste, corpses or carcasses" (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.48). Similarly, the Navsarjan Trust Dalit organization [3] indicates that Dalits occupy employment such as "removing human waste (known as 'manual scavenging'), dragging away and skinning animal carcasses, tanning leather, making and fixing shoes, and washing clothes" (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b) and that "many Dalits are impoverished, uneducated, and illiterate" (Navsarjan Trust n.d.a). The same source explains that manual scavenging consists of responsibilities such as: "digging village graves, disposing of dead animals, and cleaning human excreta" (Navsarjan Trust n.d.a). According to the same source,

discrimination for Dalits does not end if they convert from Hinduism to another religion. In India, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity (among other religions) maintain some form of caste despite the fact that this contradicts their religious precepts. As a result, dominant castes maintain leadership positions while Dalit members of these religions are often marginalized and flagrantly discriminated against. For example, Dalit Christ[ia]ns are provided sep[a]rate burial areas from non-Dalit Christ[ia]ns. (Navsarjan Trust n.d.a)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Treatment of Dalits
2.1 Prevalence of Untouchability

According to the Indian Express, an English-language daily newspaper, in 2011-2012, the India Human Development Survey was carried out and conducted in over 42,000 households across India by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland; the survey results indicate that across India,

27 per cent [of] respondents agreed that they did practis[e] untouchability in some form. The practice was most prevalent among Brahmin respondents (52 per cent). 24 per cent of non-Brahmin forward caste respondents admitted to it - lower, interestingly, than OBC [Other Backward Class] respondents, 33 per cent of whom confirmed its prevalence in their homes. 15 per cent of Scheduled Caste and 22 per cent of Scheduled Tribe respondents admitted to the practice.

Broken up by religious groups, data from the survey shows almost every third Hindu (30 per cent) admitted to the practice, followed by Sikhs (23 per cent), Muslims (18 per cent) and Christians (5 per cent).

Spatially, untouchability is most widespread in the Hindi heartland, according to the survey. Madhya Pradesh is on top (53 per cent), followed by Himachal Pradesh (50 per cent), Chhattisgarh (48 per cent), Rajasthan and Bihar (47 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (43 per cent), and Uttarakhand (40 per cent).

West Bengal appears to be the most "progressive" - with only 1 per cent of respondents confirming they practi[c]ed untouchability. Kerala comes next in the survey, with 2 per cent, followed by Maharashtra (4 per cent), the Northeast (7 per cent), and Andhra Pradesh (10 per cent). (The Indian Express 29 Nov. 2014)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), a Copenhagen-based international advocacy network for Dalit human rights (IDSN n.d.), explained that

[u]ntouchability practices in India remain widespread in both urban and rural settings. These include dominant castes not touching Dalits, not letting them use the same mugs, utensils etc., not entering Dalit houses, not allowing their children to play with Dalits or to be in a relationship with a Dalit. There are thousands of variations of untouchability practices and the severity and prevalence vary depending on location. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

According to Navsarjan Trust,

[u]ntouchability is present in nearly every sphere of life and practiced in an infinite number of forms. At the village level[,] Dalits are barred from using wells used by non-Dalits, forbidden from going to the barber shop and entering temples, while at the level of job recruitment and employment[,] Dalits are systematically paid less, ordered to do the most menial work, and rarely promoted. Even at school, Dalit children may be asked to clean toilets and to eat separately.

As an instrument of casteism, Untouchability also serves to instill caste status to Dalit children from the moment they are born. Kachro (filth), Melo (dirty), Dhudiyo (dusty), Gandy (mad), Ghelo (stupid), Punjo (waste) are just some of the names given to Dalit boys in Gujarat. Of course, names with similar meanings are given to Dalit girls too. This shows the debilitating effect of Untouchability, as it becomes a conscious act of cooperation between two individuals of distinct caste or sub-caste identity. The person treated as untouchable submits himself or herself to untouchability practices because of a generational integrated belief that it is right, justified, religious and natural. (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b)

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a professor of anthropology at the William Paterson University of New Jersey, who has been studying and publishing research on issues of caste in India for the past twenty-five years, explained that segregation between castes is more prevalent in rural areas, with "discriminatory practices" in seating arrangements, access to food, housing and water, and prevention of burying or burning their dead happening with "increasing impunity" (Professor 19 Apr. 2019).

2.2 Access to Housing

According to Navsarjan Trust,

[Dalits] are supposed to reside outside the village so that their physical presence does not pollute the "real" village. Not only are they restricted in terms of space, but their houses are also supposed to be inferior in quality and devoid of any facilities like water and electricity. (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b)

The IDSN similarly noted that

Dalits in India are demarcated and confined to ghettos largely outside of a village community landscape with deliberate and engineered social systems designed to deny them rights over natural resources like water, agricultural farms, etc. and shunning them out to participate in societal-cultural transaction within the village mainstream. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

The UN Special Rapporteur's 2017 report on adequate housing adds that

[a]ccording to the 2011 census, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have, on average, lower quality housing, made with inadequate materials, with only 22 per cent of households of scheduled tribes made with brick or concrete walls. Figures concerning the lack of access to latrines were more alarming than for the general population, with 66 per cent of members of scheduled castes lacking access to latrines, and 77 per cent of scheduled tribes. (UN 10 Jan. 2017, para. 67)

2.3 Access to Employment, Education and Services

Human Rights Watch states that Dalits continue "to be discriminated against" with respect to employment (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). Australia's DFAT report also indicates that Dalits have "more limited" employment opportunities (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.49). The IDSN explained that since they are occupying the lowest position within the caste system and among classes, Dalits are "engaged as peasants, share-croppers, and agricultural labourers, constituting the workforce of a rural economy and engaged as labourers in the urban economy" (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019). The same source stated that rural Dalits are especially "disadvantaged," as their social status "excludes them from any form of full participation in a large number of more remunerative economic activities," and that their "constant subjugation and disenfranchisement … and virtual landlessness" lead them to agricultural work with low wages and uncertain employment (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 states that "[m]ost bonded laborers were Dalits, and those who asserted their rights were often victims of attacks, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits reportedly often worked without monetary remuneration" (US 13 Mar. 2019, 46). The same report indicates that even if prohibited by law, manual scavenging by Dalits continued (US 13 Mar. 2019, 47).

Sources indicate that Dalits face discrimination in access to education (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019; US 13 Mar. 2019, 46-47; Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). According to the IDSN, discrimination against Dalit students is a

common occurrence in India, especially in rural areas. Discrimination cases against the Dalit students by teachers and by upper caste parents are routinely reported in local and national media. Dalit children are notably forcefully barred and excluded in situations involving the sharing of food and water and prayers, i.e. areas otherwise considered permeable to "pollution" by lower castes. Further, given a history of prejudicial treatment, there is also a high likelihood of Dalit students internalizing a strong expectation of failure. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

US Country Reports 2018 also states the following:

NGOs reported Dalit students were sometimes denied admission to certain schools because of their caste, required to present caste certification prior to admission, barred from morning prayers, asked to sit in the back of the class, or forced to clean school toilets while being denied access to the same facilities. There were also reports teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper-caste families. (US 13 Mar. 2019, 47)

The IDSN added that "[d]istance from school also serves as a barrier for Dalit children, against whom caste bias and widely prejudicial societal beliefs often lead to objections and harassment by dominant communities when they walk through the village roads to reach school" (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019).

Australia's DFAT report indicates that Dalits face discrimination in health care and access to "other essential services" (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.49). US Country Reports 2018 similarly states that Dalits face "significant" discrimination in access to health care, justice, institutions such as temples, as well as in terms of freedom of movement and marriage (US 13 Mar. 2019, 46).

2.4 Political Representation and Participation in Civil Society

Australia's DFAT report indicates that

[s]ome Dalits have achieved high office, helped in some cases by quotas for educational, public service and political representation. Dalit NGOs, community groups and chambers of commerce exist. India's President, Ram Nath Kovind, is a Dalit from the ruling BJP party [Bharatiya Janata Party] and is the second Dalit to hold that position. His main opponent for the position was Meira Kumar, a Dalit from the opposition Indian National Congress Party. (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.52)

The IDSN added that

[n]ational political parties, which used to dominate, have been forced to acknowledge the rise of young Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani - a lawyer and Chandra Shekhar Azad Ravan of the Bhim Army, who emerged as a grassroots movement and represent mobilizations outside the field of electoral politics to challenge the hegemony of the privileged castes. These assertions of rights, dignity and self-respect are met with violence. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

The IDSN however, reported that Dalit activists have been "targeted" for their work on defending human rights, and that Dalit rights organizations have had funding "cut off or frozen by the government using the Foreign Contributions Act" (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019). Similarly, the Times of India reported in December 2016 that the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Navsarjan Trust was cancelled "on the grounds that the association 'has come to adverse notice for its undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially the harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, and regional groups, castes or communities'" (The Times of India 17 Dec. 2016). The IDSN, citing the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, states that in 2018, "several notable Dalit defenders were unjustly arrested and harassed" by police in connection with events that occurred during a Dalit commemoration (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019).

2.5 Treatment in Urban Areas

The information in the following paragraph was provided by the IDSN:

Caste-based discrimination is also present in urban areas, though "less visible," including in the employment and education sectors. Dalits are "forced" to accept "menial" employment similar to that in the rural setting, such as sanitation work, and housing located in the "slums and ghettos," and that even in the public sector, they are "concentrated in low-end jobs." In some sectors, such as academia and media, employment of Dalits is discouraged by upper management. "Dalits seeking to break caste-related employment barriers is prone to severe punishment from dominant castes, including economic boycotts and even physical violence" (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Professor indicated that due to the "reservation system" of quotas in educational institutions and federal public service, Dalits have increasing opportunities in an urban setting, but that this system does generate "hostility" from non-Dalits (Professor 19 Apr. 2019). An article by the Guardian similarly indicates that while a larger Dalit student presence in universities is the result of the "'reservations'" system, these "'quota students'" are "often treated with scorn" and Dalit students "can be regarded with hostility because the quotas mean there is stiffer competition" for non-Dalits (The Guardian 2 July 2017).

The Professor also expressed that while cities provide some limited level of anonymity, social networks would be essential in finding employment and housing in urban areas, which would require Dalits migrating to cities to "relive" their Dalit identities, while those without "social capital" would face "high discrimination in jobs and housing" and "often" end up at the bottom of the social hierarchy (Professor 19 Apr. 2019). The IDSN explained that Dalits

severely lack societal cohesiveness to provide community-enabled "safety nets" like accommodation in the house of acquaintances, reference for jobs and livelihood prospects, access to monetary credit, access to food security, [and] information access to government-subsidized education and health services … compared to … other upper castes urban poor. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

The same source concluded that

urban centres serve and mirror the social mores and power relations of rural India instead of evolving to a social or political safe dynamic space that is accommodative of Dalit concerns and aspirations. … The trigger of caste oppression may be different in urban and rural areas, but urban India is no less an unequal space than rural India for Dalits. (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019)

2.6 Violence Against Dalits

Australia's DFAT report assesses that violence against Dalits "continues" (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.49), while Human Rights Watch says that Dalits have experienced "increased violence," some of which have been committed in reaction to their "more organized and vocal demands for social progress" (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019).

According to the Crime in India 2017 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of Home Affairs of India, there was a total of 43,203 recorded crimes/atrocities against Scheduled Castes in 2017, compared to 40,801 in 2016, and 38,670 in 2015 (India Oct. 2019, 509). According to the same source, 26.5 percent of crimes/atrocities committed against Scheduled Castes in 2017 occurred in Uttar Pradesh, 15.6 percent occurred in Bihar, and 13.6 percent occurred in Madhya Pradesh (India Oct. 2019, 509).

According to several sources, along with Muslims, Dalits have been victims of violent attacks by vigilante cow protection groups (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.9; Human Rights Watch 21 Mar. 2018; US 29 Apr. 2019, 1). According to Australia's DFAT report, these incidents "have involved killings, mob violence, assaults and intimidation," and have occurred in states including Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.9). The same source reports that human rights advocates have criticized the prime minister and the ruling BJP party for failing to condemn these attacks, and that while some alleged authors of the attacks have been arrested, none had been convicted (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.9).

According to Navsarjan Trust,

[s]hould a Dalit break [caste] rules, frequently the entire Dalit community will be punished for the perceived individual transgression. Punishment often takes the form of denial of access to land or employment, physical attacks on Dalit women, and the burning down of Dalit homes. (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b)

According to Minority Rights Group International (MRG), "[m]ob violence against Dalit communities is frequently reported," especially where Dalits have "made progress in gaining education and economic mobility" (MRG n.d.). The Hindu reported an incident in 2018, where Dalits "failing to present temple honours to a caste Hindu family and sitting cross-legged in the presence of a caste Hindu" resulted in a 15-member group entering Kachanatham village in Tamil Nadu, disconnecting the power supply and attacking "indiscriminately," killing two Dalits and injuring at least six others (The Hindu 29 May 2018). The article adds that 250 police personnel have been posted in the village to bring the situation under control and that the police have detained some of the accused (The Hindu 29 May 2018).

2.6.1 Sexual Violence Against Dalit Women

US Country Reports 2018 indicates that Dalit women are "often victims of rape or threats of rape" and are "disproportionately victimized compared with other caste affiliations," according to official crime statistics (US 13 Mar. 2019, 37). Australia's DFAT report states that in

traditional rural areas, senior community members or village committees have reportedly arranged gang rapes of women as punishment for their families' perceived misconduct in a number of incidents, according to human rights NGOs. According to the Asia Foundation, almost 400,000 women and girls have been abducted in the past decade. Rates are reportedly much higher in northern states with highly unbalanced child sex ratios, and involve women and girls of low castes, especially Dalits. The offenders (sometimes from higher dominant castes) abduct the women and girls for rape, sexual trafficking and forced marriage. (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.36)

According to Divya Iyer, Senior Researcher at Amnesty International India, "'[m]embers of dominant castes are known to use sexual violence against Dalit women and girls as a political tool for punishment, humiliation and assertion of power'" (Amnesty International 30 May 2014). Similarly, a Deutsche Welle (DW) article states that "women from the Dalit community regularly fall victim to sexual crimes committed by 'upper-caste' Hindu men" and that rape is "often used as a weapon" in caste conflict; the same article cites an NGO, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, as indicating that "over 23 percent of Dalit women report being raped, and many have reported multiple instances of rape" (DW 10 May 2018). The same source also indicates that

[a]ctivists chronicling atrocities against the Dalit community say the rural women are subjected to ghastly crimes when they or their families are deemed to have violated traditional caste-derived rules and norms.

"One form of punishment is that either their property is burnt down or looted. The other degrading method is, women are raped, undressed and then paraded in public squares," Shabnam Hashmi, a social activist told DW. (DW 10 May 2018)

The DW article explains that "[m]any perpetrators commit sexual crimes with a sense of impunity, say experts, pointing to abysmally low conviction rates and a lack of legal protection for the victims" (DW 10 May 2018).

3. Legislation

Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which came into force on 26 January 1950, declares that the State "shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them" (India 1949). Article 17 of the Constitution declares that "'Untouchability' is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of 'Untouchability' shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law" (India 1949). Additionally, article 46 states the following:

The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. (India 1949)

Further to this, there has been legislation enacted for the protection of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, including:

  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955;
  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993;
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (India 17 Oct. 2016, 6).

Furthermore, the government of India passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 1989, which aims to "prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes," and to provide for "the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences" (India 1989, preamble). The law "extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir" (India 1989, Sec. 1(2)). A guide regarding the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the associated 1995 Rules, as amended in 2015, published by the CHRI, notes that "the central government is responsible for reviewing and coordinating measures taken by state governments to implement its provisions" (CHRI 2018, 14-15). The Act provides that "[w]hoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe," commits one of the offenses listed under Section 3 of the Act "shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine" (India 1989, Sec. 3). For a full list of atrocities and punishments, as well as provisions regarding the rights of victims and witnesses, see the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which is attached to this Response.

According to Navsarjan Trust, the Indian government has instituted "constitutional reservations in both educational institutions and public services for Dalits" (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b). Similarly, an article in the Indian Express states that "[w]hile the Constitution abolished the practise of any kind of injustice against the lower castes, it also gave special benefits to them in the form of reserved seats in public employment and privileged access to higher education" (The Indian Express 22 Jan. 2019).

Article 330(1) of the Constitution declares that "[s]eats shall be reserved in the House of the People for … the Scheduled Castes …" (India 1949). Article 332(1) provides that "[s]eats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, [except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam], in the Legislative Assembly of every State" (India 1949).

The IDSN estimated that despite the benefits brought by the reservation system, Dalit men still "lag behind" non-Dalits in terms of formal employment, and many are still trapped in casual labor and self-employment (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019).

4. Implementation and State Response

According to the NCRB's Crime in India 2017 report, the total conviction rate for crimes/atrocities against Scheduled Castes for that year was 35.3 percent, with conviction rates of 56.1 percent in murders, and 33.5 percent in cases of rape (India Oct. 2019, 542, 546). Comparatively, for the same categories of crimes, the conviction rates of Indian Penal Code cases across India are 43.1 percent for murders and 32.2 percent for rape (India Oct. 2019, 1084, 1088).

However, the IDSN stated that despite the depth of legislation against discrimination and atrocities on the basis of caste, "implementation is severely lacking and impunity in cases related to caste is more the norm than the exception" (IDSN 25 Apr. 2019). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, an associate professor researching identity politics in South Asia at Carleton University, who has published research on caste-based violence in India, indicated that while the legal structure is "fantastic," effectiveness of implementation varies by state, with BJP-run states having lower conviction rates (Associate Professor 20 May 2019).

The Professor at William Paterson University indicated that as approximately 80 percent of Dalits live in rural areas and are overwhelmingly poor, they require assistance to file a First Information Report (FIR), since their lack of knowledge of the legal bureaucracy and "intimidation" by police can be a factor that impedes the filing of reports by victims (Professor 19 Apr. 2019). According to a report on violence and discrimination against religious minorities in India by the Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) [4] and MRG,

[d]etailed fact-finding conducted by CSSS and others over many years has revealed that access to justice for minority victims of communal violence is frequently obstructed at various stages - from initial filing of a case to prosecution - for reasons such as trust in authorities, destruction of evidence and intimidation.

This is often linked to degrees of state complicity involved with these incidents, as well as deeper institutional bias against minorities within the criminal justice system. (MRG and CSSS June 2017, 13)

Similarly, according to Australia's DFAT report,

[r]egistration, investigation and prosecution of cases may be affected by bias in relation to the class, caste, ethnicity and religion of a victim or offender. Ethnic and religious minorities complain that police lack sensitivity, suspicions about which sometimes lead to communal violence. Local sources report that police, along with other agencies including the courts, public servants, judiciary and prosecutors, have an inherent bias when dealing with Dalit victims of crime in particular. (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 5.5)

According to Navsarjan Trust,

[d]espite a clear record of violence against the Dalits, there are numerous reports that police officials have refused to register complaints about violations of the law or to prosecute those responsible for the abuses. With little knowledge of their rights, limited access to attorneys, and no money for hearings or bail, Dalits are easy targets for human rights violations. (Navsarjan Trust n.d.b)

Australia's DFAT report states that in the cases of Dalit women being abducted for rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage,

[v]ictims and their families generally remain silent due to shame and fear of reprisal. Sources reported a low incidence of police action in these cases, attributed to police bias towards higher castes and a tendency to dismiss the victims due to their lower caste. (Australia 17 Oct. 2018, para. 3.36)

US Country Reports 2018 similarly states that crimes "committed against Dalits reportedly often went unpunished, either because authorities failed to prosecute perpetrators or because victims did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation" (US 13 Mar. 2019, 46).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an international NGO headquartered in New Delhi "mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth" through advocacy, research, periodic investigations, public education programs, and networking (CHRI 2018, 4).

[2] Dalit Solidarity is a "nonprofit and charitable organization that consists of humanitarians, educators, volunteers and human right advocates" who work toward "the emancipation and empowerment of the Dalits through social awareness, educational program[s], economical opportunities and developmental projects" (Dalit Solidarity n.d.b).

[3] The Navsarjan Trust is a grassroot organization in the Gujarat State which aims to "eliminate discrimination based on untouchability practices" through programs and campaigns; it is active in more than 3,000 villages and in major cities in Gujarat (Navsarjan Trust n.d.c).

[4] The Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) is an Indian non-profit organization that "works for the rights of the marginalized, women, Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities with the primary aim of promoting communal harmony and peace with social justice," including through advocacy, research, monitoring, and engagement with communities (MRG and CSSS June 2017, 2).


Amnesty International. 30 May 2014. "India: Authorities Must Impartially Investigate Gang-Rape and Murder of Dalit Girls." [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020]

Associate Professor, Carleton University. 20 May 2019. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.

Australia. 17 October 2018. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT Country Information Report: India. [Accessed 6 May 2019]

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). 2018. Devyani Srivastava. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 & Rules, 1995 as Amended in 2015: A Guide. [Accessed 6 May 2019]

Dalit Solidarity. N.d.a. "Dalits and Untouchability." [Accessed 25 Sept. 2019]

Dalit Solidarity. N.d.b. "Who We Are." [Accessed 17 Dec. 2019]

Deutsche Welle (DW). 10 May 2018. Murali Krishnan. "Caste Dynamics Behind Sexual Violence in India." [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020]

The Guardian. 2 July 2017. Amrit Dhillon. "'A Violence No Autopsy Can Reveal': The Deadly Cost of India's Campus Prejudice." [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020]

The Hindu. 29 May 2018. "Two Dalits Killed in Attack on Sivaganga Village." [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020]

Human Rights Watch. 17 January 2019. "India." World Report 2019: Events of 2018. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2019]

Human Rights Watch. 21 March 2018. Jayshree Bajoria. "Holding Killers to Account for Hate Crimes in India." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2019]

India. October 2019. Ministry of Home Affairs, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Crime in India 2017. [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019]

India. 19 January 2018. Supreme Court. Sunita Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others. Civil Appeal No. 487 of 2018. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019]

India. 17 October 2016. National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC). Annual Report 2016-17. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019]

India. 2011. Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner. Census of India 2011: Primary Census Abstract. [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019]

India. 13 July 2006. National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC). First Annual Report 2004-2005. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2019]

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Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Five academics researching caste and Indian politics.

Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Asian Centre for Human Rights; BBC; CBC; Centre for Dalit Rights; CNN;; The Economist; Factiva; Financial Times; Freedom House; Hindustan Times; National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights;;; UK – Home Office; UN – Refworld; USA Today; The Wire.


India. 1989 (amended 2017). The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2019]