Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Atrocities on the SC/ST population: What does data say?

If you are an Indian or follow Indian news, you must have seen the horrifying videos of the riots that happened in India yesterday. Thousands of rioteers armed with clubs, swords, guns and petrol bombs rampaged cities across the country, vandalizing public and private property, burning shops, cars and buses, and causing at least 9 deaths and thousands of injuries.

I think there is a tragedy even bigger than the destruction trail of the riots, and that is the polarization of the population that happens because of such events. This can be estimated from the hundreds of inane comments that we daily see on social media. So the purpose of my post is to present certain facts that should potentially help people see things in the right perspective.

The Cause of the Riots
The rioters were supposedly unhappy about a recent Supreme Court's decision that scrapped an automatic arrest provision that was there in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989. I am saying "supposedly unhappy" because a large section of the rioters had absolutely no clue about what they were protesting against. When asked by TV journalists, they couldn't even identify the cause they were fighting for. Of course, that's simply because they had no cause to begin with. They were just paid goons of those political parties that have ruled the country by dividing people on the lines of caste and religion.

The Rationale Behind Supreme Court's Decision
The Supreme Court of India removed the automatic arrest provision from the SC/ST Act because it found evidence that this provision was being abused by unscrupulous individuals. In other words, it found evidence that many people were filing false cases under the SC/ST Act to harass and blackmail good citizens.

This was also not the first time that the Supreme Court took such a decision. A few years ago the Supreme Court of India had also scrapped the automatic arrest provision for dowry and domestic violence cases. It did so because it found that a large majority of these cases were false accusations made by women to blackmail their husbands into paying them large alimonies.

But What About the Atrocities on the SC/ST Population?
If you watched any of the debates on Indian television channels, you must have seen how the so called "defenders of the dalits (oppressed)" justified the violence of the riots by citing statistics about the crimes committed on the dalits. For example, you can see in this debate on Republic TV, how the dalit leader Rahul Sonpimple justifies the riots with these statements: "The government data says that every 18 minutes there is a crime against dalit. Everyday three dalit womens get raped, two murders and two house get robbed [sic]."

The statistics provided by this person were generally correct (Check here for more details), and it was also acknowledged by the anchor and the debaters from the opposite side. That still does not justify the riots, but let's also take a deeper look at those crime statistics. Do the presented crime statistics provide a complete picture? Okay, I accept that every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a dalit, but how does it compare to the crime rate of the overall population? Unfortunately, this was a question that nobody asked. So I did a quick analysis of the publicly accessible NCRB data, which was also the basis of both the Supreme Court's decision and the dalit leader's ire.

Table 1 provides information on the number of murders and rapes that occured in India in 2015 (the latest year for which data is available). Both the murder rate and rape rate for the Scheduled Castes  (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) groups are significantly lower than what is for the overall population of India. 

Table 1: # of Murders and Rapes in India (2015)

# of Murder Victims
Murder Rate
# of Rape Victims
Rape Rate
Total for India
33082
2.6
34771
5.7
Scheduled Castes
729
0.4
2332
1.2
Scheduled Tribes
149
0.1
959
0.9
Note: Crime Rate is Cases Reported of Crime per 1,00,000 of population

Table 2: Population Distribution of India (Based on NCRB Data)
Population (in Lakhs)
India Population
12591.1
Scheduled Caste Population
2013.8
Scheduled Tribe Population
1042.8

To get a clearer picture, I also compared the number of murders and rapes within each groups to their respective population proportions within the country. This analysis is summarized in three pie charts that I prepared using the above data.


As can be seen in Figure 1, SC and ST combined constitute about 25% of India's population. However, as noted in Figure 2, less than 10% of rape victims are from SC and ST communities. Further, it can be seen in Figure 3 that less than 3% of murder victims are from SC and ST communities. These figures clearly show that the dalits are not greater victims of crimes, as claimed by some and believed by most people. In other words, the claim that greater amount of atrocities are being committed against the dalits is false. This is not to say that the dalits do not suffer any disadvantages. However, it is certainly not true that dalits suffer a disproportionately higher number of crimes. The data, in fact, shows the opposite. They suffer far fewer crimes than the general population. So let's not hold erroneous beliefs. And let's not allow ourselves to get swayed by people's comments without evaluating them critically.

2 comments:

  1. Dashrath Kumar KachhapApril 4, 2018 at 2:13 AM

    Sir, I agree with your analysis and statistical evaluation but I think you will also agree that most of the Scheduled Tribe population problem didn't reach to the police station or to the concerned authority and we don't get their data or condition.

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    1. Dashrath, I agree, under-reporting of certain crimes (such as rape) is a real problem, and probably more so for Scheduled Tribes, many of whom live in remote areas and in Naxal-infested regions. It's difficult to estimate the extent of under-reporting because we don't know what we don't know. But I think under-reporting of murders must be negligible, because of the legal and practical necessity of people to document all deaths.

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