Of late, Madhya Pradesh seems to be featuring with alarming regularity on the radar of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The latest incident pertains to the stamping of SC and ST youth with caste labels on their chest at the Dhar civil hospital as part of a medical examination for police recruitment.
The NHRC has sent a notice to the state government asking it to explain the action, while the Dhar police have suspended two police officials in connection with the incident.
Earlier this month, Madhya Pradesh with eight deaths was leading the casualty count in the agitation pertaining to the perceived dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act). Six out of the eight casualties were from the Dalit community, all killed by upper castes.
Madhya Pradesh goes to polls at the end of the year and it is very obvious that the Opposition will highlight these atrocities. SCs comprise about 15 per cent of the state population while STs add up to 21 per cent. The BJP has been till now the party of choice for both the communities.
It holds the majority of seats in the constituencies reserved for these categories. While the BJP has 28 out of the 35 SC reserved seats, the party has 31 out of 47 ST reserved seats. The Opposition will attempt to rock the boat for the BJP, given that SC and ST support is crucial for whoever wishes to form the next government.
But on the ground, how is the state placed in terms of atrocities against SCs and STs? As per the latest Crime in India report released by the NCRB, MP with 1823 cases or 27.8 per cent of the total cases has the highest number of cases of atrocities registered against STs in the country. In terms of atrocities on SCs, the state with 4922 cases stands fourth in the country, behind Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.
Why are these cases being reported in MP with alarming alacrity? The violence during the protests against the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act in North MP in early April could be a part of the sub culture in those parts, having existed for centuries, but the stamping of the youth on their chests with caste labels is plain insensitivity on the part of officials responsible for it.
The officials at Dhar claimed that the youth were stamped because of different physical standards for SCs and STs. They, however, didn’t explain why general candidates were not stamped. In stamping the youth, officials displayed deep-rooted biases.
Also, it is evident that Dalits are angry, not only in MP but in many parts of the country at what they perceive as attempts to weaken measures like reservation and criminal laws, what grants them protection. Consequently, they too react with heightened anger whenever an incident is reported.
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s bureaucrats will damage his chances at the hustings with incidents, such as the one at Dhar, in much the same way Digvijaya Singh’s trusted bureaucrats cost him the 2003 elections. Is course correction an option for him, or is it too late?
(Courtesy of Mail Today)