MADURAI: With the Prison Statistics India 2013 report of the National Crime Records Bureau showing a disproportionately higher percentage of Dalits in jails as opposed to their population in the country, sociologists and Dalit activists have attributed this to societal mindset.
C Lakshmanan, an Assistant Professor with the Madras Institute of Development Studies, attributed this disproportionate presence of SC/STs in prisons to the changing political economy where opportunities for the deprived communities are shrinking. When asked why the increasing political representation of SC/STs has not changed the trend, he said, “The parties that claim to represent the SC/STs only act as power brokers and they are least interested in the development of the SC/ST people.”
Lakshmanan also cited that the prejudice against Dalits among personnel in law enforcement agencies could also be a reason for the increased presence of SC/STs in jails.
Echoing his views, A Kathir, executive director of the pro-Dalit non-governmental organisation ‘Evidence’ alleged, “Often, SC/ST people become easy targets for the police to book cases since they are vulnerable and lack adequate legal aid.”