MADURAI: As per an RTI reply received by activist A Kathir recently, over 1,270 cases of violence meted out to persons belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) were registered in Tamil Nadu in 2021. Madurai district topped the list with 117 cases.
In the light of this reply from the State Police Department, several activists have urged the government to launch an exclusive helpline number for reporting incidents of violence against SC members.
Evidence, a social rights-based organisation run by Kathir, has been engaged in the collection of data on violence against SC persons, especially women and children.
Out of 37 districts in the State, only 32 have furnished data on the number of cases in the RTI reply.
The remaining districts have either not provided the data or submitted only partial information.
Out of the total 1,272 cases reported, about 609 are serious offences, which could attract a prison sentence of over seven years.
As many as 33 murders, 43 rapes and 293 incidents of assault using dangerous weapons were reported in the State last year. In comparison, Tamil Nadu reported 1,144 incidents of caste violence in 2019 and 1,274 incidents in the following year.
Speaking to TNIE, Kathir lamented that the conviction rate under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was only around 5%-7%. “Despite the amendment to the Act in 2015 clearly calling for the fast-tracking of case trials in order to provide the victims justice, a huge number of cases are still under trial or investigation for a long time.
So, the State government should consider setting up special courts for conducting trials in cases booked under the SC/ST Act in all the districts. At present, only half of the total number of districts have exclusive courts for these cases,” he said.
“While the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to form a special committee comprising 63 members, to chalk out measures to curb caste atrocities is appreciable, it should be ensured that the committee meets at regular intervals. The government should also launch a helpline number for the victims to lodge complaints,” Kathir demanded.