In the year 2021 alone, Tamil Nadu had witnessed at least 1,272 caste crimes against Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in the state, says the RTI data collected by rights-based organisation Evidence. But what the data does not reveal, is just as grim. With four districts — namely Namakkal, Dindigul, Ranipet and Thiruvallur — refusing to even respond to the RTI application filed by the organisation’s founding director A Kathir, while five other districts provided partial information (only the number of crimes without the seriousness of the offences), the numbers are likely higher, as Evidence notes in their press statement. Speaking to the media after releasing the report last week, Kathir had stated that this lack of information prevented Evidence from pinpointing the exact number of such crimes in the state.
The press note issued by Evidence estimates that had the data been given in full, from all 38 districts in the state, the total number of caste crimes would increase to over 1,400. Besides, these are not the only distressing figures in the report. The organisation points out that while the number of caste crimes are increasing, the conviction rates continue to be extremely low. The state recorded a conviction rate of only 5-7% in 2021, the report says.
The report also draws attention to the reconstitution of the Tamil Nadu State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee in July last year, after the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance came to power. The committee was reconstituted to include the Minister for Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare and all MLAs, irrespective of party affiliation, from SC, ST communities. The committee chaired by Chief Minister MK Stalin has additional duties to meet twice a year, to keep track of whether the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is being properly implemented. Evidence observes in its statement that while this is a welcome change, the committee needs to function far more rigorously, as data from the last three years shows that caste crimes continue unabated in the state. In 2019, Tamil Nadu recorded 1,144 cases, while in 2020, the state saw 1,274 cases.