IT is shameful that a Dalit youth in Punjab should be tied to a pillar, forced to drink urine and mercilessly killed even as celebrations of Guru Nanak’s anniversary are at their peak and his teachings that transformed a caste-ridden society are being reinforced with a renewed vigour. The brutal thrashing that Sangrur's Jagmale Singh had to endure, leading up to the amputation of his legs and a painful death, shows that our society has a long way to go before it is rid of the abhorrent caste-based atrocities.
Bant Singh, a Dalit Sikh of Punjab seeking justice for the gangrape of his daughter in 2006, was luckier. He survived an attack, though he lost his limbs. The demands for justice to the victims’ families must channelise us to social reform. The government should not put a lid on this heinous crime with the awarding of compensation to the victims’ families. Otherwise, it would be just another statistic in the gory list of inhuman acts. The outrage over the latest heart-wrenching brutality of September when two Dalit children in MP were thrashed to death for defecating in the open must not go in vain.
While such extreme instances are rare, they underscore the simmering undercurrent of continued social oppression and economic deprivation of the lower caste strata in Punjab. Atrocities are heaped upon them in many small ways as social hierarchical divisions remain well entrenched and are difficult to pierce through. The low conviction rate in such crimes only encourages the perpetuation of criminal discrimination that pits people against one another. The National Crime Records Bureau survey reveals that while crimes against SCs/STs have registered a significant spike (40/118 per cent), the conviction rate under laws to prevent abuse on them is a mere 28 per cent as against 46 per cent under the IPC. The legal deterrents need to be coupled with a social and political awakening for people to breach the caste barrier and end oppression of the underprivileged.