Rakesh Sinha got a taste of what it is like to be a Dalit. Even if it was for 5 minutes. During Bharat Bandh on April 2, as Dalits were protesting against the Supreme Court verdict on SC/ST act, Sinha was dragged in a police van, detained and abused by the Noida police while he was going to an event.

His fault? The police thought he was a Dalit activist. His ‘Dalit’ identity was enough for them to detain and abuse him. It didn't matter that he had not broken any law.

If it wasn’t for Sinha’s tweet - we would have never known that Noida police was out to harass and detain Dalit activists even if they were abiding by the law.

This episode shows how the police and administration works hand-in-glove against the Dalits in current system.

Notice Sinha’s tweet that mentions police assuming he was Dalit Activist —as if it was like a synonym to goons. He asked the police to consider ‘human dignity’ because he was arrested. But he forgot to add while talking to channels that Dalits could be facing this targeted harassment by police at no fault of theirs.

Media wrongly Blames Dalits for Violence

After death of 8 people mostly Dalits, and multiple Police arrests, it was the turn of Media to rub it in. Entire prime time of 2 April was full of headlines mentioning large scale “Dalit violence”. The channels did not even mention that most of the people died during the band were Dalits. Many fake videos/photos were shared on social media criticizing Dalit violence but channels did not rebuke it.

Even when a video footage of “intruder” Raja Chauhan shooting at Dalits in Gwalior was available, most channels did not highlight that he wasn’t a Dalit.

The fact that he is still not arrested shows how upper castes can get away from law despite having video proof. Even next day on April 3, Dalit leaders houses were burned but it did not become media story.

Police and Prejudice

Rakesh Sinha’s example shows why Dalits are angry about the dilution of SC/ST act where SC bench spoke of ‘safe guards for upper caste against misuse’.

Justifying its own verdict the SC bench held that “There is also no bar on registration of FIR under any provision of the penal code or any other law and the offenses under the SC/ST Act being added later, if necessary.”

The bench seems to be completely unaware of the realities on the ground as far as experience of Dalits going to police station is concerned. On April 5, in UP’s Kasganj when an Educated Dalit Sanjay Kumar wanted to take procession on horse for his marriage, Police asked him to take detour away from upper caste so that “traditions are not broken” —obviously not to antagonize the powerful Thakur community.

In April 2014, Nitin Age a 17-year old Dalit was killed by upper castes in Maharashtra for talking to an upper caste girl, but the police never registered case under Atrocity Act. So What the SC bench said about filing criminal case first and adding SC ST act only after through verification — sounds like a hogwash. All the accused were let off in Nov 2017 by Ahmadnagar district court as lack of atrocity act meant immediate arrest and testimonials couldn't be taken and the witness turned hostile due to huge delay in the trial.

With so much power already vested with law enforcing like Police, any additional delay in verification before arresting culprits can make the case very weak.

Supreme Court overlooks rising crime graph against SC/ST

NICB data of 2017 shows that there has been sharp decline in the conviction rate of crimes against SC/ST, with 84% of the times the accused are let off nationally.

Crimes against SC/ST increased sharply to 24% from 38,000 in 2014 to 47,000 in 2016. This was the situation before SC gave the infamous verdict citing “misuse” by Dalits. But the court failed to give any detailed evidence of misuse and did not even mention the soaring crime graph against Dalits as per NICB data, not to mention the ground reality of police and administration’s antipathy towards Dalits.

Upper caste person like Rakesh Sinha who enjoyed RSS Backing was quick to be let off but not before he had the last laugh —he got the SHO suspended. This privilege doesn’t rest with Dalits. While Yogi acted on a tweet from Sinha and Punished the SHO, Chhote Lal, BJP’s own Dalit MP from Robertsganj was “Thrown out” by CM Yogi when he went to complain about something.

You can see proximity to power doesn't always get the job done, given the caste bias.

In Uttar Pradesh, A Chandrashekar Azad, Chief of Bhim has been detained by UP police even after he got bail. Draconian National security act imposed on him meant that he would not get bail easily.

Even during Bhima koregaon protest, early this year, thousands of Dalit boys aged 14-16 were picked up and illegally detained by police in Mumbai.

The 5-minute ‘ordeal’ of Sinha may have ended but it definitely showed how difficult it was to be a Dalit facing police. The SC/ST act dilution will only give Police an unprecedented power in an extremely prejudiced system of Police -Administration- Political nexus, leaving Dalits extremely vulnerable.

(Ravikiran Shinde is an independent writer on social and political subjects)