Nagaur perpetrators must be punished – editorials
On February 16, in Nagaur, Rajasthan, two Dalit men were assaulted, stripped and tortured on suspicion of robbery at a vehicle service center. The videos of the incident show the brutal, almost indescribable nature of violence, even when men are seen asking for mercy. Police recorded a first information report three days later, once the video went viral. Seven men have been reserved according to a series of provisions of the Indian Criminal Code and the Program of castes and programmed tribes (atrocity prevention), and five of them have been arrested.
The episode highlights two disturbing issues. On the one hand, it reflects the continuing threats faced by Dalits 70 years after the Constitution promised the right to equality and non-discrimination on caste grounds. While the crime may have been rooted in suspected theft, the element of caste bias in violence is unmistakable. In fact, the atrocities reported against the Dalits have only grown throughout the country. This is happening at a time when the Dalits have begun to find a voice and are more assertive in public spaces. This, in itself, has provoked a violent reaction from those who continue to cling to hierarchical and discriminatory practices. A strong message that the State will not tolerate this violence and will not ignore such acts is essential to deter caste atrocities. The commitment of the Rajasthan government to bring the case to a logical conclusion is welcome.
The second problem is the tendency of people to take the law into their own hands. This has been seen in personal disputes, for political and ideological reasons, and in inter-community tensions. Rajasthan, in particular, has been the site of brutal lynchings in recent years, where defendants have often escaped. This shows that the State cannot maintain its monopoly over force; is weak or unwilling to act against crimes and establishes a strong deterrent culture; and justice has been elusive. This must change; Nagaur must not happen again.