The national census does not recognize racial or ethnic groups; population is categorized by language spoken. Society has traditionally been divided into castes or clans. Caste is a complex Hindu social hierarchy traditionally based on ritual purity and occupation. While caste was outlawed in 1949, the
registration of castes and tribes remains for the purpose of affirmative action programs. Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, and the government continued to implement various programs to empower members of the low castes. The law gives the president authority to identify historically disadvantaged castes and tribes (who are outside of the caste system) for special quotas and benefits; these are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Discrimination based on caste remained prevalent, particularly in rural areas.
The term Dalit, derived from the Sanskrit for "oppressed" or "crushed," refers to members of what are traditionally regarded as the lowest Hindu castes, which are the Scheduled Castes (SC). Many SC members continued to face impediments to social advancement. According to the 2001 census, SC members constituted 16 percent (168.6 million persons) of the population. The MHA 2010-11 annual report noted 33,594 cases of registered crimes against SC members in 2009, compared with 33,615 cases in 2008. On March 1, the MHA informed parliament that 4,410 Dalits were hurt in various incidents and 1,683 persons were convicted of crimes against Dalits, according to NCRB records.
Although the law protects Dalits, in practice they faced violence and significant discrimination in access to services such as health care and education, attending temples, and marriage. Reports from the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. For example, on February 7, a 16-year-old Dalit girl was mutilated when she resisted a rape attempt in Bindaki, Uttar Pradesh. The attackers cut off her nose, ear, and part of her hand and inflicted deep wounds on her legs and back. Authorities arrested the three accused youths and put them in prison. At year's end the case had not gone to trial.
Many Dalits were malnourished. Most bonded laborers were Dalits. Dalits who asserted their rights often were attacked, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits often worked without remuneration. Crimes committed by upper-caste Hindus against Dalits often went unpunished, either because the authorities failed to prosecute or because victims did not report the crimes due to fear of retaliation.
On January 14, Purushottam Dwivedi, a member of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly from the Bahujan Samaj Party, was imprisoned for raping a minor Dalit girl in December 2010 at his home in Banda District. The girl escaped when Dwivedi allegedly attempted rape for the third time, and she was subsequently arrested on theft charges. On January 20, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati ordered the suspension of four police officers and a jailer for their laxity and complicity in the case. On September21, the CBI registered a case against Dwivedi and four others for the alleged rape. At year's end the case had not gone to trial.
NGOs reported that students were denied admission to certain schools because of their caste or were required to present caste certification prior to receiving admission. According to the executive director for the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, caste discrimination continued in Karnataka, particularly in rural areas. Dalits in rural Karnataka frequently were denied access to temples, clean water sources, and passage through village streets.
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) continued to highlight continuing caste-based discrimination in the state. According to the TNUEF, many Dalits were not permitted to walk on public pathways, wear footwear, access water from public taps in upper caste neighborhoods, participate in some temple festivals, bathe in public pools, or use some cremation grounds. For example, Dalits in Perali village, Perambalur District, reported that they could not ride bicycles on streets where upper caste families reside. There were also separate temples on upper caste and Dalit streets so that the two communities could worship separately.
On June 17, the NHRC asked the Tamil Nadu government to submit a report on the alleged beating of a Dalit boy who took water from a public tap in Karikkilipalayam village, Coimbatore District. The NHRC also asked the government to report on specific steps taken to prevent future acts of discrimination against Dalits.
During the year there were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit at the back of the class, or forced Dalit children to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities. There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper caste families.
The federal and state governments continued to implement various programs for scheduled caste members, ostensibly to provide better quality housing, reserved seats in schools, government jobs, and access to subsidized foods, but critics claimed that many programs suffered from poor implementation and corruption.
In April2010 members of the dominant Jat community burned 10 Dalit homes in Mirchpur, Haryana, killing 70-year-old Tara Chand and his disabled
daughter Suman and injuring more than a dozen other individuals. On September 24, newspapers reported that of the 97 persons accused, 82 of them were acquitted by a Delhi court. Fifteen persons were convicted but none were found guilty of murder; three were convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, with a maximum 10-year jail term. After the verdict was announced, calm prevailed, with both sides agreeing that the arrest of 97 persons was unjustified.
The issue of manual scavenging continued, and the National Advisory Council set March 2012 as the new deadline for abolishing the practice, despite the practice having been outlawed under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prevention) Act of 1993. On September 21, Chennai's National Commission for Scavenger's Welfare reported that men were being forced to get into sewage pits without safety measures despite orders against the practice, and requested state intervention. Violators may face up to one year's imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 rupees ($38), but the law was not enforced. In June six persons died in the Kolar Gold Fields, near Bangalore, as a result of illnesses contracted from manual scavenging.