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Discrimination of Dalit people remains rife in Maharashtra

With another Dalit life lost to caste killing, Bahujan lives in the state of Maharashtra remain at risk due to a discriminatory environment where neither law nor societal structures help them get justice.

16-year-old Dalit college student Sanket Bhosale was brutally assaulted by a group of 11 individuals on February 14, following an altercation with Deva, the son of a prominent Shive Shena leader Kailash Dhotre.

The attack left Bhosale with severe injuries, which he would later succumb to on February 21 while undergoing treatment at KEM Hospital. His mutilated body displayed the signs of barbarism unleashed in the name of upholding hierarchy.

The police initially registered a case under sections 367 (kidnapping to subject a person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc.) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. As the caste-based nature of the crime became apparent, however, the accused were also booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) Act.

On February 22, three persons, including Kailash Dhotre, the Bhiwandi Vibhag Pramukh (section head) from Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, the incumbent state government, were arrested in connection with the assault.

The other two arrested individuals were identified as Akash Jadhav and Vishal Sable. This brought the total number of arrests to six, with three others – Dinesh More, Karan Lashkar, and Chandan – having been arrested earlier.

It took police eight days to make any arrests, the delay attributed to the political connections of the accused.


Another caste killing added to an alarmingly long list

Bhosale’s tragedy is devastating but sadly not isolated. In 2023, another Dalit boy Akshay Bhalerao was lynched for the grievous ‘offence’ of celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti.

In 2021, 21-year-old Mumbaikar Akash Jadhav was fatally assaulted by four drunks, who then ensured that the Dalit delivery boy’s family was not allowed to use the common tap in their neighborhood.

During the same year, seven members of two Dalit families were thrashed by local residents on suspicion of practicing ‘black magic’ in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, leaving them seriously injured.

The National Crime Records Bureau recorded around 2763 violent attacks against Dalits in Maharashtra in 2022. The annual murder toll keeps rising as victims’ families await justice that rarely arrives.

Deepak Kedar of All India Panther Sena, a Dalit Rights group asserts: ‘In the past three years, we have noticed 250 killings of Dalits, including cases like Viraj Jagtap. Since the BJP came into power in Maharashtra, there have been some 700 such cases of killing, yet media coverage is lacking.’

Bhosale’s assailants enjoyed the brazen confidence that their political connections would help evade any consequences. Dominant castes often deploy their institutional control to erase evidence, manipulate case records, and delay arrests to protect their own. It took over a week after Bhosale’s death for the accused to even face charges.

This impunity further feeds the unspoken assurance to upper caste communities that violence against Dalits carries markedly less risk. It’s a dangerous message to send.

The cycle of violence enabled by state apathy

Caste crimes continue unabated in Maharashtra but remain largely invisible beyond sporadic headlines, fed by civil society protests. Mainstream discourse moves on unaffected, willfully oblivious to the constant danger and trauma haunting fellow citizens condemned as ‘outcastes’.

The loop catalyzed by police negligence, political complicity, and public apathy sustains the cycle of violence. Rule of law stands powerless as deep-rooted biases mitigate outrage over Dalit atrocities compared to crimes affecting so-called ‘upper’ sections of society.

With the system invested more in shielding rather than prosecuting attackers, the wheels seem to move only when lower caste protests disrupt law and order. No SC/ST Act charges were imposed initially despite multiple accused from upper castes.

Prolonged trials and low conviction rates further deny closure to affected families. According to NCRB data, Maharashtra’s conviction rate is only 11 per cent for crimes against SCs and 12.5 per cent for crimes against STs in 2020, though crimes against these sections increased by 19 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.

Even when sentenced, the perpetrators often secure bail and pardons soon after.

The battle for India’s soul

The death toll for Bahujan lives rises each year while India marches forward proclaiming progress. But this is progress only for the privileged protected by birthright, not for those born into exclusion.

The cure lies not in reactive responses, but in completely dismantling the corrupt social order that produces such injustice. Until then, the curse of caste shall continue to claim its pound of flesh.

Its putrid hand now reaches entire cities, evolving sinister mutations to retain oppressive social control under sugary pretenses of modernity.

For India to truly reclaim its soul, the disease of caste-based dehumanization needs urgent moral, social, and political surgery.

Failing this, the Constitution shall remain a mere paper dream, while young Bhosales, Akshays and Akashs continue staring at us from the obituary columns awaiting a dawn that never arrives.