According to data compiled by the office of the Maharashtra Director General of Police, while 37 cases were registered between January and April 2017 in Pune Rural under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the number in the corresponding period this year has risen to 68.
The sharp rise in cases filed under the PoA Act is not limited to Pune with neighbouring towns and cities too registering a rise in cases ranging from 40 per cent to 80 per cent. In Sangli, there is a record 105 per cent rise in cases filed under the Act compared to the first four months of 2017.
The Maharashtra Police attribute the rise in cases to the unrest in these areas following the Bhima-Koregaon violence. “Whenever an emotional issue leads to polarisation, we witness an increase in conflict, including those under the anti-atrocities Act,” said Inspector General of Police Qaiser Khalid, who heads the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR), a specialised cell of the state police that oversees implementation of the Act.
In Ahmednagar, for instance, while 30 cases were registered between January and April 2017, this year 48 cases have been registered in the same period, a 60 per cent rise. In Sangli, where only eight cases were registered in the first four months of 2017, the number has risen to 20 in 2018. Solapur has witnessed a 41 per cent rise, from 31 cases to 44 this year.
A senior officer in the office of the Director General of Police said the rise in cases was on account of the unrest witnessed after violence broke out during the bicentenary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1. “There were a lot of protests and even a bandh call. Therefore, many cities and towns in Maharashtra with sizeable SC/ST populations saw a spike in cases under the anti-atrocities Act,” he said.
Prakash Ambedkar of the Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh said the increase in cases could be because of the bandh call by his party after the clashes. “After the bandh call on January 3, we had asked people to register cases of loot or body offences if they have been victimised in any way. The rise in numbers could be owing to that,” Ambedkar told The Indian Express.
Incidentally, the increase in cases is despite a February order by the apex court expressing its apprehension over misuse of the Act. According to police, the apex court guidelines are applicable when an offence is registered under the provisions of the PoA Act alone — in Maharashtra, 97 per cent of the cases are registered under the IPC and also invoke the PoA Act. In 2017, of the 2,142 cases registered under the PoA Act, only 55 were registered solely under its provisions. The rest 2,087 cases were registered under the IPC with provisions of the PoA Act also invoked. Similarly in 2016, of the 2,155 cases registered, only 68 saw only the PoA Act invoked.