INDIA: Dalits face a social boycott for asserting their right to vote; most are forced to leave home


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-095-2009
ISSUES: Caste-based discrimination, Land rights, Migrant workers, Police negligence, Police violence,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that 125 Dalit families have been forced to leave their village after they voted in the lower house parliament election. Earlier in the year upper-caste members had assaulted the village council head, a Dalit, when he refused to vote for their favoured candidate.  He registered a complaint with the police and arranged police protection for Dalits during the voting period. In response the upper-caste community started a complete social and economic boycott against the village Dalits. Police and NGO staff have managed to reduce the boycott to an employment ban, but this has already forced 125 families to leave the village. The remaining 75 plan to leave soon, when a government support scheme expires.


According to Gujarat-based NGO, Navsarjan, there are two hundred Dalit families in Kanothi village, along with around sixty Darbar, sixty Brahmin and forty Patel families which make up the dominant castes. Most earning Scheduled Caste (SC) members (Dalits) used to work as sharecroppers on land owned by upper caste families.

A Lok Sabha (lower parliament) election was held in Kanothi on 30 April 2009. The village Sarpanch, or leader, Mr. Versibhai Dayhabhai Badhiya and his brother were reportedly approached by thirteen members of the dominant community (ten Darbars and three Patels) and instructed to vote for their chosen candidate. When he refused, Badhiya and his brother say that they were harassed and beaten; the women in the family were slandered.

On the day of the vote casting Bhadiya sought police protection, and officers monitored the area until the voting closed at 5pm. However when the police left, around fifty upper-caste persons allegedly gathered around Bhadiya’s home with weapons (including wooden sticks, sickles, and swords) and shouted threats, such as ‘Kill all these Koda’ (a derogatory term for Dalits in that district). The mob only dispersed when a large group of Dalits arrived to protect Bhadiya.

That evening Bhadiya attempted to file a complaint at the Suigam Police Station but was told that the Police Inspector was absent. The complaint was registered two days later after an order from the District Superintendent of Police (DSP) at Palanpur.

In a temple that evening the members of the upper castes announced that anyone who did not socially and economically boycott the Dalits would be fined Rs 5000. This included giving them work, and allowing them to use shops or rickshaws with dominant-caste drivers.

None of the responsible authorities took action for 25 days, while the community struggled. On May 27, with the help of Navsarjan fieldworkers, several Dalits submitted a memorandum on the boycott to the Palanpur Superintendent of Police (SP), Mr. Hare Krishna Patel, who then ordered the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) and the Suigam Station Police Inspector to conduct an investigation and provide police protection to the Dalit community.  Patel also instructed them to seize the vehicles and to close the grocery shops that were participating in the boycott.  

Shops and rickshaws began to serve the Dalits again but the ban on work continues. 125 families have had to migrate from the village to earn a living; most of the remaining families are from older generations, and have stayed behind to look after the housing plots. However they think it unlikely they’ll be able to stay when the NREGA scheme expires. The NREGA provides 100 days of work for 100 rupees a day, and has been running for about 60 days.

Lower caste villagers are still finding it difficult to find transport; rickshaws do not readily stop for them and, when onboard they are told to sit at a distance from other passengers because they are ‘dhedh’ (derogatory term for lower-caste members). It’s a hostile situation, and is particularly difficult for the elderly, who can’t walk far.

Now that the Dalits are outnumbered by upper-caste members, they Dalits avoid certain section of the village to avoid trouble, and suffer regular verbal assaults; the women, in particular, feel vulnerable outside of their homes. The remaining villagers are also finding hard to be separated from so many in their families and community; the education of the migrant children has been disrupted.

No legally mandated relief, compensation, or rehabilitation has been provided to any of the victims beyond the terms of the NREGA scheme.


SP Hare Krishna Patel’s response to the boycott in Kanothi was swift and laudable. His orders to seize the participating vehicles and close participating shops brought tangible relief. Sadly this kind of action is unique. Indifference to the plight of Dalits is endemic and it will take action on the part of more than a solitary figure to properly safeguard Dalit human rights.

Since the election on April 30, 2009, police and officials have failed to properly respond to the events as they should have under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1959 (SC/ST Act) and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (hereinafter, the PCR Act).

1. Police protection should have continued after the voting day.  Under Section 17 of the SC/ST Act, police officers and Executive Magistrates have a duty to ‘take necessary action for keeping the peace and good behavior and maintenance of public order and tranquility’ and to ‘take appropriate action…to prevent atrocities and to restore the feeling of security…’ Under SC/ST Rules 3(1)(x) the government must deploy a special police force in any area identified to be prone to atrocities.

2. The Suigam Station Police Inspector violated his duty. Bhadiya was unable to register his complaint for two days, and had to rely on an order from the DSP (SC/ST Rules Section 5).

3. The FIR does not include all the relevant sections of the SC/ST Act. SC/ST Act 3(1)(vii) for example, refers to forcing or intimidating a member of a SC to vote for a particular candidate.

4. The police failed to promptly and adequately respond to the complaint, which exposed the victims to retaliation. The investigation was delayed and the charge sheet not registered until June 13, 2009 – beyond the 30 day maximum (SC/ST Rules 7.2). Adequate protection was not given to the victims during the course of investigation.  Immediate police protection should have been provided (SC/ST Rules 3.x, 6.2.iii, 6.2.iv, and 12.2.3). Protection was not given until May 27 at the order of the SP and bail was immediately granted to the accused (Section 18 of the SC/ST Act), which allowed them to further perpetrate the boycott.  Finally, no immediate relief was provided to victims (SC/ST Act 6.2.v, 10.1, and SC/ST Rules 12.4, 15.1.a).

5. Despite orders from the SP on May 27, the boycott and migration were ignored by the responsible authorities. The FIR does not include any provisions on the boycott or forced migration (such as SC/ST Act Sections 3.1.c, 3.1.xiv and PCR Sections 6 and 7). There is no additional FIR lodged on these issues.  Mr. Bhadiya sent a memorandum on the boycott to the Mamlatdar (District Executive Magistrate) on May 25, 2009 but no response was given.  An investigation was not made on the boycott until the order from the SP on May 27.  Up to the date of this complaint, a declaration of a social boycott was not issued by a Social Welfare Officer, which prevents the victims’ access to relief and rehabilitation from the Social Welfare Department.  Furthermore, the Vigilance Officer and the Nodal Officer responsible for overseeing the implementation of the SC/ST Act failed to visit the site of the atrocity.

6. Victims of atrocities under the SC/ST Act are entitled to immediate relief, compensation, as well as economic and social rehabilitation. Members of the community have lost their livelihood and have been forced to migrate from the village, but no such relief, compensation, or rehabilitation has been given (under the SC/ST Act 21.2.iii, and SC/ST Rules 15.1.f, 15.1.c). Additionally no legal aid or maintenance and travel expenses was provided by the district administration (SC/ST Act 21.2.1, PCR 15A.2.1 and SC/ST Act 21.2.ii respectively).

7. There are additional steps available to the State Government which may effectively end the boycott on labour. The state government has the power to impose a collective fine on those who perpetrate a boycott against Dalits (under SC/ST Act Section 16 and PCR Act Section 10A). The success of the steps taken by Patel show how important tangible punishments are in fighting social boycotts.  A punishable boycott includes one which refuses ‘to deal with, work for, hire for or do business with…or receive from him any customary service, or…abstains from such social, professional or business relations as he would ordinarily maintain with such other person.’ (Under the definition provided by Explanation 1 to Section 7 of the PCR Act). Under this a collective fine could have been levied.

Authorities responsible for protecting Dalits should employ every mechanism made available to them by the laws of India in responding to social boycotts.  This is the only way by which justice and equal protection of the law can be secured for Dalit citizens.


India ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination over four decades ago. In 2007 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) stated in its concluding observations on India (CERD/C/IND/CO/19, 5 May 2007) that it welcomed ‘the special measures adopted by the State party to advance the equal enjoyment of rights by members of scheduled castes and schedules tribes’.

However this case is exactly what the UN wishes to abolish. The Committee ‘urges the State party to intensify its efforts to enforce the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955), especially in rural areas, including by effectively punishing acts of ‘Untouchability’, to take effective measures against segregation …  and to ensure equal access for Dalits (to) places or services intended for use by the general public’. Furthermore this case only highlights the legitimacy of CERD’s concern for ‘the lack of information …  on concrete measures taken to implement existing anti-discrimination and affirmative action legislation’.

Though indeed ‘efforts (are) being made to empower the Scheduled Tribes, which … emanate from our Constitution and are supported by a large array of legal and administrative measures’, ‘implementation can always be improved’, as was mildly put by Mr. Swashpawan Singh, the ambassador and permanent representative of India, at the 70th session of the CERD in 2007.


Please send letters to the authorities listed below expressing your concern in this case. The AHRC is also sending a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear _______,

INDIA: Dalits face a social boycott for asserting their right to vote; most are forced to leave home

Names of victims:
1. Mr. Versibhai Dayhabhai Badhiya (member of a Scheduled Caste, 45 years old), the council head of Kanothi Village, Vav Taluka, Banaskantha District
As well as the Dalit community of Kanothi Village, Vav Taluka, Banaskantha District

Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Suigam Station Police Inspector 
And the non-Dalit community of Kanothi Village, Vav Taluka, Banaskantha District

Date of incident: April 30 to May 27, 2009 
Place of incident: Kanothi Village, Vav Taluka, Banaskantha District

I am writing to express my concern about a social boycott against a Dalit community and the inappropriate police response to it.

I am informed by Navsarjan, a human rights organisation based in Gujarat, that Mr. Badhiya and his brother were approached by 13 non-Dalits on April 30 and instructed to vote for the non-Dalits’ chosen candidate in the Lok Sabha (House of the People in the National Parliament) election. His refusal lead to the pair being physically and verbally harassed. Mr. Badhiya filed a complaint despite prolonged resistance from the police and in response the non-Dalit community started a boycott, forbidding any economic or social interaction with the Dalits on pain of a Rs 5000 fine.

Since the boycott started 125 families have allegedly been forced to leave in order to find work. The remaining 75 families will most likely also have to leave after the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme expires, which currently ensures the Dalits 100 days of work at 100 rupees per day.

Though we have been informed that Mr. Hare Krishna Patel, the Superintendent of Police, gave several orders which were effective in lessening the social boycott, the overall response of the police and the government has been inadequate.

The police protection provided was insufficient in length, extending only until the closing of the election at 5 pm on April 30, the same day as the initial assault on Mr. Badhiya. On May 2, the Suigam Station Police Inspector refused to register Mr. Bhadiya’s complaint for two days, in violation of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989). This neglect was evident again when the District Executive Magistrate gave no response to a memorandum filed by Mr. Bhadhiya on May 25, and when an investigation was not made into the boycott, despite an order from the Superintendent of Police on May 27. Furthermore the NREGA scheme offers only 100 days of relief, while the boycott continues.

These incidents are unacceptable violations of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), ratified by India in 1968. As was highlighted by the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s report on India in 2007, the human rights of these Dalits have been given no regard. I therefore request that:

1. The victims be provided adequate police protection for the needed duration;
2. A charge be made against the Suigam Station Police Inspector;
3. An inquiry be held into the entire incident;
4. A First Information Report (FIR) be registered that includes all relevant and proper sections of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989)
5. The boycott and migration be officially recognized as long as necessary by the responsible authorities;
6. The victims of atrocities be given immediate relief, compensation, as well as economic and social rehabilitation, as entitled under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), including the extension of the NREGA scheme to as long as the boycott is in place. 

A more detailed analysis of the legal violations in this case, plus further recommendations, can be found on the website of the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Yours sincerely,



1. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of Gujarat 
Block No.5, 8th Floor 

2. Directorate of Scheduled Caste Welfare 
Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of Gujarat 
Block No.5, 8th Floor 

3. Director General of Police 
Police Bhawan Sector – 18 
Gujarat 382 009 
Fax: + 91 177 23253918

4. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of India 
Shastri Bhawan 
Dr Rajendra Prasad Road 
New Delhi – 110 001 
Fax + 91 11 23384918 

5. Chairperson 
National Human Rights Commission 
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg 
New Delhi 110001 
Fax + 91 11 2338 6521 

6. Chairperson 
National Commission for Scheduled Castes 
5th Floor 
Lok Nayak Bhawan 
Khan Market 
New Delhi 110 003 
E-mail: or

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission ( 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-095-2009
Countries : India,
Issues : Caste-based discrimination, Land rights, Migrant workers, Police negligence, Police violence,