In 2014 (latest available data), 3.4 per cent of crimes against SCs in Gujarat ended in convictions, against a national rate of 28.8 per cent -- one conviction for every eight across the country.

Against STs, that conviction rate was 1.8 per cent, against the national average of 37.9 per cent -- one conviction for every 21 cases. Dalit unrest began on July 11, 2016, when four Dalit youth were tied to a car and gau rakshaks, or cow protectors, took turns to flog them as a crowd watched.

The crime: Skinning a dead cow. Later, the upper-caste vigilantes posted a video of the flogging on social media as a warning of sorts to others -- Dalits and Muslims. The video of another attack in May has also now emerged. The Gujarat government has arrested suspects, but the gau rakshaks' courage appears rooted in the failures of Gujarat's criminal-justice system in addressing crimes against the lowest of Hindu castes and tribes.

A similar failure is evident in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Over a decade, conviction rate of crimes against SCs is 5 per cent; against STs, 4.3 per cent Over the decade ending 2014, the average conviction rate in cases of crimes against SCs in Gujarat was five per cent; in crimes against STs, it was 4.3 per cent. The national average was 29.2 per cent and 25.6 per cent, according to NCRB data.

This means that suspects in 95 of 100 cases are acquitted. Over 10 years, the lowest conviction rate in crimes against SCs in Gujarat was 2.1 per cent in 2011; against STs, it was 1.1 per cent in 2005. The conviction rate for all crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code nationwide was 45.1 per cent in 2014. "If the conviction rate is low, people who can afford a good lawyer know that they can get away with their crime," Supreme Court lawyer Kamlesh Kumar Mishra said.

Karnataka and Maharashtra are on par with Gujarat, with a similar five per cent  conviction rate for crimes against SCs/STs. In Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, about half of such cases end in conviction.

"There is discrimination at each point in the whole chain of access to justice for Dalits and Adivasis (as STs are called)," said Paul Divakar, Convener of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an advocacy group, pointing to flawed chargesheets and investigations.

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