You are currently viewing Police Accountability Done Right: Learning From India’s Denotified Tribes

Caste-based discrimination in India was codified into law in 1871 by the British colonial authorities when they enacted the Criminal Tribes Act branding several nomadic and indigenous communities as “hereditary criminals” – criminals by birth, enforced through the institution of policing. Though this law was repealed in 1952, the devastating taint of criminality for these “Denotified Tribes” (DNTs or “Vimukta”) has persisted through vague laws and caste-based policing. Lawyer and social entrepreneur Nikita Sonavane co-founded the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project in Bhopal, India to end the disproportionate targeting of oppressed caste communities by the criminal justice system. Ashoka’s Angelou Ezeilo sat down with Nikita to learn more.

Angelou Ezeilo: Nikita, your initiative, which aims to increase transparency in policing, is challenging some long-held forms of discrimination in India. Could you give us a brief overview of your country’s caste system?

Nikita Sonavane: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the

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