June 30, 2008

Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%

Posted in Human Rights tagged , , , , , at 9:29 am by zarb

Counter View: A Few Myths, Fewer Facts about Muslims

When Zakir Hussain was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in planting the bombs during the “Bombay Blasts” of 1993, he shouted, “If a Hindu does something, a commission is set up. But if a Muslim does something, he is hanged.” This was in reference to the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the riots that had followed in December 1992 and January 1993.

The Srikrishna Commission, constituted to determine the causes of the riots in which approximately 900 people, predominantly Muslim, were killed, had stated that, “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12th March 1993 appear to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter. There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts.”

The recommendations of the Commission have never been brought into force. This has led to a number of people speculating whether justice is done to Muslims in India, whether they are being punished disproportionately, that, “Soon India’s jails will be choc-a-block with Muslims.”

Indian Muslims in Jail

In such cases it is possibly best to check the facts. The prison statistics from the National Crimes Record Bureau indicate that the percentage of Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%.

This is higher than the percentage of Muslims living in India, at 13.4% or thereabouts. It would be tempting to shout, “Aha! Proof of bias!” but a rigorous analysis would lead to a more nuanced view because of the geographic distribution of both prison population and Muslims. Over half of Indian Muslims live in the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, which account for 21% of convicted prisoners and 42% of undertrials in Indian jails. In effect Indian Muslims live in geographic areas where more people are sent to jail, either as convicts or as undertrials.

A far more fascinating result is that the percentage of Muslims who are undertrials is slightly less than that of those convicted. In other words proportionately more Muslims are adjudged “innocent” than Hindus (whose undertrial to convict ratio is: 69.6% to 70.7% and even Christians (whose undertrial to convict ratio is 3.8% to 4.2%).

Indian Muslims and Crime

The question of bias could also be turned on its head, and it could be said that high proportionately of Muslims means more crime. The data does not support such a conclusion.

The two states where such high population of people are in jail, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have a Muslim population of 18.5% and 16.5% respectively and contribute 6.7% and 5.4% of All-India crimes . West Bengal and Assam, in which the percentage of Muslims is at 25.2% and 30.9%, contribute only 3.6% and 2.3% of all-India crimes.

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu all produce more than 8.5% of India’s crimes individually, making them the most crime-prone states in the country. In all of these high crime states Indian Muslims make up, at the most, 10.6% of the population, less than the Indian average.

The one state where Muslims constitute a majority of the population, at 67% in Jammu & Kashmir, which has been wracked by militancy and violence, contributes to only 1.1% of Indian crime, about the same as its population compared to all-India figures.

Indian Muslims as Citizens or as Muslims

Despite these statistics it would be idle to say that Indian Muslims do not, from time to time, face problems, as do most people that constitute a marginalised group in society. The recent Sachar Committee report by the Government of India cites very low levels of socio-economic indicators for Indian Muslims.

As a child I lived in the Oil & Natural Commission compound in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is a city that has faced many riots and we were the only Muslims in the compound. During times of tension when my father was working offshore on the oilrig, our manservant, Jumraati would assure my mother, “They’ll have to get through me first, behni”.

A decade or so later, my great-uncle, Major-General Afsir Karim, was asked to deploy troops in the same city to help the civilian administration keep the peace. In 2000, when he was with the National Security Advisory Board, he was questioned by a woman during a televised talk show about minorities. He interrupted her to say, “Ma’am, I am a citizen of India, and so are you. What minorities are you talking about?”

His response to state failure is strikingly different to that of the recently convicted Zakir Hussain. Whereas one tried to make sure that such failure did not recur, the other became a pawn used to kill innocents in a supposed act of “vengeance”. For me, between the words of a man of somebody who has put his life on the line many times in the defence of innocent civilians and those of somebody convicted of murdering them, there can only be one choice.

(Omair Ahmad works on issues of Security, Law & Strategic Affairs for PRS Legislative Research, an autonomous institute that provides research support for Indian Parliamentarians. He has previously worked for the British High Commission, New Delhi, and the Voice of America, Washington DC. His novel, “Encounters” on the radicalisation of two young men during the curfew days of the 90s was published in 2007.)

Omair Ahmad / IBNLive Specials; Thursday, August 16, 2007 www.ibnlive.com



Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: