Posts Tagged ‘Prison’

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

August 17, 2007

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

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More Indians enter Fiji’s prison system

November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The growth rate of Indians entering the prison system over the past three years exceeds the growth rate of Fijians, a study by the Australia and Fiji Law Justice Sector Program has revealed.

And the majority of prisoners in jail today are between the ages of 20-25 years, according to the report by Rehabilitation Adviser David Evans.

It calculated that in 2002 the average prison population was 354 but this figure later sky-rocketed to 501.

It said the significant rise in sentenced prisoners could be owed to increased police efficiency in detection and prosecution, to changes in sentencing practices or demographic changes.

“Whatever the reason, the increase in numbers has placed considerable pressure on a system that already had difficulty coping with inadequate resources,” the report said.

“Being at the end of the criminal justice process chain, prisons have little control over the numbers of prisoners it has had to deal with. Fiji Prisons Service is continually being stretched to the limits.”

A large number of people have been held in remand for short periods but this has a considerable bearing on the workload of the prison authorities, the report said. For this year alone, 1358 prisoners were held in remand, the report said.

It said there were serious shortcomings in prisoner rehabilitation and an over representation of young prisoners serving very short sentences for minor cases.

And together with the lack of programs to address offending behaviour, these factors contributed to prisoners overcrowding in antiquated unsuitable prison accommodation, the report said.