New Delhi: Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis — three of the most vulnerable sections of Indian society — make up more than half of country’s prison population, according to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Prison Statistics India for the year 2013.
Although the proportion of these three communities in India adds up to about 39%, their share amongst prisoners is considerably higher at 53%.
According to the 2013 Census, there were 4.2 lakh people in Indian prisons. Almost 20 percent of them were Muslims although according to the Census 2001 percentage share of Muslims in India’s population was merely 13 percent.
And it is just not for the Muslims. According to the Census of 2011, Dalits constitute 22 percent of all prisoners although they make up around 17 percent of India’s total population.
That’s not it. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) make up an approximate of 25.2 percent of the Indian population according to the Census of 2011 but their share in India prisons stands at 33.3 percent.
What could be the reason of this high percentage of these three communities in jail? Do they commit more crimes? The answer is ‘NO’. It’s not because they are more involved in criminal cases. Instead, they are in jails because they are poor and fail to pay money to fight their cases or at manier times pay bail. Some say that these communities are targeted with false cases too.
Prominent experts were also quoted by news daily saying the same about this high percentage.
Former chief justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, who headed the committee that brought out a report on the condition of Muslim community in India in 2006, pointed out that there had been several cases of Muslim youths being acquitted after years in prison.
“Poverty is more preva lent among these three communities and that becomes an obstacle in dealing with the legal system,” said Colin Gonsalves, human rights activist and lawyer.
“Our system has an ingrained communal and casteist bias. Also, the proportion of these communities in the police officers and even judiciary is less. These are key factors behind this shocking imbalance,” he added.
AIMIM Supremo barrister Asaduddin Owaisi holds Indian political parties responsible for this pitiable condition of Muslims “The representation of Muslims in jails is high while their political representation is low,” he lamented.
The statistics about prisoners are published by National Crime Records Bureau since 1995 and caste based breakup is available since 1999.