March 5, 2019 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Bengaluru: A disturbing number of alleged hate crimes – including assault, rape and murder – were reported in 2018 against people from marginalized groups, especially Dalits and Muslims, said Amnesty India today, as it released data recorded on its interactive website, ‘Halt the Hate’.
“The first step to ensuring justice and ending impunity for hate crimes – where people are targeted because they belong to a particular group – is to highlight their occurrence,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India.
“Unfortunately, the true extent of hate crimes in India is unknown because the law – with some exceptions – does not recognize hate crimes as specific offences. The police need to take steps to unmask any potentially discriminatory motive in a crime, and political leaders must be more vocal in denouncing such violence.”
“Legal reforms that enable recording of hate crimes and strengthen accountability must be a priority for any government that comes to power following the upcoming general elections.
“Despite the welcome directions issued by the Supreme Court of India last year to deal with cases of targeted mob violence, these incidents seem to have continued with alarming impunity.”
On 17 July 2018, the Supreme Court of India, responding to a petition regarding violence by cow protection groups, described mob lynchings as “an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself”. It further directed states to put in place certain preventive, remedial, and punitive measures to combat mob violence. According to civil society groups, the implementation of these guidelines has not been adequate.
The ‘Halt the Hate’ website documents alleged hate crimes against people from marginalized communities, including Dalits, Adivasis, members of racial or religious minority groups, transgender persons, and migrants. It relies on cases reported in mainstream English and Hindi media.
In 2018, the website documented a total of 218 incidents of alleged hate crimes. 142 of these were against Dalits, 50 against Muslims, and 8 each against Christians, Adivasis, and Transgender people.
There were 97 incidents of assault and 87 killings reported. 40 incidents were reported where women from marginalized groups or transgender persons faced sexual violence. Dalit women, in particular, faced a disproportionate amount of sexual violence, facing 33 out of 40 incidents of sexual violence. (Figure 2)
Cow-related violence and so-called ‘honour’ killings were among the common instances of alleged hate crimes.
Of all the states and union territories where hate crime incidents were tracked, the top five states are Uttar Pradesh (57), Gujarat (22), Rajasthan (18), Tamil Nadu (16) and Bihar (14). For the third straight year, Uttar Pradesh is reported to have the highest number of hate crimes, with 50 incidents in 2017 and 60 incidents in 2016. (Figure 3)
The website documents alleged hate crimes from September 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq was killed in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, for allegedly killing a cow. It uses English and Hindi language media to collect a record of these reported incidents. Since September 2015, there have been 721 incidents of alleged hate crimes, a vast majority of which have been against Dalits and Muslims.
“The data on our website is only a snapshot of alleged hate crimes in India, and is not comprehensive by any means. Many incidents are not reported to the police, and even when they are, many do not make it to mainstream media. While criminal investigations have been initiated in some cases, several have gone unpunished. Authorities need to do much more to ensure justice for victims and their families,” said Aakar Patel.
The ‘Halt the Hate’ website was designed by the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru.