Journalist CJ Werleman’s Database Tracks Hate Crimes Against Indian Muslims

Australian journalist-activist CJ Werleman

Started in the aftermath of the February Delhi riots, the blog-post puts the data of violence as a list of news headlines on the incidents of hate crimes and mob attacks on Muslims in India.

 Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Since January 2019, there has barely been any week when a case of hate crime against Muslims has not been publicly reported in India.

This is confirmed by scanning a live blog-post called ‘Database: Hate Crimes Against Muslims in India’ run by Australian journalist-activist CJ Werleman’.

Started in the aftermath of the February Delhi riots, the blog-post puts the data of violence as a list of news headlines on the incidents of hate crimes and mob attacks on Muslims in India.

Werleman has used the online publishing platform, Medium, to set up this database.

So far, he has dug out the data from January 2019 till date. The work for 2018 is in progress, the post says.

Speaking with Clarion India about the database, Werleman says that the initiative was an outcome of his work on tracking and reporting hate crimes against Muslims in India for several years now. “I had been keeping loose notes on each publicly- reported incident in a basic word document. So, it seemed like a natural progression to move the data to a format that could be published online,” he explains.

Werleman was an Islamophobe before embarking on a journey to learn about Islam. Today, he’s a prominent face on social media, highlighting and countering the menace of Islamophobia. Over the years, Werleman developed interest in India where in the past six years violence against Muslims has increased as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of BJP assumed power.

Werleman believes, “Tracking hate crimes is important because it allows journalists, human rights activists, and academics to see who’s being targeted, where, by whom and on what basis, and thus providing police and community organisations a better understanding for where and how further attacks can be prevented.”

In October last year when the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released data on crime incident, it withheld the data on lynching and murders committed for religious reasons despite the agency having done the home work of collecting the data.

Activists at that time said the decision to leave out this data might have come from the top for political reasons to avoid embarrassment and the official acknowledgement of the rise in hate crimes against Muslims under present dispensation. Days before NCRB released the data, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that lynching was a ‘western construct’’ and the use of word ‘lynching’ is being done to defame India.

“There’s never been a more crucial time for government agencies, police, journalists and human rights activists to compile, analyse and distribute hate crime data.” Werleman asserts.

While the database keeps the track of incidents on a daily basis and is updated with punctuality, it is not comprehensive yet; it does not have numbers, charts, graphs, trends, comparative analysis. The current format of the database on Medium, Werleman says, is Phase 1 of the project. “My aim is to continue adding to the list on a per incidence basis via my own research and contributions of others.”

Several activists and journalists approached Werleman offering to help make the data complete and exhaustive.

“During Phase 2, or when I’m satisfied we have compiled every anti-Muslim hate crime to have occurred since 2014, I will then populate a database with all the relevant information pertaining to each incident, including date, location, victim, perpetrator, motive, weapon, legal action, judicial outcome.”

For Werleman, the testimonies of the victim are everything. Sometimes incidents are disputed by police raising questions whether that is a case of hate crimes. “That’s fine. I will delete only those incidents in which the victim retracts or changes their allegation.”

In phase 3, Werleman says, he will develop and launch a website that will allow the data to be available as a searchable and analytical database.


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