Prison Population of Muslims, Dalits, Tribals Remains Higher Than Their Number Outside: NCRB

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Representation image for jail

As in previous years, the number of convicts and undertials from marginalised groups is disproportionate to their population

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The situation of the marginalised groups of Indian society, namely Muslims, Dalits and tribals, continues to be worse as far as the jail population is concerned.

The prison data for 2019 released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) also show that as in previous years, the number of convicts and undertials from these groups is disproportionate to their population.

NCRB, which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs, brings out the “Prison Statistics India” that provides comprehensive statistical information on various aspects of prison administration in India.

The total population of Muslims in the country is 14.2%, but in jails,  16.6% of all convicts and 18.7% of all undertrials are Muslims. Similarly, 21.7% of all convicts and 21% of all undertrials are Dalits against 16.6% of their population, according to the 2011 census.

In the case of tribals, the gap was equally big. While the Scheduled Tribes made up 13.6% of the convict population, and 10.5% of all undertrials in jails, the Census put their numbers at 8.6% of the population.

Compared to the NCRB data from 2015, the Muslim proportion among undertrials fell in 2019, while rising slightly among convicts. In 2015, Muslims formed 20.9% of all undertrials in jails, and 15.8% of all convicts—compared to 18.7% and 16.6% in 2019.

However, for Dalits and tribals, the situation has not changed much over the past five years. Dalits formed around 21% of the convicts and undertrials in jails as per the 2015 NCRB data—almost the same as 2019. The tribal numbers have remained almost constant among convicts (13.7% in 2015, 13.6% last year), while falling among undertrials (12.4% in 2015 to 10.5% in 2019).

The NCRB prison data of 2015 had revealed that over 55 per cent of undertrials across the country were either Muslims, Dalits or tribals. The number was not proportional with their combined representation in the census, which is close to 39 per cent. Interestingly, the combined percentage of the convicts from these communities is 50.4 per cent–lower than the 55 per cent among the undertrials.

Likewise, 2018 data revealed that two-thirds of prisoners in Indian jails were Dalits, tribals and from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 19% were Muslims and 66% of 4.66 lakh inmates were either illiterate or had not studied beyond Class X.

A comparison of data of last five years shows that the number of undertrials is ever-increasing among the groups which are not only religion- or caste-wise disadvantaged but also poor.

“The data show that our criminal justice system is not only tardy but also loaded against the poor. Those who can hire good lawyers get bail easily and also have a fair shot at justice. The poor also tend to get sucked into petty crimes for lack of economic opportunities,” Indian Express quoted former chief of Bureau of Police Research and Development N R Wasan as saying.

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