Why Do Minorities Continue to Get Over-Represented In India’s Jails?

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OPINION

We have a unique distinction of being the largest representatives of the ultimate form of governance in the modern world but our prison statistics indicate a rather undemocratic distribution of retribution

AAZEEN KIRMANI | Caravan Daily

One look at the country-wide incarceration figures and the strapping ideals of  democracy suddenly turn feeble. We have a unique distinction of being the largest representatives of the ultimate form of governance in the modern world but our prison statistics indicate a rather undemocratic distribution of retribution.

In all states, without a single exception, minority communities are disproportionately represented in prisons. According to a study by Irfan Ahmad and Md  Zakaria Siddiqui, Hindus constituted nearly 80 per cent of the total population from 2001 to 2011. However during the period from 1998 to 2014 the percentage of Hindu prisoners in jails across India was 70 per cent.

Muslims, on the other hand, constituted nearly 14 per cent of the population but their percentage among the incarcerated was 21 per cent. Scheduled Castes were 16.6 per cent in the country but 22 per cent in jails. Schedule Tribes were 8.6 per cent in population but in jails their representation was 13 per cent. Christians and Sikhs who are 2.3 and 1.8 per cent respectively had a four per cent representation in prisons.

The trend cuts across religious and cultural communities. A Muslim majority state like Jammu and Kashmir and a Schedule Tribe dominated state like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are no better when it comes to treating their own minority communities. Hindu population in J&K being close to 29 per cent, they make for 34.25 per cent of the prison inmates.

Among North-Eastern states, the trend is most strongly visible in Meghalaya where Hindus make for 12.30 per cent of the total population but for 25.95 per cent of prison inmates. Around 86.06 per cent of the state’s population belongs to the Scheduled Tribes but only 60.60 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes make for jail inmates.

Since there is no reason to believe that minorities are more inclined towards crime, the only explanation for such a trend is majoritarian tyranny.

According to the same study Gujarat alone accounts for one third of Muslim inmates lodged in prisons across the country. The trend is not exclusive to India. In the UK, black people make for three per cent of the population but 12 per cent of jail inmates are black.

Since there is no reason to believe that minorities are more inclined towards crime, the only explanation for such a trend is majoritarian tyranny. This also becomes the main reason for a majority of the under trials belonging to the minority group have to languish in jail due to the complex social, economic and political factors, which eventually puts them in a peculiar position. Many languish in jails simply due to lack of resources.

Also SeeDALITS 3 TIMES OVER-REPRESENTED IN GUJARAT PRISONS

Majoritarian tyranny stems from repeated reinforced bias against the ‘other’, along with a certain level of insecurity and perceived threat from the ‘other’ group. Those with political motives time and again galvanise these feelings and keep the majority and minority communities in a perpetual state of mutual bias and distrust. The majority community by the virtue of its numbers manages to have an upper hand.

To make matters worse any form of persecutions tends to activate a vicious cycle. Incarceration adversely affects families, particularly the children of inmates. With a parent in confinement, children become victims of poverty, neglect and humiliation. The desperation adds on to the absence of guidance, which fans anti social tendencies and thereby lands more members of the community in jails.

The media (including social media) plays a very important role in creating a public opinion about specific communities. This high decibel dissipation of wisdom that we all are too familiar with, not only affects the public image but also in a subtle way moulds the official line of action too.

What we need is a sensitized administration and an educated media. However, with the current political order and its media stooges in place there is no reason to hope for a decline in these figures any time soon.

 

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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