Missing numbers: Not releasing lynching data hurts the govt’s image

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Published: October 24, 2019 2:07:28 AM

However, in such a case, it is hard to see why the rest of the data submitted by the states were considered to be of sound quality.

At the very least, the government must spell out the reasons why the lynching and other data have not been released, and commit to an early date of publishing of the same.

It is unclear why the data on lynching and murder committed because of religious reasons, apart from those on khap-panchayat-ordered killings and murder by influential people, have been kept out of the Crime in India 2017 report, the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB’s) latest compilation of crime data. Odder still, it is not as if the data for lynching weren’t collected; as per The Indian Express, the NCRB undertook a massive data revamp exercise under former director Ish Mishra, as a part of which the sub-heads of lynching and murder for religious reasons were added to the murder classification.

To be sure, an unnamed source in a news report claimed that the data weren’t published because of the quality of data submitted by the states being unreliable. However, in such a case, it is hard to see why the rest of the data submitted by the states were considered to be of sound quality.

Given how lynching incidents—for a host of reasons, from suspected theft, child lifting, cattle smuggling/slaughter or communal reasons—have dominated headlines, and both the Centre and the states have been blamed for failing to crack down in a manner that deters such crime, data on lynching is seen by criminology experts to be a key part of what should inform government policies on tackling such crimes better.

The fact is that there have been private attempts at recording the rise in lynchings, often led by media houses, but such attempts have come under criticism for a host of shortcomings, from allegedly being biased against one community or the other in recording these incidents to ascribing the wrong reasons for incidents, and even failing to record incidents covered in regional language media given the reliance on English media reportage for sourcing data.

That said, the need to dissect lynching to proactively prevent incidents couldn’t have been more urgent than it is now. It is in the best interest of the government to publish the data, even if it eventually spins an inconvenient narrative for one or the other political ideology, given how not publishing is going to bolster the notion that the government is deliberately hiding the data.

With leaders of the ruling party and of its ideological fount, the RSS, having either failed to criticise lynching in concrete terms or having even come out in support of the accused, the government can ill afford to have another controversy over data, quite in the manner of the one over the unemployment data that raged at the time of the general elections.

More so, given the data shows a marked increase in number of crimes against the state, including sedition, a charge that the authorities have slapped against individuals in a trigger happy manner. At the very least, the government must spell out the reasons why the lynching and other data have not been released, and commit to an early date of publishing of the same.

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