Report exposes bias in minds of cops against Muslims
Several studies have, over the years, showed that a higher proportion of Muslims—relative to their population-share—tend to get arrested than most other religious/caste groups. In November 2016, for instance, The Indian Express reported that, at an all-India level, 15.8% of all convicts were Muslims as compared to their population share of 14.2%; and in the case of undertrials, the proportion of Muslims was an even higher 20.9%. In certain states, this ratio was a lot more adverse. In Maharashtra, for instance, while 12% of the population was Muslim, 20% of all convicts—and 30% of all undertrials—were Muslim; in Gujarat, Muslims were 10% of the population versus 21% of all convicts, and 22% of all undertrials. In Uttar Pradesh, the figures were 19%, 19% and 27%, respectively; it was 27%, 42% and 47% in the case of West Bengal. While the population data was from the 2011 Census, the criminal data came from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
A recent study—Status of Policing in India Report—brought out by Lokniti, CSDS and Common Cause explains this by showing how deep the communal prejudice is. Around half of the 12,000 police personnel surveyed across 21 states believed that Muslims are “naturally prone”, in degrees varying from “very much” to “somewhat”, to committing criminal acts. The bias was strongest in northern and central India, with an average of 63% of the police personnel in eight states in this region—Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand—believing that followers of Islam naturally have a criminal disposition.
While profiling on the basis of community or caste is not desirable, several law enforcement agencies the world over do some form of this, even if this is never explicitly acknowledged. But, surely this has to be based on a more serious analysis of crime and criminals? Though there has been an attempt to do this through the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, the scientific profiling is, at best, patchy. An average of only 68% of police data from various districts and states is available at the national level; further, forensic psychology, including profiling, is conspicuous by its absence in Indian law enforcement and criminal justice system.
Analysis by Shylashri Shankar of the Centre for Policy Research found that while in the TADA and Preventive Detention cases, there was a 19% increase in the probability of a pro-government outcome when the case pertained to security concerns, this probability doubled in the case of POTA. Given the arrest of innocent Muslims may certainly be a factor in aggravating communal polarisation, this is an issue the government needs to look at quite seriously, apart from the fact that it makes a mockery of legal and constitutional equality.