New Delhi, October 04 (KMS): Amnesty International has said that reports of hate crimes in India have witnessed the steepest rise in numbers since 2016.

Amnesty International India’s interactive website ‘Halt the Hate’ in its latest data on hate crimes for the first six months of 2019 released today said that in the first six months of 2019 alone, 181 incidents of hate crimes had been recorded by the website, nearly double than previous three years’ half-yearly counts. This highlights a very alarming trend in India, it said.

“For India – where people are targeted because of their identity stemming from race, religion, caste and gender amongst others, it is essential for the country’s penal laws to first recognise the bias behind the commission of such crimes and document the occurrence of such incidents – both of which remain conspicuously absent currently,” said Aakar Patel of Amnesty International India.

In the absence of any publicly available disaggregated data on hate crimes, Amnesty International India launched its website “Halt the Hate” in September 2015, with the aim of documenting incidents of hate crimes in India after Mohammad Akhlaq, a 52 years old Muslim resident of Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, was murdered on the suspicion of eating beef. It scours the English and Hindi media for reports of hate crimes, collates them on its Halt the Hate website and classifies them on the basis of how violent were they, who were they directed at and what was the motive behind the commission of such a crime. From September, 2015 to June, 2019, Halt the Hate has recorded a total of 902 reported hate crimes in India. A total of 181 incidents of hate crimes were recorded between January and June this year. In 37 reported incidents, the victims were killed.

Between January and June 2019, over two-third of the victims suffered harm on account of their Dalit identity followed by their Muslim (40), Adivasi (12), Christian (4) and their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity (6). Some of the hate crimes against Dalits related to denial of access to public property such as roads, water, crematorium, schools etc. Cow-vigilantism related hate crimes and honour killing were reported in 17 cases.

Many victims were simultaneously targeted for their intersecting identities. To illustrate, 58 reported hate crimes were directed at women who identified themselves as either Dalit, Muslim, Christian, Adivasi or LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) persons. In 30 of these incidents, women were either raped or sexually assaulted. Similarly, in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident in February 2019 where 42 Indian troops were killed, 14 incidents of mob attacks on Kashmiri Muslims were reported, mostly targeting small-time traders from Kashmir across the country. With 37 hate crimes, the month of February also saw the highest incidence of hate crime reports in 2019 followed by 36 in March.

Overall, 72 reported hate crimes were mob attacks. Of these, 37 incidents were directed at Muslims. In all the incidents, the victims were forced to either say ‘Vande Mataram’ or ‘Jai Sri Ram’ or Jai Hanuman’ or raise anti-Pakistan slogan and/or were demanded to remove their skullcaps. In 5 such incidents, the victims were lynched to death.

Since September 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led states such as Uttar Pradesh followed by Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led Tamil Nadu have consistently reported highest incidence of hate crimes. With 216 reports of hate crimes spanning September 2015-June 2019, Uttar Pradesh stands out with the highest number of such crimes in the country.

“Unfortunately, the true extent of hate crimes in India is unknown because the law – with some exceptions – does not recognize hate crimes as separate offences. As a result, government data on discriminatory motives behind crimes remains missing. The alarming rise of the hate crimes clearly indicates that lack of implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines begets lack of accountability and rising impunity,” said Aakar Patel.

Incidentally, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which publishes annual statistics on the crime incidence, has not released its Crime in India Report since 2016.

“To address hate crimes, it is imperative that disaggregated data including the type and nature of the crime be recorded at all levels, including reporting, investigation, prosecution and sentencing. It is imperative that the authorities investigate hate crimes promptly, impartially and thoroughly. The prosecuting authorities must consistently bring discriminatory motives to the attention of the court when there is sufficient evidence to do so. Importantly, there must be public denouncement of hate and hate crimes, starting with our political leaders,” said Aakar Patel.

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