COIMBATORE:The percentage of Muslims, Dalits and OBCs lodged in prisons in India is disproportionate to their population, if one were to go by the data of prisoners compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau and the latest Census figures.
While the NCRB report reveals that 26.4% of the prisoners in the country were Muslims, the total population of Muslims in the country is lesser at 14.2% as per the Census data. Likewise, 60.3% of the jail inmates belonged to Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes/Tribes. Also, 38.1% of the detenues in prisons were OBCs and STs. ‘Detenues’ are persons detained in prison on the orders of a competent authority under relevant preventative detention laws. “While Muslims constitute around 30% of all prisoners, in the ‘pre-trial phase’, the proportion of convicted Muslim prisoners stands at only 16.4%,” said an activist. National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations chairperson A Marx alleged that these figures reflected that the criminal justice system was inherently prejudiced against members of the backward classes and Muslims. “Since 1980, Muslim men are being detained unjustly by the police. There have been demands to establish fast track courts to deal with Muslim under-trial prisoners and award compensation to the wronged and punish police officers who wrongfully detained them,” he added.
Manithaneya Makkal Katchi leader and legislator M H Jawahirullah alleged that every time there is a terror attack invariably Muslim youth get picked up the police. To substantiate this, he cited the Malegaon blast in 2008 where action based on suspicions of involvement of Muslims backfired. “Just because the statistics show that more Muslims are in prison it does not necessarily mean that members of the community are prone to be criminals. Muslims are also the targets of biased police officers,” he charged.