COIMBATORE: In India, you are more likely to be lodged in prison if you are a Muslim, or belong to the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Communities (OBC), reveal statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Though Muslims comprise only 14.2 percent of the total population of the country according to a recent census data, they constitute 26.4 percent of the prison population.
Moreover, 60.3 percent of all inmates are classified as belonging to the OBC, SC and ST communities. 'Other' communities constitute the remaining of the prison population. OBCs and STs constitute 38.1 percent of all 'detenues'. Detenues are persons detained in prison on the orders of a competent authority under relevant preventative detention laws.
While Muslims constitute around 30 percent of all prisoners, in the 'pre-trial phase', the number of convicted Muslim prisoners stand at only 16.4 per cent.
Activists point out that the last statistics clearly points to a 'prejudiced' police system across the country, where minorities are 'targeted' by the law enforcement agency.
Speaking to Express, A Marx, a human rights activist and Chairperson, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations, said that the criminal justice system was inherently prejudiced against members of the backward communities and Muslims.
"Since 1980, it has been established that Muslim men are being detained unjustly by the police. There have been demands to establish fast-track courts to deal with Muslim undertrial prisoners, where those found innocent are provided compensation, and officers who make wrongful arrests are punished immediately," Marx said.
Senior leader of the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, M H Jawahirullah, spoke of incidents over the last few years, including the Malegaon blasts in 2008, where young Muslim men were picked up on suspicion by Anti-Terror Squad personnel, before being released after finding that the blasts were in fact masterminded and carried out by Hindu fundamentalists.
"Just because the statistics show that more Muslims are in prison does not necessarily mean that members of the community are prone to be criminals. Muslims are also the targets of biased police officers,” he said.