Activists Slam Government for Withholding Data on Mob Lynching

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Mob lynching. (IANS Infographics)

Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Human rights activist in India have criticised the data publishing exercise on crime after a top Central agency withheld the data on mob lynching in its report for the year 2017.

According to a report published in Indian Express, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had begun working on the data revamp exercise under its previous director Ish Kumar to include a column for mob lynching and murder for religious reasons.

The NCRB released its 65th annual report on crime in India for the year 2017 on Monday after dillydallying for over a year. It has been historically hailed for its professionalism in making data easily available to the researchers. The reports are a principal reference statistical document on crime in the country. Critics decry that the absence of such data will make it difficult to ascertain state of the health of the society.

Over the last few years, India has seen an unprecedented rise in levels of mob violence against Muslims which form the major chunk of the population of religious minorities. According to the data put out by India spend, a data journalism initiative, nearly 90% of religious hate crimes since 2009 have occurred after the BJP took power in India in 2014.

The newspaper quotes an unnamed official saying, “This data was ready and fully compiled and analysed. Only the top brass would know the reason why it has not been published,”

Activists say instead of taking measure to curb the rise of mob violence the government is hiding the data probably to save itself from the embarrassment, it would cause.

The embarrassment that the government faced at the international level for their inability to curb the rise in mob violence could be the reason behind leaving out the data, said Nadeem Khan, an activist associated with an civil rights group called United Against Hate which raised voice against discrimination on the basis of religious and caste identities.

“We are thinking of moving to courts to appeal for making the data public,” he said.

Apoorvanand, a professor at Delhi University and a known human rights activist who is a vocal critic of rightwing Hindutva forces, called the act of withholding this data as “self-deception”. He said that the ruling party was trying to hoodwink its own supporters who believe that those who talk about lynching and hate crimes are, in effect, denigrating India.

“They (the government) will claim that when the data doesn’t exist the problem doesn’t exist,” he predicted.

This government is accused of being complicit in the rising hate crime even as Modi reassured the Muslim community of reconciliation in one of his speeches at the beginning of his second term in power.  “They (the government) don’t take action against the culprits of mob violence but they are ashamed of publishing the data on it,” said Shabnam Hashmi, a noted civil society activist who works in the field of social welfare.

There are apprehensions that the NCRB may be under political pressure from the government to withhold the data on mob lynching. “I’m guessing they (the NCRB) are aware that the data will be politicised and they can be under some pressure,” Vasundhara Sirnate, a researcher based in Ireland wrote on twitter.

This government has been previously accused of fudging the data including on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. In March, former Central Reserve Bank governor, Raghuram Rajan, had indicated that there was a possibility that the data on GDP presented by the government was inflated.

Earlier in January, the data on job crises was leaked to the press rebutting the government claims on job growth.

Activists say that the major hurdles they face while working on issues of such violence is registering the police reports under laws pertaining to hate crimes based on religious, caste or gender prejudices.

“When we go to file reports of hate crimes, we often see the police register the cases under sections meant for normal crimes,” says Khan.

Moreover, the activists are also worried about how the cases will proceed in the justice delivery system in the absence of authentic data.

In August, a court in Alwar district of Rajasthan acquitted six men accused of lynching a Muslim dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan. The news of the acquittal was received with shock and dismay as the men were freed because the court did not accept the video footage showing a mob beating Khan and his two sons as evidence.

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