The latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Prison Statistics India for the year 2013 has thrown up a shocking statistic, reflective of how casteism and bias are still an integral part of the Indian psyche.


They show that the percentage of inmates from three minority communities in India — Dalits, Muslims and the adivasis — is disproportionately higher than their total population and make up more than half the prison population in the country.


According to the 2013 Census, there were 4.2 lakh people in Indian prisons. Almost 20 percent of them were Muslims although according to the Census 2001 percentage share of Muslims in India’s population was merely 13 percent. And it is just not for the Muslims.


According to the Census of 2011, Dalits constitute 22 percent of all prisoners although they make up around 17 percent of India’s total population, The Times of India report added.


That’s not it. A New Indian Express report said Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) make up an approximate of 25.2 percent of the Indian population according to the Census of 2011 but their share in India prisons stands at 33.3 percent.


Times of India quoted experts as saying the situation was brought about by exploitation and police apathy towards the minority community. Usually reeling under social and economic problems, people from these communities hardly have much to back themselves up with, experts said and added that sometimes they are “unable to fight costly cases or often even pay for their bail.”


The NCRB data also showed that Rajasthan prisons had the most number of dalit inmates which was followed by Gujarat. According to a report in the India Today, a majority of prisoners in Gujarat jails are Dalits.


Of all convicts, 32.9 percent are Dalits, a community which the article notes forms 6.7 percent of Gujarat’s entire population. Which if translated in simpler terms means that the proportion of Dalit prisoners in the state is 4.9 times than their share in the state’s population.


The skewed ratio is a disturbing trend, and has been the case for almost 15 years.


(From ML Update 24, November 2014)

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