300 communal incidents this year till May

Close to 300 communal incidents took place in the country in the first five months of this year with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka topping the list.

Across the country, 44 people were killed and another 892 suffered injuries in communal incidents.

Among the 296 incidents reported this year till May, UP accounted for 60 of them while Karnataka registered 36. In UP, 16 people were killed and another 151 injured in such incidents while in Karnataka three people lost their lives and another 93 were wounded.

Other states were higher number of communal incidents reported this year were Madhya Pradesh (29), Rajasthan (27), West Bengal (26), Bihar (23) and Gujarat and Maharashtra (20 each), according to a written reply in Lok Sabha on Monday.

Last year saw 703 communal incidents, a decrease from 751 reported in the previous year. In 2014, there were 644 incidents.

Altogether, there were 2,394 communal incidents between 2014 and May 2017 in which 322 were killed and 15,498 injured.

Almost all these years, UP and Karnataka had topped the list. Last year too UP (162) and Karnataka (101) were on the top while in 2015, these states had 155 and 105 incidents respectively. In 2015, Maharashtra also recorded the same number of incidents as that of Karnataka.

The year 2014 also saw UP, Gujarat and Maharashtra on top followed by Karnataka. While UP had then reported 133 incidents, Maharashtra had registered 97 and Gujarat 74 incidents. Karnataka accounted for 73 such incidents then.

The statistics also showed that the highest number of loss of life was in 2015 when 97 were killed. Last year, 86 lost their lives while in 2014, the number was 95. Among the injured, 2014 accounted for 1,921 while it was 2,264 in 2015 and 2,321 last year.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 9, 2017)

RS MP moves bill to deal with lynching, vigilantism

Rejecting government argument that existing laws are enough to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism, a Rajya Sabha MP has now sought amendments to the penal code to provide stricter punishments for such crimes.

Congress MP from Maharashtra Husain Dalwai has moved a private member’s bill — The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2017 — last week saying there can be “no culture of state indifference or impunity” in cases where a particular community becomes the target.

Ministry of State for Home Hansraj Ahir on July 19 told Rajya Sabha that there are no plans to amend the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and IPC or bring a new law to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism. He said existing laws are sufficient to deal with murder committed by “one person or ten persons”.

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However, Dalwai disagrees and said there is a need to define hate crimes and vigilantism due to the “alarming rise” in attacks which are motivated by bias or prejudice due to religion, caste, choice of attire or eating. The bill envisages an imprisonment of up to five years for those involved in such crimes and life imprisonment in case there is death.

“Such attacks are either driven by an ideology in which case it takes the shape of a hate crime or it is driven by an urge to take the law in their own hands and punish the victims on mere suspicion of an offence have been committed,” the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill said.

It said hate crimes as well as vigilantism are treated as offences in many countries, attracting even stricter punishment than ordinary crimes because they “tend to offend public tranquillity, create a feeling of disharmony and undermine the faith of people” in law and justice machinery.

“There can be no culture of state indifference or impunity in such cases as they speak of a larger malaise rather than one-off and disconcerted incidents,” it said.

The Opposition parties have raised pitch over cow vigilantism in both Houses of Parliament in the ongoing Monsoon session, accusing the BJP-led government of encouraging organisations behind the violence by cow vigilantes.

A series of incidents involving cow vigilantes had rocked the country in the past couple of years with opposition leaders saying there were at least 50 such incidents in the recent past.

On its part, the BJP said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly come out strongly against such acts.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 7, 2017)

2016: Rape, abduction cases on rise, dowry deaths show decline

After a fall in 2015, the crimes against women has witnessed a rise last year in the country with rape cases registering almost 11% increase.

According to provisional figures, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said that there were 3.51 lakh crimes reported against women in 2016 as against 3.31 lakh in the previous year.

Though the final figures for last year is yet to come, what may be a matter of concern for law enforcement agencies is the rise in numbers in 2016.

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Crime Against Women
2014 – 3,40,826
2015 – 3,31,649
2016 – 3,51,948

Rape
2014 – 36,735
2015 – 34,651
2016 – 38,891

Kidnapping/Abduction
2014 – 57,311
2015 – 59,277
2016 – 64,618

The year 2015 saw a dip from 3.40 lakh cases in 2014 and 3.37 lakh in 2013. Last year’s figures has surpassed the that of the past three years.

One of the worrying signs would be the increase in cases of rapes, attempt to rapes and abductions.

Among the states, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest cases at 48,757 followed by West Bengal (34,205) and Maharashtra (31,308). Karnataka reported 14,250 crimes against women last year as against 13,993 in 2014 and 12,786 in 2015.

The figures the MHA placed in Parliament last week showed that there were 38,891 cases of rape reported last year compared to 34,651 in 2015, registering a rise of 10.90%. There were 36,735 rape cases in the country in 2014.

Similarly, the attempt to rape cases also rose from 4,234 in 2014 to 5,719 last year. Kidnapping and abduction of women rose by 12.74% to 64,618 compared to 2014’s 57,311. In 2015, there were 59,277 cases.

Acid attacks also saw an increase from 134 reported in 2014 and 140 in 2015 to 167 last year.

Bulk of the cases relating to crime against women was registered under the head cruelty by husband or his relatives. Last year saw 1.10 lakh such cases, a decrease from 1.13 lakh cases in 2015 and 1.22 lakh in 2014.

Also, there was a slight decrease in dowry deaths — from 8,455 in 2014 and 7,634 in 2015 to 7,623 in 2016.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 7, 2017)

Law and Order much better: JK to Centre

The law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is now “much better” than the previous year, the state government has told the Centre citing official figures of incidents.

However, the attempts to create trouble in the Valley is on a rise as infiltration attempts have more than doubled and terror incidents this year have not decreased compared to last year.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Parliament last week the government is keeping a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.

“As reported by the State Government, the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is much better than the previous year as 583 cases have been registered during the current year till date against 2897 cases of previous year,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir replied to a written question in Lok Sabha last week.

It also noted that the number of civilians killed this year was 21 while last year saw 85 civilian deaths. In comparison, it was 112 in 2010.

The state government told MHA that 12,650 miscreants or separatists were either arrested or bound down under substantive and preventive laws since year 2016. Separatists and trouble mongers have been kept under close surveillance to check their activities.

According to statistics provided by the MHA, there were 664 incidents of stone-pelting incidents this year till July 9 while there were 2,808 in 2016 and 2,794 in 2010. Stone-pelting and other protests had intensified in Kashmir after the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in July last year.

While there was a decrease in terrorist incidents in the past couple of years but it rose to 322 in 2016 and this year till July 9, there were 172 incidents in which 12 civilians, 38 security personnel and 95 terrorists were killed.

There were 42 infiltration attempts on the Line of Control during the past six months of this year as against 19 during the same period last year.

The MHA said the government “regularly reviews” the security situation in Kashmir and necessary directions are given from time to time.

In Parliament, the MHA made it clear that government’s policy on Kashmir is “same as was unanimously adopted by Parliament” on 22 February 1994 through a resolution, which said Jammu and Kashmir “has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means”.

“India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity and demands that Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely,” the 1994 resolution had said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 24, 2017)

Oppn asks tough Qs on China, Kashmir

Opposition parties on Friday had tough questions for the government on its handling of China and Kashmir episodes but said they did not get all the answers they wanted.

The parties from Congress to CPI(M) to Trinamool Congress wanted to know “why such incidents are witnessed now” while an NDA ally Shiv Sena questioned why the Narendra Modi government did not show aggression in dealing with China.

During the three-hour long meeting attended by top Ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Home Secretary-designate Rajiv Gauba gave presentations on China and Kashmir issues respectively.

AIADMK leader A Navaneethakrishnan said the Foreign Secretary admitted in the meeting that China has encroached Doklam territory of Bhutan.

However, sources said, former Defence Minister and Samajwadi Party veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav cautioned the government on trusting China. Yadav and another former Defence Minister Sharad Pawar will meet Defence Minister Jaitley soon to share their experiences.

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Referring to China, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said national interest was paramount but the government needs to engage China in negotiations. The government side said they are for negotiations and using diplomatic channels to resolve the issue.

However, Yechury asked these issues are suddenly raised and suggested that New Delhi was “irritating” China through its recent moves to “appease” the US. “There were not much answers,” Yechury said after the meeting.

There were questions on the conversations between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including from Yechury, but a senior opposition leader said there were “no convincing answers”.

On Amarnath, sources said Yechury asked why there was no actions despite intelligence inputs. He also said that it was very unusual that nobody took responsibility for the attack as “usually terrorists want to claim credit to further their plans”.

JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said the Home Minister started by condemning the Amarnath attack and said that the response to it has shown that Kashmiriyat is alive, referring to the condemnation from all quarters, including from the Hurriyat. He said all parties agreed to it and asked the government to use the opportunity to take the process of normalisation forward.

Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien said, “we are not satisfied with their explanations on Amarnath. Why did the attack happen when they had intelligence inputs?” Shiv Sena and BSP also had the same questions to the government.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 15, 2017)

‘India has one of highest undertrial populations’

Indian jails have one of the highest undertrial populations in the world, a new report has said as it claimed that central and state governments have failed to respect their fair trial rights.

The study ‘Justice Under Trial: A Study of Pre-Trial Detention in India’ by Amnesty International India said the country’s undertrial population is estimated to be the 18th highest in the world and the third highest in Asia.

Jail

“India has one of the highest undertrial populations in the world. As of December 2015, 67% of prisoners in India’s prisons were undertrials – people who were awaiting trial or whose trials were still ongoing, and who have not been convicted. In other words, there are twice as many undertrials in India’s prisons as there are convicts,” the report said.

In contrast in the US, which is estimated to have the highest incarceration rate in the world, only 20% of prisoners are undertrials, the report said.

Noting that safeguards under law to protect undertrials are regularly ignored across the country, It said “few prisons appear to know how to accurately determine which undertrials are eligible for release under section 436A. Legal aid lawyers do not

visit prisons regularly. A shortage of police escorts leads to thousands of undertrials not being produced in court for their hearings, effectively prolonging their detentions.”

Another contradiction highlighted by the report is the disproportionate number of Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis among undertrials. “About 53% of undertrials are from these communities, which make up 39% share of the population of India. 29% of undertrials are not formally literate, while 42% had not completed secondary education. A quarter of all undertrials have been in prison for more than a year,” it said.

Most prisons in India are overcrowded, partly as a result of excessive undertrial detention. The average occupancy rate in

Indian prisons is 114%, and is as high as 233.9% in states such as Chhattisgarh, it said quoting a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report.

“The overuse of undertrial detention effectively ends up punishing people before they are convicted, and makes a mockery of their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Prolonged undertrial detention can also increase the risk of torture or other ill-treatment,” it said.

It claimed that the state and central governments have “failed to respect” the fair trial rights of undertrial prisoners. Successive governments have acknowledged the problem of excessive undertrial detention, but “have not done enough” to address it.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 14, 2017)

‘Spending on police around 3%’

States spent Rs 77,487 crore on police forces in 2015-16, which is just 3% of their total budget, according a study.

Karnataka is among six states, which spends less than 2% of its budget, while expenditure of 16 states are in the 2 to 5% bracket, the study ‘Police Reforms in India’ conducted by PRS Legislative Research said.

“Bulk of this expenditure was on revenue items, like salaries, because police is a personnel-heavy force. Expenditure on police formed 3% of the total budget for states (ie. Rs 27.20 lakh crore),” it said.

On an average in the last decade, it said, expenditure on police has been increasing at a rate of 15% per year, though the annual growth has fluctuated widely (4% in 2012-13, 30% in 2009-10).

Among the states, Karnataka is placed among six states which spend less than 2% of the budget. While Odisha’s spending is 1.1%, Gujarat has 1.7% and Karnataka 1.8%. Other states in this group are Himachal Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh (1.9% each).

Among the states which have higher spending, Manipur leads with 8.7% followed by Nagaland 7.2%, Punjab 5.8% and Jammu and Kashmir 5.2%.

The study also expresses worry about the lack of a a strong communication support, state-of-art or modern weapons, and a high
degree of mobility.

Citing a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, it said weaponry of several state police forces is “outdated” and the
“acquisition process of weapons slow, causing a shortage in arms and ammunition”.

“An audit of the Rajasthan police force (2009 to 2014) concluded that there was a shortage of 75% in the availability of
modern weapons against the state’s own specified requirements. The same audit also found that even when weapons were procured, a large proportion of them (59%) were lying idle because they had not been distributed to the police stations. Similar audits in West Bengal and Gujarat found shortages of 71% and 36% respectively in required weaponry,” it said.

One of the important issues highlighted by the study is the vacancies, which is at 24% in state forces.

Vacancies have been around 24%-25% in state police forces since 2009, the study said adding states with the highest vacancies in 2016 were Uttar Pradesh (50%), Karnataka (36%), West Bengal (33%), Gujarat (32%) and Haryana (31%).

“A high percentage of vacancies within the police forces exacerbates an existing problem of overburdened police personnel,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 6, 2017)

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