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How India's police force are 'adopting and mirroring' BJP's racist and prejudice beliefs Open in fullscreen

CJ Werleman

How India's police force are 'adopting and mirroring' BJP's racist and prejudice beliefs

There's a chance anti-Muslim bias in the police force is producing discriminatory outcomes [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 September, 2019

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Report: A new study has found significant bias against Muslims within India's police force, with more than half falsely believing that Muslims are 'naturally prone towards committing crimes.'
A study that has been regarded as the first of its kind in India has found "significant bias against Muslims," with half of the country's police expressing anti-Muslim feelings, saying they feel adherents of the Islamic faith are "naturally prone towards committing crimes," which serves as another alarm for the fate of the world's largest democracy.

Titled The Status of Policing in India Report: Police Adequacy and Working Conditions, the researchers found that 14 percent of members within the country's police services believe Muslims to be "very much likely" to be prone to committing crime, while 36 percent feel Muslims are "somewhat likely" to more prone than other religious identities.

Arguably the most shocking finding, however, is that 35 percent of Indian police officers feel that it's "natural for a mob to punish the culprit in the case of cow slaughter," demonstrating that a giant share of those in charge of maintaining peace and security express sympathy with Hindu extremists who carry out acts of mob violence against Muslims and other religious minorities under the guise of protecting cattle. 

"Some of the findings were very surprising," said Manjesh Rana, one of the author's of the report. "We believed that this could be the perception of the people but not the perception of the police.

"We can't really establish whether it's affecting their work or not but there are always chances," he adds. 

Indeed, there's a chance anti-Muslim bias in the police force is producing unjust and discriminatory outcomes against Muslims in policing practices and the criminal justice system.

There's a chance anti-Muslim bias in the police force is producing unjust and discriminatory outcomes against Muslims in policing practices and the criminal justice system

In fact, it's a demonstrable reality, and even more worrying, is the fact that India's police are adopting and mirroring the kind of racist and prejudice beliefs espoused by India's ruling party BJP. "Cow vigilantism" was never a thing in the country until Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to Hindu nationalist sympathies during his 2014 election campaign by emphasising the need to protect cows and promising to order police crackdowns on those who kill cattle without permit. 

One study found that Hindu extremists killed 36 Muslims across 12 states during the May 2015 to December 2018 period, while another 280 were seriously injured in more than 100 different incidents during the same period.

Another study by the India Spend Initiative found that as many as 90 percent of religious hate crimes since 2009 have occurred after BJP took control of India's government in 2014.

A report compiled by Human Rights Watch examined the "link between cow protection and the Hindu nationalist political movement," and the failure of the police and criminal justice system to protect vulnerable minorities from attacks by Hindu extremist mobs.

The authors not only discovered that Muslim victims were reluctant to report their attackers to police, but also in almost all of the examined cases in which religious minorities were attacked by Hindu perpetrator/s, the police either stalled the investigations, ignored procedures or "played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes". In some incidences, they even filed complaints against the victims and their families.

As many as 90% of religious hate crimes since 2009 have occurred after BJP took control of India's government in 2014

Clearly, then the negative attitudes that roughly 50 percent of India's police officers have towards Muslims is translating to negative and unjust outcomes against Muslim citizens in the streets. 

This police bias against Muslims is also manifesting into negative outcomes for Muslims in the courts, specifically in terms of conviction and imprisonment. One need only consider the fact that Muslims are overrepresented in the country's prisons given they constitute 21.05 percent of the prison population but only 14.11 percent of the total population. 

This reality is not surprising given a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) found that Muslims reported a general bias against them, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and were thus more vulnerable to a corrupt police system.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence that demonstrates bias against Muslims in the criminal justice system, however, is presented in the 2014 National Crime Review Board's report. This found that Muslims have the highest non-convict to convict prisoner ratio in the country.

While there are many variables and factors that can or might explain the reason why a specific religious, racial, or ethnic minority shares a greater share of the prison population than the general population, an equitable criminal justice system would be able to demonstrate that the ratio of non-convicted to convicted prisoner is equal for all communities.

But the fact that Muslims are nearly twice as likely to remain in prison without conviction than Hindus provides clear evidence the cards are stacked against Muslims from the moment they're profiled, monitored, arrested, charged, and sentenced.

The fact that Muslims are nearly twice as likely to remain in prison without conviction than Hindus provides clear evidence the cards are stacked against Muslims from the moment they're profiled, monitored, arrested, charged, and sentenced

Subramaniam, a retired Indian Police Service Officer, told the Indian publication Live Mint that there's indeed an "ingrained bias in the police against Muslims, which often leads to victimisation".

He cited a communal riot in the state of Uttar Pradesh as an example in which Muslims were the prime victims, suffering the most casualties, but they were also the highest number of people arrested by the police.

With members of India's police force services and criminal justice system enforcing the law in a way that mirrors the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the country's ruling party, which, in turn, provides Hindu extremist mobs with tacit approval to carry out acts of violence against the country's 200 million strong minority, the fate of the world's largest democracy now hangs in the balance.


CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You, Hate Him Back and Koran Curious, and the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

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