By Mumtaz Alam, India Tomorrow
New Delhi, 11 Feb 2014: By the end of year 2012, there were 1.27 lakh convicts serving sentence inside jails across India – the overwhelming majority of them i.e. 83% belonged to backward communities like Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Muslims.
The total number of convicts inside jails by the end of year 2012 was 1,27,789. Of them, OBCs were 37,451 (29.3%), SCs 27,898 (21.8%), STs 17,696 (13.8%) and Muslims were 22,687 (17.8%). See the table below.
|Total convicts inside jails by end of year 2012|
|Scheduled Castes convicts|
|Scheduled Tribes convicts|
|Total convicts from marginalized classes||82.73% (105732)|
In a country where conviction rate is very low due to cumbersome judicial processes, why is the great majority of the convicts from the backward communities?
“The system of the country has become elite-oriented. It does not respect its own citizens. The judicial system works in favour of the powerful and the rich,” says Dr Rahul Ramagundam, Associate Professor, Dr. K. R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.
“The backward and marginalized communities including minorities are excluded from decision-making processes,” adds Dr Ramagundam while talking to India Tomorrow.
Not only convicts, the great majority i.e. 86% of undertrials are also from the same backward classes.
According to the report of National Crime Records Bureau, of the 2.5 lakh undertrials, 2.2 lakh were from the backward communities. See the table.
|Total undertrials by end of year 2012|
|Scheduled Castes undertrials|
|Scheduled Tribes undertrials|
|Total convicts from marginalized classes||86.50 (220458)|
While agreeing that even 60 years of reservation has not made these people particularly the SCs and STs powerful neither socially nor economically, Dr Ramagundam suggests their political empowerment as a solution.
“To an extent, the experiment of Aam Aadmi Party brightens hope among the marginalized communities as the party has tried to ensure participation of the common people in governance. Moreover, there is a need for grassroot movements to make these communities empowered,” says Dr Ramagundam.
He also wants police reform. The police work with purely colonial nature. They pick the poor even with no or little evidence and leave the rich scot-free despite clear and strong proofs.
Eminent Dalit leader and president of Ambedkar Samaj Party, Bhai Tej Singh links the overpopulation of backward classes inside jails with centuries-old tussle between upper castes and lower castes in the country.
“The system favours upper castes. They want to suppress us. We all are dalits. We are aboriginal. The judicial system also favours upper castes and the powerful,” says Bhai Tej Singh while talking to India Tomorrow. He terms it as “judicial terror”.
“In 2006, I had organized a massive public convention near the Supreme Court in Delhi and called the suppression of dalits and other backward classes including Muslims by the judicial system as judicial terror,” Singh said.
As the way-out, he also suggested political empowerment.
“Political empowerment of the poor and backward communities is the only solution,” Singh said.
Mohammad Salim Engineer, National Secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind thinks the facts prove there is deep-rooted bias in governing institutions against the people of marginalized classes including Muslims.
“Several years back, the Sachar Committee report has pointed out overpopulation of poor and backward classes in jails – far more than their population share in the country. The NCRB report now clearly reveals there is deep-rooted conspiracy in bureaucracy, police, investigating agencies and also in judiciary against members of the weaker sections including Muslims,” said Jamaat leader and pointed out solution.
“The solution of the problem was recommended by both Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission. Both panels had recommended proper representation of Muslims in government institutions. It is reasonable demand which the government must accept and implement,” Salim Engineer further said.
One reason of overpopulation of backward classes in jails, he said, is the attitude of the police forces which are also dominated by upper castes.
Many people say that majority of culprits are from weaker sections whose majority are illiterate and poor. There is no wonder if members of these communities are in large number inside jails. Salim Engineer said the poverty and illiteracy of the backward classes is also because of bias and indifferent attitude of the government.
“If majority of the backward classes are illiterate and poor then who is responsible for it? It is government and its institutions that have not implemented welfare and educational schemes for these people,” said Salim Engineer.
Read more here — http://www.indiatomorrow.net/eng/why-83-of-convicts-in-india-are-from-backward-classes