The Increase of Religious Hate Crimes in India
By Chinnamma KC
The year 2018 saw an alarming increase in religious hate crimes in India. 93 such incidents were reported from all over India of which 25% were communal clashes. Reports say that 30 people were killed and 305 people were injured in such crimes. Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of such religious hate crimes followed by Bihar. The victims of most of these crimes belonged to religious minorities. The reasons for these crimes ranged from cow protection to interfaith relationships to religious conversion. Some people attribute the rise of such hate crimes to the increasing Hindu extremism and Islamophobia. The term 'hate crime' is generally applied to criminal acts against people based on their real or perceived connection to or membership in a particular group defined by a protected ground under international law, such as caste, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, among others.
In Uttar Pradesh, a 20-year-old Muslim youth, Shahrukh, was lynched by cow vigilantes while trying to steal buffaloes. In 2018 in UP, Shrikrishna, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste was assaulted and subjected to degrading punishment by the upper-caste Hindus and Muslims of his village because his son eloped with a Muslim Girl.In 2017, Pehlu Khan and in 2018, Rakbar Khan were lynched by cow vigilantes in Alwar district of Rajasthan. Both the victims were dairy farmers. In 2017, ShambulalRegar hacked a Muslim migrant labourer, Afrazul to death and burnt his body. He recorded the whole incident on camera and circulated it on social media calling upon Hindus to fight ‘Jihadis’.  These are some of the many religious hate crimes reported in India in the past years. The victims belonged to minority groups.
These crimes are crimes against humanity and are discriminatory in nature. They violate the fundamental rights of the citizens, namely those envisaged under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. They create an environment of fear and distrust among the people. This is a disturbing development in India, a country which has a secular and tolerant Constitution. Crimes like these not only affect the victims of the crime but also other members of the victim’s religion by making them feel targeted. Such incidents further ignite the tensions existing between different religious groups of India. The hate that people might harbour towards the perpetrators of such crime may extend to the other members of their religious community as well and they might be unfairly targeted.
The religious fanatics and extremists who commit such crimes claim to do so to protect their respective religions. This begs the question whether religions which have survived for centuries really need the sacrifice of innocent lives to protect them. All the major religions of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism preach non-violence and compassion. Ironically, people commit heinous acts of violence to uphold them. They misinterpret religious texts to suit their misguided ideologies and beliefs.
According to a study by the FBI, there are four types of people who commit hate crimes. The first type of offender is young and commits such crimes for the thrill of it. They choose their victims from minorities because they are vulnerable. The second type of people see minorities as a threat to their community and see these crimes as a way of defending their community. The third type of offender commits hate crimes as a retaliation for other hate crimes or acts of terrorism committed by members of the victim’s religion. The fourth type consider themselves as crusaders who are protecting their religion from a rival religion.Though this classification might not directly help us in preventing such crimes, they can help people respond to such crimes. They help us understand these crimes so that we can take necessary steps to tackle this phenomenon.
In our country, religion is a very important aspect of a person’s identity. Politicians take advantage of this and practise vote bank politics to achieve their own goals. Some politicians depend solely on the hatred towards other religions to gain support. They indirectly encourage these crimes by blaming minorities for the country’s problems. They foster religious animosity and propagate them through hate speeches. They advocate communalism rather than nationalism. This encourages and promotes religious radicalisation.
These religious hate crimes have the potential to destroy the very fabric of our society by dividing it along the lines of religion. They create animosity among different religious groups and threaten the peace of the country. We must take steps to ensure that such communal issues do not arise in the country. In this regard, religious and political leaders can play an important role. They must criticise such acts of religious hatred and denounce the perpetrators of such crimes. This sends a strong message to the community that religious hate crimes will not be condoned or tolerated. In India, religious hate crimes are not treated as separate crimes. We need to recognise such religious hate crime as a separate crime and make sure that people who commit such crimes are severely punished. Countries like US and the UK have separate legislations for dealing with hate crime.In India too we need to bring a separate legislation to deal with such offences which also cover hate speech and promotion of religious animosity.
K.C.Sachin, Why Hate Crimes Remain A Grave Problem In India, Amnesty International India, (Aug 22, 2018), available at https://amnesty.org.in/why-hate-crimes-remain-a-grave-problem-in-india/.
LikithaBannerjee, Lynching a hate crime, India must enact law to end it, Khaleej Times, (Sep 21, 2018), available at https://www.khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/lynching-a-hate-crime-india-must-enact-law-to-end-it.
Kunal Purohit, How A Jumble Of Politics, Gender Issues And Economics Foments Hate Crime In Uttar Pradesh, BloombergQuint, (Jan 26, 2019), available at https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/how-a-jumble-of-politics-gender-issues-and-economics-foments-hate-crime-in-uttar-pradesh.
Salik Ahmad, Who is Shambu Lal Regar? A man who didn’t seem capable of murder, say neighbours in Rajasthan, Hindustan Times, (Dec 08, 2017), available at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rajasthan-murder-caught-on-video-accused-s-neighbours-shocked-say-he-was-disturbed/story-txyMKYjin1l9DOzJg8gj5K.html.
 Daniel Burke, The four reasons people commit hate crimes, CNN, (June 12, 2017), available at https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/02/us/who-commits-hate-crimes/index.html.