Project description

Hate Crime Watch is a database of religious-bias-motivated hate crime in India. The project, launched in October 2018, counts such crimes since 2009.

Even as India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the federal organisation that tracks crimes across the country, collates information on a wide range of crimes, it does not count hate crimes–primarily because there are no specific laws to deal with such crimes. This contrasts with official data-collection in democracies with diverse populations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where the state is required to publish regular reports on hate crimes.

The project does not aspire to be an exhaustive record of hate violence in India. The project merely hopes to document the rising incidence, and any related patterns that emerge, so that the state takes notice and begins documenting such crimes.

An example of how this could be achieved is our database on cow-related violence (lynch.factchecker.in). Back in June 2017, we began tracking incidents of such violence. The NCRB had told the media in July 2017 that they intend to record data on lynchings. However, nine months into this year, the Bureau has not released any data on crimes in India for the year 2017.

A petition in the Supreme Court around lynchings saw the mention of our database as a reliable source of documentation of the pattern of violence.

For the purposes of this project, a hate crime is defined as incidents that are prima facie crimes committed either partly or wholly motivated by the religious identity of the victim(s).

For an incident to qualify as religion-based hate crime under our criteria, the act must qualify as a criminal act under Indian law. It is not necessary that formal criminal proceedings should have started for the fulfillment of this criterion; only that the available evidence should suggest that the act qualifies as a criminal act on the face of it. The target of a hate crime can be a person, groups of persons or property. The Hate Crime Watch does not document speech crimes.

Hate crimes are different from other violent crime because they affect not just the victims of such crimes, but also alienate entire communities.

As of April 2, 2019, Hate Crime Watch has recorded 282 attacks which resulted in 100 deaths and at least 704 injuries. Muslims–who comprise 14% of India’s population–were victims in 57% incidents, Christians–2% of the population–were victims in 15% cases. Hindus, constituting the majority or 80% of population, were victims in 13% cases.

In 12% or 30 incidents, religion of the victim was not reported

Considering only the 252 incidents where the religion of the victims was known, Muslims were victims in 64% attacks, Christians in 16% incidents and Hindus in 16% cases

Overall, of 282 cases, Hindus were alleged perpetrators in 56% cases, Muslims in 12% cases. In 85 cases, the religious identity of the perpetrator was not known.

Of the 196 incidents for which religion of the alleged perpetrator has been reported, 81% cases involved Hindus, 18% involved Muslims, and 1% involved Sikhs.

What makes this project innovative?

The Citizen's Religious Hate-Crime Watch (Hate Crime Watch, in short) is India’s first endeavour to document hate crimes motivated by religious bias. There has been an increase in inter-religious violence in recent years. Owing to a lack of data, this was written off as “stray incidents”. Hate Crime Watch provides the first statistical perspective to a growing pattern of such violence. Further, using the mapping portal and the filters enabled in the project, it is now possible to understand patterns--such as a particular bias motivation being the cause for violence in certain geographies, and having occurred around particular times. These patterns are indicative, and will help the civil society tackle the growing spate of violence. In the second phase of the project, we are now investigating each incident recorded in the database, to ascertain any facts that the media have not reported, to document the progress on indictment and trial of alleged perpetrators, and to understand what has happened since the attack in terms of ties in the community. To begin with, we picked incidents in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the states with the most and the second highest incidents, respectively. Next, we are looking at regional language media, beginning with Hindi, to collate incidents that may not have been reported by national English language media.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The project has managed to capture the discourse around religious hate crime in the country. Through our network of syndicate partners, the project and its subsequent analysis had an expanded reach. The project has been referenced extensively in national and international media. Hate Crime Watch formed the basis for stories in the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, New York Times, New Yorker and the BBC. It was also cited as a source by Human Rights Watch in a February 2019 report, ‘Violent Cow Protection in India’. In India, the project was cited and/or covered by organisations including NDTV, The Hindu, the Economic and Political Weekly, The Wire, Scroll.in, and The Quint. The project even found its way into mainstream popculture with Netflix's Hasan Minhaj's news comedy series, The Patriot Act, quoting the statistics of our database as part of a show discussing the upcoming general elections in India. The Indian National Congress, the country's oldest political party and currently the largest party in the opposition, as part of its election manifesto for this year's general election, has attempted to address the problem of rising religious bias-motivated hate crimes through proposed policy and legislation.

Source and methodology

Hate Crime Watch is a multi-organisation effort steered by FactChecker.in, in collaboration with Aman Biradari and NewsClick.in. The data collection for Hate Crime Watch is modelled on other similar experiments across the world. We began with defining a hate crime: crimes motivated partly or wholly by prejudice against the religion of the victim(s). Religious hate crimes are criminal acts that are accompanied by a religious-bias motivation. In order to determine the existence of bias motivation, the Hate Crime Watch relies on various contextual factors called bias indicators. The OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights defines bias indicators as those “objective facts, circumstances or patterns connected to a criminal act that, alone or in conjunction with other indicators, suggest that the offender’s actions were motivated in whole or in part by bias, prejudice or hostility.” Mohsin Alam Bhat, assistant professor at the Jindal Global Law School, and executive-director, the Centre for Public Interest Law, researched hate crime legislation across the world to arrive at the definition. Next, over a period of six months, we collated reports of hate violence from the English language online and print media. Each incident was then subjected to a test--to establish whether it fits the definition. These incidents were then cross-verified from other media sources to assimilate the full extent of facts, and to include information on any progress in the investigation and/or prosecution of the attacks.

Technologies Used

PROTO, antidisciplinary research and community business in India, has powered the portal used for the project, The data were processed using PostgreSQL, and the portal was built using Ruby on Rails and ReactJS. An interactive back-end is used to input new incidents.

Project members

Alison Saldanha, Samar Halarnkar

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