Published On:07 June 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Muslims Languish in India Jails

By Shuriah Niazi

Estimates show that Muslims account for the majority of prisoners in Indian jails

New Delhi: Sent behind bars for minor offences, Muslims make up the majority of inmates in Indian prisons, a phenomenon blamed for the lack of education in the sizable minority.

“We (Muslims) call us a minority community,” MP Sultan Ahmad, who served as Union Minister of State from Trinamool Congress party, told OnIslam.net.

“But in prisons we’re in majority. This is an unfortunate situation for the nation as well as the society.”

Estimates show that Muslims account for the majority of prisoners in Indian jails.

In West Bengal state, almost 50 percent of jail inmates are Muslims, although they account for only 25 percent of general population.

In Maharashtra, Muslims make up nearly third of jail inmates, while they make one-fourth in Uttar Pradesh.

Besides the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Puducherry and Sikkim, there are disproportionate numbers of Muslims behind bars in almost all other states.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Muslims made up about 21 percent of jail inmates in India in 2011.

“The issue was raised when I was with the Prime Minister Office (PMO) during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister,” said National Commission for Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah.

“However, so far no study has been done to ascertain the causes behind discrepancy between the populations of Muslims in society and in prison.”

According to information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act, out of 1,222 under trial in Alipur Central Jail as of December 2011, 530 were Muslims.

Similarly, out of 2,200 under trial in UP’s Ghazaibad jail, 530 were Muslims. Data received from other prisons of states are equally disquieting.

There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.

Minor Offences

Officials note that many Indian Muslims are sent behind bars for minor offences.

“Most of the Muslims are jailed on petty charges,” Union Minister for Minorities Affairs K. Rehman Khan told OnIslam.net.

“They don’t get any legal assistance or advice nor are they aware that they are entitled to get free legal assistance. They don’t have any political power or backing.”

A study conducted last year by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) revealed bias against Muslims by the police, the administration and the judiciary.

Most of the prisoners included in the study had no connection with the terrorism or organized crimes.

Most of Muslim prisoners (71.9 percent) were embroiled in petty disputes. The percentage of those landing behind bars for the first time on minor charges was 75.5.

“About 90 percent of Muslims in jails are facing charges like illicit liquor trade, theft, loot etc. The percentage of those facing serious charges is quite low,” said Lucknow District Jail Superintendent D.R. Maurya.

A study conducted by TISS on jails in Maharashtra found that 58 percent of Muslims were either illiterate or had received education only up to elementary level.

The study showed that 43.6 percent of prisoners were not in a position to hire a lawyer and 61 percent were not aware that there was an NGO in the jail from which they could seek assistance.


Community leaders and officials have blamed lack of education for the rising numbers of Muslims in Indian jails.

“There is lack of education and backwardness in the Muslim society,” Maulana Mahmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, told OnIslam.net.

“The Sachar Committee has conceded that the situation of Muslims is even worse that dalits (considered to be most unprivileged and backward in the society),” he said, referring to a committee appointed in 2005 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to compile a report on the socio-economic situation of Indian Muslims.

Indian Muslims have complained decades of social and economic neglect and oppression as well as being discriminated against in all walks of life.

Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.

The Sachar committee has released a number of recommendations to improve the conditions of Muslims, including setting up educational facilities, modernization of madrasahs, creation of job opportunities and steps to increase the community's representation in public services.

But Manisha Sethi of Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) says that unsympathetic judges and a bail system that favors only the rich have contributed in the rising number of Muslims in Indian jails.

This is despite the fact that there is a provision under sections 436 and 436 A of the Indian Penal Code that if a person has served half of the maximum jail term prescribed under law for an offence as under trial then he is entitled for bail on personal bond.

“Madhya Pradesh’s BJP government is very harsh towards the Muslims,” said Aslam Sher Khan, a former Olympian Hockey player and former Union Minister.

“The government incarcerates maximum number of Muslims and, ironically, tries to garner political mileage by shedding crocodile tears in the name of their backwardness and poverty.”

Former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and national general secretary of Congress Digvijay Singh blames the government for the phenomenon.

“If the Muslims feel helpless in the face of police atrocities, then it is the weakness of the Congress party.”

But Ajay Vishnoi, Minorities Welfare Minister of Madhya Pradesh, says efforts are ongoing to improve conditions of Indian Muslims.

“Things don’t change overnight,” he said.

“But our efforts are yielding positive results and the change is coming slowly.

“Poverty and illiteracy are the main reasons behind a community taking to crime. When these problems will be solved, a drastic change will be visible.”

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 07, 2013. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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