Around 32.9 per cent of all convicts and 23.4 per cent of under-trials in Gujarat’s prisons are Dalits, a community that forms just about 6.7 per cent of the state’s overall population.
The statistics are part of a recently released National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report titled ‘Prison Statistics India 2013’, which relates to different aspects of prisons and prison inmates in Indian jails.
The data suggests that the proportion of Dalits among Gujarat’s convicts is nearly 4.9 times higher than their share in the state’s population, with its under-trial numbers up to 3.5 times higher.
This disparity has long been cited by activists as proof of widespread discrimination against vulnerable communities.
However, the NCRB study provides no reason for the high rate of Dalit convicts and under-trials.
According to the report, as of December 2013, there are 3,808 convicts in Gujarat. Out of these, 1,251 were members of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Dalits, 624 of the Scheduled Tribes (STs), 1,360 Other Backward Classes, and 573 ‘others’.
Out of a total of 7,604 under-trials, 1,778 are SCs, 1,405 STs, 2,718 OBCs and 1,703 ‘others’.
A comparison with other states suggests that the gap between the proportion of Dalit prisoners and their overall numbers in Gujarat is higher than any other part of India.
Assam is a distant second in the list, with SCs comprising 18.2 per cent of all convicts and 17.7 per cent of under-trials against an overall population share of 7.2 per cent.
The report also puts the number of Muslim convicts (23.3 per cent) and under-trials (23.6 per cent) at a proportion much higher than their share in the population, which stands at 9.1 per cent.
Muslims make up for 886 of the state’s total 3,808 convicts, and 1,796 of its 7,604 under-trials.
The disparity between their proportion among Gujarat’s prisoners and overall population is quite high – 2.6 per cent – even though it’s lower than the gap in Odisha, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.
A comparison with the national average would suggest that, while Dalits and Muslims constitute a higher proportion of convicts and under-trials vis-àvis their population, the all-India difference is not as wide as Gujarat’s.
At the national level, the data shows that while Muslims constitute around 13.4 per cent of India’s population, they make up for 19 per cent of prison inmates – 17.1 per cent of all convicts and 21 per cent of under-trials.
The situation with regard to SCs is not very different. As against their population strength of 16.2 per cent, SCs constitute 22.5 per cent of convicts and 21.3 per cent of under-trials.