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Religious discrimination in India even in prisons

· According to a report by the National Crimes Record Bureau ·

The high number of inmates in Indian prisons who belong to socio-religious minorities is due to the attitude of some who target the most vulnerable sections of society. This is what Arun Ferreira, activist for Christian Dalit and of tribals, affirmed recently commenting on the latest report “Prison Statistics India” prepared by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB). According to the statistics in 2012, 28.02% of the inmates in the entire country were Muslim. This is a very high percentage because at the moment Muslims only represent 13.4% of the population. The situation is similar for Christians, who make up 6% of the prison population, while overall they only constitute 2.3%.

“We get these percentages”, the activist explained to AsiaNews, “because Dalits, Tribals, Muslims and Christians are often the victims of loopholes and sections of the Indian Penal Code”. Ferreira knows the reality of prisons in India. In May 2007 he was arrested in Nagpur (Maharashtra), accused of being a Naxalite (Maoist) guerrilla. He was indicted under 11 charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. During his time in prison, he was tortured and interrogated twice after being treated with a “truth serum”, a substance which is now illegal. After four years and eight months he was released on bail. In his experience, Ferreira says that “every state tends to target minorities, showing some of its specific features”. “In states where Hinduism is strong, like Orissa (where the effects of anti-Christian pogroms still linger), many innocent Christians have been arrested and thrown in prison, falsely accused of being Naxalites. However, the same thing happened in Gujarat after the 2002 riots.... In Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which are also under strong Hindu influence, the authorities have overtly attacked the Christian community, treating its members as the 'criminal' element in the Dalit and tribal groups.” Christians often fall into the clutches of the justice system on false evidence because they support causes that embarrass the authorities. For example, “in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, some tribal Christians were arrested on false accusations of terrorism,” Ferreira noted, “when in fact the problem was their struggle against large-scale mining projects that required huge tracts of land to be expropriated.” Sadly, he said, neither the government nor the NCRB recognize political prisoners as a separate category, therefore there are no separate statistics.

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