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Muslims make up 15.8% of all convicts and 20.9% of all undertrials in jails across the country. This is higher than their share in the country’s population, which is 14.2%. But in some states, this gap is far wider. According to latest data on prisons by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2015, in states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the percentage of Muslims in the incarcerated population was almost thrice the percentage of Muslims in the overall population.
Muslims, who are 11.5% of the population of Maharashtra, made up 30% of all undertrials in the state. The gap widened in 2015 from what it had been a year earlier — in 2014, Muslim undertrials made up 26% of all undertrials in Maharashtra.
In states such as West Bengal, Gujarat and Rajasthan, Muslims have almost double the share of undertrial populations in prisons than their share in the populations of the states.
As per the 2011 Census, Muslims are 27% of the population of West Bengal. The NCRB data for 2015 show they account for 47% — almost half of the total — of undertrials in the state’s prisons. But West Bengal also has the maximum number of foreign prisoners, primarily Bangladeshis, who get counted in demographic categorisation by faith.
It is also important to compare these figures with those of Muslim convicts languishing in jails across states. A bigger gap between the two figures would show that while more Muslims are being booked in such states, they are not being convicted for lack of evidence.
In Maharashtra again, this gap is the widest. Muslim convicts make up only 20% of the convict population in Maharashtra’s jails. In all states, the share of Muslims among convicts is higher than their share of population, but lower than their share among undertrials. Tamil Nadu, where Muslims make up 17% of convicts, and Rajasthan, with 18% of such convicts, buck the trend. These two states have 16% Muslim undertrials each.
The figures from Uttar Pradesh, where politics often gets divided along Hindu-Muslim lines, are stark. Muslims represent 19% of all convicts which is exactly proportional to their share in the population of the state. However, among undertrials, the share of Muslims in 27%.
In north India, Bihar fares well, the data show. With a significant population of Muslims — 17% — the state had 18% jail inmates from the community
In Kerala, a Hindu-majority state with a significant Muslim population, the incarceration of the minority community was almost proportional. Against a Muslim population of 27%, the state had 26% undertrials coming from the community.
In undivided Andhra Pradesh, 17% undertrials were Muslim. Fifteen per cent of convicts in the jails of united Andhra belonged to the community, as opposed to their much smaller share (10 per cent) in the population.
Data for Delhi and Madhya Pradesh also show wide gaps between the share of Muslims in their populations and the share of Muslims in their jails. With a 13% share in the population of Delhi, the community accounted for 22% of undertrials in jail and 19% of convicts. In MP, with a share of 7% in population, Muslims made up 13% of undertrials and 10% of convicts.