The Indian sub-continent is witnessing a sudden rise in the incidents of hate crimes in contemporary times. Incidents under this generally involve violence against an individual or a group, of a particular social group, by mobs, mainly on religious matters, which create turmoil in the overall Social Structure. Motivated by hate and biased mindset hate crimes are often aimed at sending a message to a particular group of society to instil in them fear and make a statement. Here in this article, we would be dealing with the meaning, history, nature and consequences of Hate Crimes in the Indian context.
What is Hate Crime?
According to the Organization on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), Hate crimes are criminal acts committed with a bias motive.[i] Also known as a “bias-motivated crime” or “bias crime” they are not defined as a legal offence but as a concept which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim of a particular social group.
Hate crime refers to criminal acts which are motivated by bias against an individual or social group because of certain differences, majorly in their religious practices and customs. In contemporary times its meaning has proliferated beyond lynching, discrimination and offensive speeches and now encompasses speech that is insulting, derogatory or incites and violence. All of this results in disturbing the harmony and order in society at large. It affects its victims drastically which chillingly effects a victim both mentally and physically, resulting in his/her mental and physical dilapidation.
To determine whether a crime is a hate crime or bias crime, the motivation behind the act is to be taken into consideration. A hate crime is always motivated, by bias or hatred of a person or social group against another person or social group because of differences arising out of race, religion, ethnicity, customs, practices and the like. It has a psychological and emotional impact that extends far beyond the victim. Attacks motivated based on such biases also undermine the person’s rights given to him by virtue of being born as an Indian Citizen.
Thus, in totality Hate Crimes could be defined as an attack on a person’s rights entrusted to him thereby affecting not only him but the social structure as a whole which in many ways makes it more heinous than many other Criminal Offences.
History of Hate Crimes
The concept of hate crime emerged in the United States in the late 1970s, but such crimes even occurred before that, Roman persecution of Christians and the Nazi slaughter of Jews being imminent examples of the same. Cases of Hate crimes in the past were committed against the members of oppressed groups which were motivated by biases against the other community making it substantially different and more dangerous than other kinds of crime.
Some of the most imminent examples of hate crimes include lynching of Afro-Americans in South America, and Chinese in the West, assaults on LGBTQ Community; xenophobic responses to a variety of minority ethnic groups and the like. The concept got a distinct recognition in 2003 when the term “hate crimes” was first used by the OSCE, the Ministerial Council where the member states recognised it and made commitments to make legislations to curb such crimes.
In India, Hate Crime is not a new concept. There were incidents related to such crimes since the very formation of the nations which were majorly based on religion. Apart from religion-biased crimes, there was also the presence of Caste and Gender-based violence and an event marking the inception of Hate Crimes in India cannot be pinpointed. As per a report by NCRB, India has the majority of hate crimes based upon Caste and Religion, followed by gender-biases which are increasing at an alarming rate. In India, Hate crimes like lynching and Hate Speeches not only affect the victim but also alienate entire communities.
As per the report of Hate Crime Watch as of April, 2019, there were 282 Hate Crimes which resulted in 100 deaths. Muslims were in a majority 57% incidents victims to such crimes followed by Christians in 15% cases and then Hindus, in 13% cases. All of these data simply show the alarming rate at which such crimes occur and how it had deep-rooted itself in society.
Nature and Characteristics of Hate Crimes
Hate Crimes are not like any other crime in India and has a sense of biases attached to the motive which is not there with any other type of crime. There is a certain nature and characteristic of hate crimes which makes it differentiable from any other criminal offences and they are as follows:
1. Hate Crimes though different in nature is always based on a crime which is penal and therefore imposes some form of punishment. This makes hate crime an offence under domestic criminal law and enunciates its criminality.
2. A hate crime is always motivated by biases. It only when there is a bias that a criminal act forms into a hate crime. The factor to be observed is the selection of a victim based on prejudice based upon his religion, community, gender and the like.
3. Hate crimes are an extreme form of discrimination. It is committed out of some big difference present in the community against the other which makes the former discriminate the later and in dire condition commit crimes against them because of their biases.
4. In the case of Hate crimes, the target is always an individual or a group of individuals with common characteristics that are noticeable and results in the differences and biases.
5. Hate crimes have a varying degree of occurrences which ranges from vandalism to physical abuse and even sometimes homicide. The gravity of hate crimes is based upon the brutality and cruelty to which they amounted and its effect on the society as a whole.
Types of Hate Crimes in India and provisions connected with them
The term ‘hate speech’ as per the Black’s Law Dictionary means “a speech that carries no meaning other than an expression of hatred for some group, such as a particular race, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence”. [ii]To simply put a speech that is derogatory towards some person or community is known as hate speech. It represents a serious concern because considering the present conditions in India it can fuel broad-scale conflict. Most common grounds of hate speech are race, ethnicity, religion or class. India presents a peculiar case for regulation of hate speech with its rich diversity of language, caste, race, religion, culture and beliefs. Hate speech in India is defined in terms of the harm done to a community at large rather than an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression and the harm done as a result of hate speech. In India hate speech is prohibited which is based upon religion, ethnicity, culture or race. Though the term is nowhere mentioned in any statute its different forms are identified across the laws. The Indian Penal Code under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 505(1) and 505(2)25 declares that word, spoken or written, that promotes disharmony, hatred, or insults on basis of religion, ethnicity, culture, language, region, caste, community, race etc., is punishable under law. On a similar note, The Representation of People Act, Information Technology Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the like also contain provisions concerning hate speech and its prevention.
In India, the incidents of hate speech have been on a rise and the laws altogether, have not been very effective in this aspect. Therefore, it becomes a matter of urgent concern to not only regulate hate speech but to adopt such practices that can undo the damage that hate speech causes.
Lynching and Mob Violence
In Tehseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India[iii], Hon’ble Supreme Court has defined Lynching as targeted violence which affects the human body and is against private and public property. In India, these are incidents where a group of people kill a person allegedly for an offence which is usually based on some rumour. The belief and practice of one community make some other community dislodged of its emotions which often leads to an unlawful act of mob violence. In a report of 2018, states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Gujrat, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were the major for cases lynching and mob violence.
As of now, there are no laws against lynching in India, however, provisions in various statutes handle matters related to lynching and mob violence, like under Section 223(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 a person can be charged for an act of group attack on some other person. Similarly, provisions under IPC such as Section 302, Section 304, Section 307, Section 323, Section 325 and the like deals with the cases of hate crimes indirectly. Lynching mostly include attacks which result in murder or attempt to murder, harassment, assault, gang-rape etc, this is why the aforementioned provisions of IPC could be used in cases of Lynching and Mob Violence.
Considering the present societal turmoil in India, cases of hate crimes are on a record high. There are numerous cases reported daily, which is something to be alarmed about. The bigotness and discrimination that backs such crime are not at all conducive for our heterogeneous culture because this makes cohabitation next to impossible. Considering all this there is an urgent need for separate legislation and strict implementation procedures to curb such biased-hate crimes. Laws such as “Manav Suraksha Kanoon” are needed to be enforced and strict actions should be taken against violators of hate crime laws. It is to be noted here that these crimes are fundamentally different from other types of violent crime, and therefore are to be looked from a different angle and it is only through these steps we can curb the cancer of hate crimes out of our society.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i]OSCE Ministerial Council Decision No. 9/09, op.cit., note 1.
[ii]BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (9th ed, 2009).
[iii] Tehseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India, (2018) 6 SC 72.