News Wrap


While riots and civil distrurbances have declined in 2016 in India, there was a marginal rise in such incidents in 2014 and 2015. The rate of such incidents has declined in the past 27 months, after it rose marginally in 2014, it is now back to levels witnessed in 2013. While the overall conviction rate has increased in India, the rate of convictions in riot cases has declined marginally. The National Crime Records Bureau has been asking the states to provide data in a revised format, from 2014, viz riots, unlawful assembly and offenced promoting enmity between groups. There is a thin line between the three categorises. An unlawful assembly or an offence promoting enmity, need not convert to riots. They are stand alone offences. Similarly, all riots need not be based on hate speech (under Section 153A). A single person could be booked for an offence promoting enmity between groups, which therefore, cannot be counted as a riot. While the re-categorisation may be helpful, the lack of past data for the disaggregated categories, makes it difficult to compare the current number of riots, to the past number. The share of agrarian and caste based riots has risen over the past three years, even as the share of communal conflicts has declined. Bihar, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra witnessed the highest number of riots and civil disturbances in 2017. Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab had the lowest number of such incidents. Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra rank among the top five states, in terms of reported number of communal riots. Riots due to caste conflicts are reported to be the highest in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The conviction rate of riots and civil disturbances has declined steadily over the past three years, to reach a 17-year-old low of 18.1% in 2016. The overall conviction rate for Indian Penal Code crimes is 46.8% in 2016. The use of outdated population projections (based on 2001 census) and inconsistent approach across years, renders a historical comparison of NCRB crime rate difficult.

In an instance of hate crimes, Mohammad Afrazul Khan, a 50-year-old labourer from Malda (West Bengal), was hacked with an axe and then burnt alive by Shambu Lal Raigar, a resident of Rajnagar in Rajsamand district (Rajasthan) on 06 December 2017. The assailant’s 14-year-old nephew shot a video of the incident, and uploaded it on social media. Police arrested Raigar on 07 December 2017, and detained his nephew, who allegedly filmed the incident on  his mobile. In the video, the accused is seen claiming that he had taken revenge for cross-community marital relationships and warned that anyone challenging the majority community would ‘‘meet the same fate’’. Khan was working as an unskilled labourer in Rajsamand for the last twelve years.

Shell Firms
On 07 August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) suspended trade in 331 suspected shell companies. Beginning December 2017, the capital market regulator picked only two companies out of the 48 suspected firms listed on the National Stock Exchange for audit. Only eight companies out of 162 on the BSE have been picked for audit. The rest of the firms have been given a clean chit in the matter after verification of their documents.

Freedom of Press Index
India, the World’s largest democracy, ranks 136 out of 180 countries, in the freedom of press index, as maintained by ‘Reporters without borders’’. Late J Jayalalitha, ex-chief of Tamil Nadu, holds the record of filing more defamation suits against the media, than all other chief ministers combined. During her first term in office, one media house faced 123 defamation cases, which forced the Supreme Court to intervene, and quash them in one stroke. On 06 November 2017, the Judicial Magistrate Tiruneli granted cartoonist G Bala instant bail, after Bala was arrested by the Tiruneli Collector for publishing a cartoon lampooning the chief minister, the district collector and the police commissioner. The cartoon had reference to the tragic scene of a usury victim immolating himself, with his wife and two children. For defending the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests, Rajarathinam alias Seemmani, an advocate from Marankulam, was arrested on 04 November 2017. Article 19 of India’s Constitution provides to all citizens freedom of speech and expression. But nothing explicitly guarantees freedom of the press, and scarcely anything has changed since colonial rule.

Migrants on French–Italy Border
The train from Ventimiglia (Italy) has its first stop in France on the outskirts of Menton (Riviera). All along the frontier with Italy, the French police and army, with the elite squads of the Compagnies Republicianes de Securite, haul off Africans, line them up and search them. Most would be sent back on the next train. The French authorities are waging a war of attrition against a ‘‘winter wave’’ of migrants trying to get out of Italy to northern Europe. Not all the new wave of migrants is seeking refuge from war. They include many of the 2500 criminals released from jails in Tunisia, under a recent amnesty. France has ignored the open borders of the Schengen agreement, and is determined to turn back the tide. Patrolling French troops have arrested more than 45,000 illegal immigrants in the Alpes-Maritime region in 2017, compared with 37,000 in 2016. An average of 1000 illegal migrant are being detained every week. Posters warn against deadly power cables and fast-moving Trains. The idyllic Riviera coast is providing cover for people smugglers.

Vol. 50, No.32, Feb 11 - 17, 2018