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Have crimes against SCs and STs increased of late? Here are the facts

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A website named India Spend, which calls itself the “country’s first data journalism initiative”, and aspires to be the “agency of record when it comes to data and facts” recently ran a sensational cover story about the rise in crime rates against Dalits in India. It claimed that its analysis of data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicated a sharp rise in crimes against Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and that the crime rates against the communities had jumped eight times (746%) and 12 times (1,160%) respectively in the past decade.

The article was highlighted by many activist groups as well as prominent journalists including Shivam Vij and Tufail Ahmad. Rajdeep Sardesai even called it “solid data”. The claims of the ‘analysis’ seemed truly horrifying, for if true, wouldn’t such atrocities against a part of the Indian society in the last few years drawn international attention?

And then IndiaSpend realised it had bungled? The authors of the article, in their enthusiasm to play up caste atrocities, had compared entities with different denominators to make the claim. They regretted their error, attributing it to the change in NCRB’s methodology. What they did not mention in their regret message though was that they had misquoted the report. They changed a few things in the article, importantly the claim of 746% increase in crime rates against Scheduled Castes was changed to 25% increase and 1,160% increase in crime rates against Scheduled Tribes was changed to a 9% decrease after their new calculations. But many errors were left as they were and a new title was chosen, cherry-picking another number so that the original narrative of a steep rise in caste atrocities remained intact and the article was salvaged.

Dr Dunkin Jalki and Dr Sufiya Pathan at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHS), Ujire, have studied the reports on caste published by media and activist groups for past several years. In their research published in 2017, they identify a clear trend in these reports to cherry-pick data made public by the police department to sensationalise and make exaggerated claims of incidence and rise in caste violence. They note that one of the strategies used by some scholars and activists “to puff-up figures and claim that caste violence is always on the rise is to use absolute total figures.”

If we look at the Crime In India statistics published by NCRB which the IndiaSpend article picks from, we find that the authors of the article are guilty of this fallacy and similar ones. For example, in the time period that we are told the crime rate against Scheduled Castes increased by 25% (was 746%), the rate of overall crimes as reported under Indian Penal Code (IPC) increased by more than 39% and the rate of violent crimes against all Indians went up by more than 45%. So, if the crime........

© The Financial Express