The National Crime Records Bureau in its annual ‘Crime in India’ report provides data on cases registered under the broad head of ‘Rioting’ along with categorization of such cases into agrarian riots, sectarian riots, communal, student, industrial, etc. Data from 2014 to 2020 does not show any consistent trend across states with different states leading in different ‘rioting’ category cases.
Section 146 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines the offence of rioting as ‘whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly, or by any member thereof, in the prosecution of the common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting.’ The punishment for the offence of rioting is either an imprisonment for up to two years, or a penalty, or both.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is tasked with the collection and dissemination of a national database on crimes, criminals, and law enforcement agencies etc. In its annual ‘Crime in India’ (CII) report, data is collected from Police departments at the state level and compiled by the NCRB. The report presents detailed information on various types of crimes, including riots. It should be noted that the data presented in the report is the number of cases registered under each head by the police. Moreover, the report notes only the most heinous crime as per the ‘Principal Offence Rule’. For instance, if a riot has resulted in death, the case will be counted as death and not a riot.
Additional categories under ‘rioting’ have been added since 2017
The data regarding the cases of rioting is collected under Sections 147 to 151 and Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code. While ‘riots’ was a separate section under cognizable IPC crimes under different crime heads until 2015, it was included under offences against public tranquillity in 2016.
Until 2016, riots were classified under broadly 8 categories. These were communal, industrial, political, caste conflict, agrarian, students, sectarian, and others. However, in 2017 and 2018, there were a total of 17 heads under which the cases registered for riots were classified. In addition to the heads mentioned previously, riots were also classified into vigilantism, money dispute, water dispute, land/property dispute, family disputes, enmity/rivalry, electric/power supply disputes, rioting while in Andolan/morchas, and rioting/attacks on police personnel or government servants. In 2019 and 2020, the classification under vigilantism was dropped, making it a total of 16 categories.
Cases of riots dropped by 30% in 2019 only to increase again in 2020
A total of 4.07 Lakh cases of riots have been registered in the country in the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020. The total number of cases registered each year under ‘riots’ witnessed a gradual decline by about 30% from over 66,000 cases in 2014 to 46,209 cases in 2019. However, the number of cases of riots registered increased once again in 2020 to 51,606 cases, an increase of around 12.2% as compared to 2019.
5 states account for 63% of cases of rioting registered in 7 years
Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala alone accounted for 63% of the riot cases registered between 2014 and 2020. In the seven-year period, West Bengal witnessed a decline in riot cases by close to six times, while the number of cases in Assam declined to less than one-third of the cases registered in 2014. Other states which reported a constant decline in cases include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, and Kerala. Interestingly, Punjab has registered only one case of riot (in 2017) in the seven years under consideration and is the only state with single-digit riot cases registered. On the other hand, the number of cases registered under riots in the states of Jharkhand, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh has increased over the years.
In line with the national trend, the states of Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh have reported an increase in cases in 2020 as compared to 2019. Bihar accounted for 40% and Maharashtra for about 30% of the increase in cases in India in 2020. Delhi, where the number of cases was below 100 between 2017 and 2019, registered 689 cases in 2020.
Agrarian riots increased by 40% while communal riots almost doubled in 2020
The trend in cases registered under the seven major categories of riots for which data is available since 2014 is provided in the chart below. The number of cases registered in these seven categories accounted for about 12% of the cases registered under riots. The majority of the cases of riots fall in the ‘others’ category, despite the inclusion of additional categories in 2017.
Except in 2014, the greatest number of cases registered among these seven categories has been under the ‘agrarian’ category in each of the seven years. More than 17,200 cases have been registered under this head during the seven-year period. Agrarian riots in India increased by nearly 40% in 2020.
Though more than 1,200 cases of ‘communal’ riots were registered in 2014, the number was on a decline until 2019. In 2020, cases of communal riots more than doubled with more than 60% of these cases registered in Delhi where large scale communal violence was reported in February 2020.
An annual average of 1,635 cases have been registered under ‘political’ riots. However, there has been a gradual drop in the number of cases registered under this head for the last four years. With respect to caste conflicts, more than 2000 such cases were registered in 2015 and 2016. Since 2017, the number has fallen below 1000. The number of cases of ‘student’ riots has dropped by nearly 59% since 2017 whereas ‘industrial’ riots have gone down by 56% since 2018.
Bihar, Kerala, UP are among the states reporting the highest share of cases across categories
The category-wise trend in cases of riots across states indicates the following.
- Out of a total of 5,417 cases of communal riots registered between 2014 and 2020, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, and Jharkhand accounted for almost 46% of the cases. In Delhi, 520 out of 522 cases registered under this head, were in 2020. Communal riots accounted for three-quarters of the cases of riots registered in Delhi in 2020.
- Odisha accounts for about 25% of the ‘industrial’ riots reported since 2014. 208 out of 234 incidents of industrial riots registered in Tamil Nadu were in 2018, the year when the state witnessed protests against the expansion of the copper smelter plant of Sterlite Corporation.
- Political riots are the highest in Kerala, with the state accounting for 40 – 60% of the riots registered under this category, each year. On the other hand, the number of cases in West Bengal under this head has dropped to almost one-tenth.
- More than 42% of the riots under ‘caste conflicts’ have been reported from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Though Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have also reported more than 1,000 cases each, more than two-thirds of all the cases between 2014 & 2020 in these two states and UP were reported between 2014 and 2016.
- 52% of the cases under ‘agrarian’ conflicts have been reported from Bihar alone, and 22% from UP. Along with Karnataka, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra, the six states contributed to 93% of these riot cases.
- Kerala alone accounted for 39% of the ‘student’ riots cases. Like the national trend, Kerala has also witnessed a drop in cases since 2017. In 2020, Haryana, Telangana, and Bihar registered more cases than Kerala.
- Under ‘sectarian’ riots, 94% of the cases registered in 2015, and 49% in 2016 were in UP. However, no cases were registered under this head in the state in 2019 and 2020. Tamil Nadu has registered an average of 35 cases under this head annually while the cases in Bihar have increased from 0 in 2017 to 34 in 2020.
Data only reflects the registration of cases by police
While the NCRB is releasing data on an annual basis, it should be noted that only those cases registered by police find their way into this report. Thus, merely because the cases registered in some states are low, it does not necessarily imply a better functioning law & order system compared to states with a higher incidence of such cases.
Recently, when the Home Ministry was asked in Parliament about communal riots, the Ministry responded by stating that ‘Public Order’ and ‘Police’ are State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India and so the responsibility of maintaining law and order, registration and prosecution of crimes against all citizens, rests with the respective State Governments. It also added that the Centre issues appropriate advisories from time to time to maintain peace, public tranquillity, and communal harmony.
10 out of 34 ministers in the Union Council of Ministers with pending criminal cases had cases of riots against them
According to an analysis of the criminal background details of the 78 members of the Union Council of Ministers following cabinet expansion in July 2021, by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 34 (44%) out of the 78 ministers had a criminal case registered against them. 10 out of these 34 ministers had charges of riots against them. Some ministers had more than one charge related to rioting.
Featured Image: Cases of Rioting