As national crime data do not distinguish between violent crime and crime motivated by religious hatred, Hate Crime Watch is the first statistical perspective to a growing phenomenon of such violence.

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FactChecker’s Citizens’ Religious Hate Crime Watch (Hate Crime Watch, in short) aims to record incidents that are prima facie crimes committed either partly or wholly motivated by the religious identity of the victim(s).

What is a religious hate crime? 

Religious hate crimes are criminal acts that are accompanied by a religious-bias motivation. Bias motivation refers to the motivation that reflects bias, prejudice or hatred towards the victim/victims because of her/their actual or perceived affiliation to a religious group. Bias motivation need not be established as the dominant motivation for the act to qualify as a religious hate crime.

Criteria for including cases in the database

For an incident to qualify as religion-based hate crime under our criterion, the act must qualify as a criminal act under Indian law. It is not necessary that formal criminal proceedings should have started for the fulfillment of this criterion; only that the available evidence should suggest that the act qualifies as a criminal act on the face of it. The target of a hate crime can be a person, groups of persons or property. The Hate Crime Watch does not document speech crimes.

Identifying the existence of bias motivation

In order to determine the existence of bias motivation, the Hate Crime Watch relies on various contextual factors called bias indicators. The OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights defines bias indicators as those:

“…objective facts, circumstances or patterns connected to a criminal act that, alone or in conjunction with other indicators, suggest that the offender’s actions were motivated in whole or in part by bias, prejudice or hostility. For example, if a perpetrator uses racial slurs while attacking a member of a racial minority, this could indicate a bias motive and be sufficient for the responding officer to classify a crime as a likely hate crime. By the same token, the desecration of a cemetery or an attack on a gay pride parade may be bias indicators of anti-religious or anti-LGBT motivation.”

Bias indicators, by their very meaning, are to be established through evidence or patterns. Available evidence in India strongly suggests a correlation between a range of contextual factors and the acts being prima facie religious hate crimes. Hate Crime Watch uses the following as bias indicators:

  • Cow or cattle protection
  • Interfaith relationships
  • Religious conversion
  • Insult to religious symbols
  • Insult to national symbols
  • Affiliation of the alleged perpetrators to organisations with an extremist or violent agenda against certain religious groups
  • Statements made by the alleged perpetrator(s), before, during or after the incident, reflecting religious bias or prejudice
  • The incident being committed in the context of hate speech
  • Extreme violence or violence accompanied by its public exhibition

The way forward

Currently, the incidents listed on Hate Crime Watch are those incidents that have been reported in the English language print and online news reports, as English media tend to have the widest national coverage, are easily verifiable and hold up to scrutiny.

Going forward, we aim to rely on the following additional sources:

  • reliable news and media sources (including in regional languages)
  • documentation of human rights organisations
  • self-reported incidents on the Hate Crime Watch platform that are verified, and
  • independent fact-findings conducted by the partners of Hate Crime Watch.