They make up no more than 4% of India’s 1.2 billion people but Sikhs and Christians are more likely to be undertrials, detenues and convicts than Hindus and Muslims.
Hindus are least likely to be undertrials and convicts. Christians are most likely to be detained and imprisoned. These data, contained in Prison Statistics India 2014, were released last month by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
There are relatively more Sikhs in prison (as undertrials, convicts, detenues and other prisoners) than followers of any other faith. 840 per million Sikhs are in prison followed by Christians (601), Muslims (477) and Hindus (305).
In India there are a total of 4,18,536 prisoners, of which 282,879 are undertrials followed by convicts (131,517), detenues (3,237) and other prisoners (903). 346 per million people in India are prisoners.
The proportion of Sikh and Christian undertrials in Indian prisons is two times their proportion in the general population, according to the NCRB data.
As convicts, the proportion of Sikhs is three times their proportion in the general population and for Christians, it’s two times.
There is no official explanation for the higher relative proportion of Sikhs and Christians in jail. The highest number of Sikh undertrials is in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, which account for 83% of all Sikh undertrials in the country.
The highest number of Christian undertrials comes from Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Orissa, accounting for nearly half (46%) of all Christian undertrials. These are also states where the Christian population is overwhelmingly poor: drawn from scheduled-caste converts in Tamil Nadu and tribal converts in Jharkhand and Orissa.
As many as 282,879 people are undertrials in jails across India. 70% of these undertrials are Hindu, 21% Muslim, 4% Christian and 4% Sikh.
Of 131,157 convicts, 72% of convicts (95,348) are Hindus, 16% (21,550) are Muslim, 4% Christian and 6% Sikh.
The proportion of undertrials who are Hindus (70%) is 10 percentage points less than their proportion in the general population (80%), according to an IndiaSpend analysis of NCRB data. The proportion of Muslim undertrials is seven percentage points more than their proportion in the general population.
490 per million Sikhs are undertrials, the highest for any faith. The figure for India is 234 undertrials per million people.
An estimated 397 per million Christians, 346 per million Muslims and 204 per million Hindus are undertrials.
The religious profile of convicts is along similar lines.
The proportion of Hindu convicts (72%) is eight percentage points less than their proportion in the general population (80%). The proportion of Muslim convicts is two percentage points more than their proportion in the general population.
350 per million Sikhs are convicts, the highest for any faith. The national figure is 109 convicts per million people.
An estimated 185 per million Christians are convicts, compared to 125 per million Muslims and 99 per million Hindus.
Christian undertrials increase 53% over five years
There was an 18% increase in undertrial prisoners across India over the past five years.
Christian undertrials increased 53% from 7,198 in 2010 to 11,048 in 2014; however, there was a decline of 11% in 2014 over 2013.
In overall terms, there was an increase of 5% in convicts over the past five years.
Sikh convicts increased 32%, from 5,500 in 2010 to 7,286 in 2014, while Christian convicts went up 24% over the same period.
The number of Hindu convicts rose 4%; Muslim convicts declined 5%.
Tamil Nadu, home to most Christian undertrials
The highest number of Christian undertrials is in Tamil Nadu (2,538).
Hindu undertrials increased 18% over the past five years, followed by Sikh (17%) and Muslim (12%).
As many as 197,273 Hindus were undertrials at the end of 2014 across India, followed by Muslims (59,550), Christians (11,048), Sikhs (10,203) and others (4,805).
Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country with 200 million people, had 62,515 undertrials. Bihar (26,800) is second, followed by Maharashtra (19,895), Madhya Pradesh (19,188) and Punjab (15,467).
In terms of undertrials per million people, Delhi tops with 606, followed by Dadra and Nagar Haveli (579), Punjab (558), Mizoram (506) and Haryana (439).
There are 3,237 detenues in jails across India; of these 63% (2,030) are Hindu, 20% (658) are Muslim and 16% (505) are Christian, mirroring the profile of undertrials and convicts.
(Mallapur is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend)
This story was originally published in IndiaSpend , India’s first data-journalism initiative.