More than fifty politicians who hold elected office in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies have faced charges in criminal cases related to inciting religious violence or stoking communal hatred.
The number of elected representatives who have formally been accused of communal crimes is a small fraction of the total, but it includes many high-profile leaders. From the major to the marginal, here is a list of all of them.
The data for this analysis came from the self-reported affidavits that political hopefuls must file upon declaring their candidacies. The Association for Democratic Reforms, a government watchdog organisation, reads through the thousands of affidavits and posts the information online. HT wrote software to collect and analyse the data from ADR’s website, MyNeta.info.
Because the candidate affidavits only reflect the case statuses at the time of the election, it is possible that some of the candidates were later acquitted or convicted of the crimes for which they were charged.
Most of the cases remain pending in India’s clogged courts. HT’s analysis found only one political candidate who had been convicted of a communal crime. That was Azmi Abu Asim, who won a seat in the Maharashtra assembly in 2014.
Laws against stoking communal violence and offending communal sentiments are contained in sections 153A, 153B, 295, 295A, 505(1)(c), 505(2), and 505(3) of the Indian Penal Code, as well as in section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, which criminalises the promotion of “feelings of enmity or hatred” between communities in connection with an election.
Most of the country’s political candidates did not face any communal criminal charges at the time they ran for office. Of the 50,324 candidates included in HT’s analysis, 187 of them — less than one-half of one percent — stood accused or had been convicted of communal crimes.