HATE CRIME: A PANDEMIC PHENOMENON By Kanika Jaggi from Symbiosis Law School, Pune
Altaf loved celebrating Christmas. He was born and brought up in the United States of America. His residence was in the Portland area of Oregon State, vicinity mostly inhabited by Muslims. He decorated his house and his Christmas tree with lights, garlands, ribbons and mouthwatering candies. He was ecstatic to visit the nearby church and take the blessings of God with his parents just like he had been doing for the past 6 years. However, his parents were hesitant to step out of the house that day. Altaf was befuddled and annoyed as he thought of it as an unbreakable tradition. He was headstrong about going to the church and so he escaped from the house without informing his parents. On the way, a group of middle-aged white boys spotted him, beat him up and strangled him with a rope to be left beside a garbage chest around two blocks away from his house. It was the year 2011 and the same group of profane white boys was preached by their parents that the Muslim ethnic groups were terrorists and they did not deserve to live amongst the civilized white people.
Hate crimes are rooted in the idea of stereotype, racism, hatred, and intolerance and lead to hateful harassment, terrorism and xenophobia. Atrocities may occur due to the abomination of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Victims are threatened, intimidated and harassed because of their birth, lifestyle choices and the language they speak.
“Crimes motivated by prejudice, also known as hate crimes or bias-motivated crimes, affect the security of individuals, their communities and societies as a whole.”
Altaf was a victim of ‘hate crime’. Although this story is fiction but many such real events are occurring around the world leaving people locked up inside their houses and depriving them of their dignity and freedom. Even the people of developed countries happen to be attackers, victims, and spectators of this evil. Various incidences including acid attacks, racial abuse, women having their head scarves ripped from their heads, or being spat at, and Islamophobic attacks have been reported. The police in Manchester and London have registered surges in anti-Muslim hate crime as the immediate aftermaths of the bombing in the Manchester Arena and the London Bridge Attack. America also witnessed such ‘bias incidents’ including assault of a Sikh cab driver, the death of two Oregon men defending a pair of girls from bigoted taunts, a noose hanging inside a shrine to black history and a racial slur spray-painted on one of sport’s biggest icons’ property.
Hate crime in India is not a new tale to tell, it has been happening for the ages. India is a country with tremendous demographic divide and castism. The existence of untouchability since the time immemorial has formed a basis to commit hates crimes. People are termed untouchables based on whether they are born into one of the four castes based on karma and purity or not. Crimes against historically marginalized SCs and STs by the upper castes in India also represent an extreme form of prejudice and discrimination. In order to put a good picture, politicians in India have proclaimed that strong action would be taken against anyone found guilty of such offences. The current Home Secretary of India, in an interview, stated that changes in training methodology and structure in police department should take place and people should make themselves responsible.
What causes such aggression and animosity in people committing hate crimes is an intriguing question. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies allude to a rather obscure study to help spot bias in criminal offences because bias is an important element of a hate crime. This study was conducted by two scientists in Boston by examining hate-crime case files and interviewing victims, offenders, and investigators. According to their study, there are four main kinds of hate crimes, ranging from ‘thrill-seekers’ to ‘mission-offenders’. The former is the most common hate crime and the latter, a rare but often committed by lethal hardcore hatemongers. Other two kinds of hate crimes include defensive and retaliatory.
Non-discrimination is core human rights principle embodied in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. All persons are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The Secretary-General of the United Nation while addressing a gathering stated that the United Nations is launching an effort to promote respect, safety and dignity for all called the ‘Together Campaign’.
In order to curb such undesirable practices, which impress upon people life-shattering experiences, it’s crucial for communities and politicians to lucidly disapprove of hate crimes. There must be proper legislations in place punishing such acts and its implementation must be monitored. The system of creating a hierarchy of superiority must be done away with. People must be educated about such existing evils and the negative impact that it causes. All possible steps shall be taken with a view to make this world a felicity and safeguard the posterity.
 Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/documents/issues/discrimination/a.hrc.19.41_english.pdf (Last accessed on 13.7.17)
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