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Racism in India: The need for criminalisation of racism and racial crimes

New Delhi, 26 August 2020: The National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) in its submission to the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws of the Ministry of Home Affairs today urged the Committee to insert new provisions in the Indian Penal Code i.e. Section 52B, 153C and Sections 509A to define, criminalise and penalise racial offences in India.

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The Government of India in its affidavit dated 8 July 2015 before the Delhi High Court as well in written replies in the Rajya Sabha on 18 March 2015 and 26 July 2017 assured that the MHA was in the process of finalising a comprehensive bill for insertion of new sections of 153C and 509A in Indian Penal Code (IPC) to address racial attacks especially on the people from North-Eastern States.”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of the NCAT.

Despite the murder of Nido Tania of Arunachal Pradesh and Masonda Ketanda Olivier from Congo in racially motivated attacks and numerous others acts of racism, racial discrimination and violence including torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, India has failed to criminalise racial offences.

Racial crimes have intensified against the Tibeto-Mongoloid origin people, especially from the North East in the wake of COVID-19 which originated in Wuhan city of China. The NCAT provided 30 incidents of racial attacks on the Tibeto-Mongloid looking persons, especially from the North East related to COVID-19 pandemic from across the country.

Apart from being called “Corona”, “Chinese”, “Chinki”, glaring/staring/ogling while walking in the streets or shopping or sitting in public transport, India’s Mongoloid looking people were spat on and called “coronavirus”, forcibly quarantined despite showing no COVID-19 symptoms, denied entry into apartment complex or grocery stores, forced to leave apartment, threatened with eviction from their apartment, forced to leave restaurant to make others comfortable, none wanting to share transport etc.

Despite racism being one of the most serious issues of the country alongside COVID-19 and the Ministry of Home Affairs assuring the Delhi High Court and the parliament to define, criminalise and penalise racism, racial discrimination and racial violence, the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws has failed to include these issues in its agenda items. This failure raises serious questions as  to whether the Committee is at all aware of the legal reforms required including on the issue of criminalisation of racial crimes on which the Government of India had already committed.”- further stated Mr Chakma.

Article 15, Article 16 and Article 29 of the Constitution of India prohibit discrimination on grounds of “race”.  Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) also refers to “race”. India ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in 1968 and vide the Gazette of India notification No. S.O. 2339(E) dated 21 September 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs made ICERD applicable at domestic level under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) of 1993.


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