1,000 communal clashes, 965 dead in last 8 years

India on 20 September 2013
Location : New Delhi, India | Source : Times of India. Image Source: Times of India

The recent communal violence in Muzaffarnagar has once again brought home the danger of playing politics with religious beliefs. In the past eight years, there have been nearly a thousand communal incidents across the country. While the casualties are countable - 965 dead and over 18,000 injured - the toll on India's economic and social fabric is beyond any metric.

More than half of these incidents took place in five states -- Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala. While Uttar Pradesh is generally considered to be the most susceptible to communal tensions, if incidents of communal violence and casualties are measured in the context of the population of states, a different picture emerges.

The worst five states in India in terms of communal incidents per million population are Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala, in that order, over a period spanning from 2005 to the first quarter of 2013. Madhya Pradesh, with 965 incidents between 2005 and 2013 (March), has the worst record of nearly 14 incidents for every million population. The countrywide average is about 5 incidents per million population. This is because in most parts of the country communal strife is negligible.

Uttar Pradesh, by this reckoning, has a count of about 5 incidents per million population, similar to the national average, while its neighbour Bihar, once considered a hotspot of communal violence, has just 2.8 incidents per million. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Haryana and Punjab are the five best states with communal incidents at less than 2 per million population.

Data for communal incidents was culled from answers given by the home minister to several Parliament questions.

Casualty figures for communal incidents, including both the number of persons killed and injured, are almost in direct correspondence to the number of incidents, barring a major exception, Uttar Pradesh. This state joins the ranks of the worst five states in terms of casualties in communal violence with Kerala dropping much further down. Madhya Pradesh again leads with 36 casualties per million population. The all-India average is just over 16.

The five best states in terms of lowest casualties in communal violence are Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab. The first two have about 7 casualties per million, while the other three have less than 2 per million population.

Casualties reflect the extent and nature of violence in an incident. Muzaffarnagar is one of the worst incidents in recent years. The Gujarat killings in 2002 were by far the most extensive and brutal in the new millennium, with estimates of those killed varying between 1,000 and 2,000.

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