While addressing the Lok Sabha on the violence that broke out in parts of northeast Delhi on 24-25 February, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Meenakshi Lekhi claimed that most incidents of rioting have taken place under the Congress regime adding that the only incident of riots, which everyone is always reminded of, was in Gujarat in 2002 and there has been no such case post that in the state.
Citing certain data on riots, Lekhi said:
"Eighteen big riots happened during the Congress’ regime, three happened during President’s rule, four instances of riots have between different groups and the only riot, which they keep remembering, Gujarat. But if we remember the history of Gujarat then people will be shocked to know that there were incidents of riots in Gujarat every year. And after 2002, there hasn’t been a single case of rioting."Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP MP to Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 11 March
(Lekhi can be heard making the statement at 21:00 minute mark.)
Lekhi uses the word ‘danga’ which translates to riots, though she doesn’t categorically mention whether she is referring to the cases of communal riots/violence or just incidents of rioting.
Let’s take look at how the data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Home Affairs, contradicts Lekhi’s claims.
NCRB Data on Communal Violence/Riots From 2014-2018
According to the NCRB data from the year 2014, 57 cases of communal violence/riots were reported from the state of Gujarat while the total number of cases of riots in the state were 1,354. NCRB recorded the number of victims for these 57 cases to be at 107.
For the year 2015, the number of cases of riots that were recorded were 1,751 while those of communal violence/riots stood at 45. While for the year 2016, the number of communal riots/violence in the state stood at 62 with 105 victims.
Similarly for 2017 and 2018, the total number of cases of riots in the state stood at 1,740 and 1,898 respectively. And the cases of communal violence/riots were 44 and 39 respectively.
Speaking to The Quint, Rohit Ticku, a researcher on religious conflicts and their relations to electoral outcomes, said:
"Data on violence (including riots) is generally under-reported across states in India. It seems quite plausible that state governments would under-report incidents of violence, as it can blemish their performance."Rohit, Ticku, Researcher
Ticku also shared the state-wise data (1950-2006) collected for his research from a national daily. According to this data, there were 37 instances of communal riots in 2003, 11 in 2004, three instances in 2005 and two reported cases in 2006.
Neither does the NCRB data corroborate what Lekhi said nor does the data presented by the Minister of State (MoS) for Ministry of Home Affairs in the Parliament.
According to the data provided by Hansraj Ahir, Minister of State (MoS), Home Affairs in the Lok Sabha in December 2018, the number of communal incidents in the state of Gujarat were recorded to be at 74, 55, 53 and 50 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Factly, a data-journalism portal, had reported about the discrepancy in the data produced by NCRB and MHA on cases of ‘communal incidents’.
There were also riots that broke out in Vadodara in 2006 after the municipal council decided to remove the shrine of Syed Chishti Rashiduddin. At least six people were killed and dozens of others were reportedly injured. According to news reports, a thousand troops of the Indian Army had to be dispatched to contain the spreading violence between Hindus and Muslims.
There was another incident of violence which was reported in Vadodara in 2014 ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. The violence reportedly broke out after Hindu deities were superimposed over Mecca’s shrine in images that went viral.
It must be noted that there hasn’t been large-scale riot/violence like Godhra in Gujarat but in light of the well-documented data presented by NCRB, Lekhi’s statement is inaccurate.
(Editor’s Note: We have included the data for cases of riots and communal riots separately in the absence of any mention of the word ‘communal ‘in the MP’s speech.)