COVID-19 and CRIME
Despite the on-going pandemic, where human kind is suffering the worst. People have succumbed to death and many are still fighting for survival there is no pause to the criminal activities. There has been a drop in such activities as compared to any regular day yet people are unstoppable. Highlighted crimes during COVID-19 consists of majorly Cyber-Crimes, violence against policemen on duty, black magic, breach of Section 144 of CrPc, hike in the rate of suicide, domestic abuse, domestic rape, hate crime against Indian-Muslims and more.
There has been a dramatic rise in the amount of cyber-crimes during the lockdown in India. Cases have soared by 86% between May and June, fake offers by various famous telecom services have been recorded. Both private and state-sponsored cyber criminals have proven effective at exploiting the on-going crisis. The spike in cyber-crime has targeted private citizens’ e-wallets and personal data. Personal data has been the most attractive subject for the hackers. Indian officials have reported that malware and phishing schemes operating under pretext of COVID-19 prevention efforts have similarly seen a steep rise since the lockdown. This malware is aimed at stealing bank account details, passwords and other personal information of the users. It was noted that a state sponsored hacking group supported by a country perpetrated a series of ransomware and phishing attacks aimed at stealing highly sensitive data, such as, security and diplomatic information under the guise of coronavirus health advisories. Hacking of social media accounts of prominent figures to spread rumors have also been notes since the lockdown hit.
Apart from Cyber Crime, there have been crimes against policemen on duty during the lockdown. Reportedly we have knowledge that over 250 policemen have been injured while on duty trying to regularize the law and enforcement. The worst of all is violence against a cop in Punjab where a group of five armed men in Patiala responded to the policeman by chopping his hands off.
Moving towards other crimes like black magic which is considered as a serious offence under the Act, The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013 which was originally drafted by anti-superstition activist and founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) Narendra Dobholkar in 2003. On 12th June, 2020 it was reported that a baba claimed to cure COVID-19 by ‘Hand Kissing’, eventually he ended up infecting 24 of his followers in Madhya Pradesh.
Breach of Section 144 of CrPc of 1973 authorizes the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such unlawful assembly can be booked for engaging in rioting and breaking curfew which we are able to witness every day since the lockdown was implied.
Hike in the rate of suicide, domestic abuse (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005) and domestic rape are also few crimes that have been reported despite the entire country on a lockdown. Over 300 deaths in India have been reported during the lockdown due to suicide. People killed themselves due to loneliness and fear of being tested positive for the virus, there have been a staggering number of suicides, caused by fear of infection, loneliness, lack of freedom of movement and alcohol withdrawal during the lockdown until there was a no relief on alcohol purchases. Few have died due to the consumption of sanitizers.
The vilification campaign launched against the Tablighi Jamaat and circulation of fake news about the quarantined preachers and their consistent naming and shaming took the shape of hate crimes against the Muslim community, especially in North India. The latest is a case of alleged mob lynching in Harewali Village in North-West Delhi’s Bawana town. This was when a complete lockdown was underway in the entire country to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Other causes of the ‘non-coronavirus’ deaths include workers travelling long distances on foot or queuing for ration, vigilantism for violating rules and denial of medical care.
There are more crimes that are not being registered yet. Stay safe and help each other get through this bad time.