A Decade of Darkness: Our Sedition Database Is Now Live

Dear Readers,

Our sedition database is now live. You can explore it here: https://sedition.article-14.com/.

Today's essay, by Editor Databases Lubhyathi Rangarajan, reveals what went into creating our empirical, investigative research tool into the use of sedition over 12 years. We scraped data from 1,300 legal documents, 800 media reports and 125 FIRs. Our reporters conducted more than 70 interviews with those accused of sedition.

New Delhi: On 13 April 2006, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over a conference with the chief ministers of Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand. At this meeting, Singh declared that left-wing extremism posed the “single biggest internal security threat in India”. 

Following this, a security offensive called Operation Greenhunt was executed under home minister P Chidambaram of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA II) to “weed out” Maoists, from their forest redoubts and in urban India. Chidambaram denied the existence of this operation, and termed it a “media invention”. 

Yet, during this time, our new sedition database, launched on 4 February 2022, found the highest number of cases quoting sedition—section 124A of the Indian Penal Code—between 2010 and 2014 had been filed in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar, also known as the “red corridor”. 

Identifying contradictions like these are possible when patterns are drawn from data, something not always possible with government statistics. That is what our new database—which lists 13,000 cases of sedition between 2010 and 2021—does.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) provides data on sedition cases only from 2014 onwards but, by its own admission, under-reports statistics because of the methodology it uses (more on this later).  

While the NCRB publishes statistics on the number of cases filed annually, people arrested, convictions, acquittals and other data on the criminal process, it does not offer context: It does not tell us why the case was filed, against whom and by whom, when and where. It also does not trace the journey of sedition cases through the judicial system. 

Our data fill in these and other gaps left by the NCRB. Using 1,300 legal documents, 800 media reports, 125 first information reports (FIRs) and more than 70 interviews with those accused of sedition, the database, called A Decade of Darkness, provides unprecedented insight into India’s use of a law discarded by most democracies.

Read the full story here.

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