The FBI has reported an increase in hate crimes in the US for a second consecutive year, with Hindus and Sikhs among those targeted in the more than 6,000 incidents of crimes motivated by biases towards religions, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
There were 10 incidents of hate-crimes against Hindus and seven against Sikhs in 2016 — the year of the rise of Donald Trump as a politician and his election as president.
The maximum number of hate crimes were related to race or ethnicity in 2016— 3,483 — with more than half against African Americans. Religion-related hate crimes came second, with Jews and Muslims targeted the most. Another 1,076 hate crimes were linked to with sexual orientation, while other incidents were linked to disability, gender and gender-identity.
Hate crimes against Muslims— a group targeted by Trump — saw a steep rise, increasing to 307 incidents in 2016 from 257 in 2015 and 154 in 2014.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), an organization that tracks hate-crime and discrimination, said the rise in hate crimes “coincides with Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign and its immediate aftermath”.
The FBI and the justice department did not make that connection. “The department of justice is committed to ensuring that individuals can live without fear of being a victim of violent crime based on who they are, what they believe, or how they worship,” attorney general Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
The SPLC contends that the actual number of hate crimes may be much higher. In a report, they said that the “actual number of hate crimes may be as high as 250,000 – more than 40 times the 6,121 incidents that the FBI reports for 2016. But the FBI figures do serve as a rough barometer for what’s occurring in our country”.
The number of hate crimes against Hindus, whose numbers are estimated to be around of 2.1 million, were not listed separately in the 2014 FBI report, but have figured independently in the next two annual reports —with five in 2015 and 10 in 2016.
The number for hate crimes against Sikhs, whose population is estimated to be 500,000, went up from six in 2015 to seven in 2016. The community has been a victim of hate crimes as they are usually mistaken as Arabs due to their turbans. The targeting of Hindus is also usually due to their being mistaken as Arabs.