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How pandemic narratives changed criminal landscape in India


By Dr Nupur Pattanaik
The pandemic has created an atmosphere of panic and fear, giving rise to new criminogenic narratives. It has modified established patterns in traditional crime, with new forms of criminal behaviour emerging and older forms reigniting. At the same time, it has introduced new ways to implement laws by limiting social interaction and mobility – there have been large number of cases on people breaking curfews and lockdowns, not wearing the mask in public and other government or state regulations.
There has been a record of 28 per cent surge in crimes registered in India in 2020 compared in India, according to reports by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Caste and communal riots have risen, including crimes against women, children and aged people, and so have cybercrimes. The expansion and intensity of crimes are differ from earlier times.

Social Construction of Crime and Pandemic Narratives

Behaviours became crimes through social construction. As Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckman Social Construction of Reality where society is created by humans and human interaction, the social construction of crime involves crime caused by social factors and situations. Crimes driven by pandemics became more rampant in today’s world. Our ideas, overview and insight about the crimes developed with what we describe as Covid Crimes, by scrolling the web or reading newspapers in the times of lockdown, in the wake of pandemic crimes have increased but in differing forms, during the early phase of covid-19 in India, coronavirus has been the main story in every news channel with overwhelming danger to life and societies normal way of life, in response the government and the general population took steps to halt the spread of the disease, one of the main story or narrative in the time of pandemic is that human mobility spreads, backed by science the mobility story can be seen as the most important master narratives in these times of crisis. Sometimes major restrictions in India have resulted in isolation, insecurities leading to challenges to health and well-being.
There has been a link between self-protection and vigilantism during the Covid-19 pandemic. In many contexts, it was the government and other official institutions that looked at the local initiatives to control the disease by relying on a certain degree of apocalyptic pandemic narrative and a certain degree of fear in the population sometimes harsh interventions. The actions and attempts of the groups and communities were seen as a way to break the law like not wearing a mask in the pandemic times as a form of rebellious activity due to the atmospheres created in these diseased times with criminalities aroused by negotiated pandemic narratives. It was found that perpetrators are expanding the underlying rationale of government-sponsored pandemic master narratives and are executing them in their way. As the narratives come in different dimensions sometimes through people around us and media where pandemic becomes a conspiracy driven by power, these societal crises of the pandemic have inspired new forms of violation as well as reshaped new formations of crime and its modus operandi.

Covid and Crime: Indian Landscape

India is facing perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis since independence with the Corona pandemic; covid has changed the crime profile in India cases of disobedience and breaking of norms increased the crime rates in India, besides other crimes, the country reported a total of 4,254,356 cases of cognizable crimes in 2020, As during the first wave when the movement was limited there were cases registered under crimes against women, children and senior citizens, theft, burglary, robbery and dacoity, and even health-related crimes like issues of vaccination, etc.
Cyber-attacks have gone high across the country as people started working from home, with accelerating crimes against women. And as second and third wave sets in crimes have been increasing with different paradigm shifts. India recorded over 350 crimes against children, during the pandemic induced lockdown, with higher levels of unemployment which pushed to poor working conditions and increase in misery leading to criminal activities, with trafficking, child marriage and many other social problems inducing crime was on the rise.

Conclusions

As the pandemic began the annual crime rates in India was raised by 28 per cent, and taken an extreme toll on society, several crimes have been arising like hate crimes, crimes against health care workers, hospitals, illegal denial of public mobility out of fear and infection, violations of pandemic regulations have been the new form of crime taking a shape during these times. As these corona crimes help to avoid the unwanted consequences of pandemic narratives to identify the criminogenic and negotiated narratives and prevent further national and international crises in future. The pandemic has not only given enormous forms of new crimes but also paved the way to rethink the social construction of crime and its remedial measures to control and reform society by providing a new landscape.

Dr Nupur Pattanaik Teaches Sociology, Department of Sociology, Central University of Odisha, Koraput, India. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nupur.pattanaik; twitter: https://twitter.com/NupurPattanaik

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