A friend recently told me about a conversation she heard in the Delhi metro. Two elderly gentlemen were talking with utter conviction that Muslims were more violent than people of other religions. I was shocked to hear this, and even more shocked to realize that this is a commonly held opinion among many educated, middle-class Hindus in India.

I decided to run the numbers, and see if there was any truth to these claims. To avoid bias, I only looked at the data that has been provided by the government of India.

Murder Rates in India

I looked at district-wise murder-rates in India, and found that the highest murder rates are in Jharkhand, the North-East, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Western UP. Most of these areas are not Muslim dominated, as you can see below. If you are using a computer, hover over a district to see Muslims as a proportion of total population in the region.

Muslims as a proportion of total population (Census 2011)

Clearly, Muslims are not the problem here.

Our ability to cope with religious diversity, however, seems to be a major problem. This diversity was measured by the Inverse Simpson Index . A value of 1 indicates that every single person in a district belongs to the same religion, while higher values imply greater diversity.

Religious Diversity in India (Inverse Simpson Index - Census 2011)

The map of diversity index looks disturbingly similar to the map of murder rate in India. So perhaps Muslims and Hindus are not necessarily more violent than each other. But maybe they do become more violent when they are around each other. While these maps don’t ‘prove’ anything, they do make a poignant point. Diverse communities likely indeed have higher rates of crime than homogenous ones. But the kind of conversations that my friend heard on the metro - and the kind of conversations that we have been reading on social media, threaten to divide us further apart.