India - Amnesty International Report 2008

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF INDIA

Amnesty International  Report 2013


The 2013 Annual Report on
India is now live »

Head of State : Pratibha Patil (replaced APJ Abdul Kalam in July)
Head of government : Manmohan Singh
Death penalty : retentionist
Population : 1,135.6 million
Life expectancy : 63.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) : 84/88 per 1,000
Adult literacy : 61 per cent

Bomb attacks and armed conflict in various parts of the country left hundreds of people dead. Indo-Pakistan talks as well as initiatives to resolve conflicts in Kashmir and Nagaland made little progress. Rapid strides in some economic sectors fuelled high expectations in urban areas, although moves to acquire land and other resources for business and development projects led to protests in several states. This coincided with an upsurge in activity by armed Maoist groups in some states, raising security and human rights concerns. Marginalized local communities, including adivasis (indigenous communities), dalits and small farmers, protested against threats to their livelihood, denial of their right to participation in decision-making over development projects, and resettlement and rehabilitation processes. Many types of human rights abuses were reported, including unlawful killings, forced evictions, excessive use of police force, violence against women and harassment of human rights defenders. Institutional mechanisms failed to protect civil and political rights or ensure justice for victims. The failings extended to economic, social and cultural rights, particularly of already marginalized communities.

Background

Hundreds of people were killed in bomb attacks, including 66 passengers on a train to Pakistan in February, 42 in Hyderabad in August and 10 in Uttar Pradesh in November. Concerns over recurrent attacks marked the ongoing Indo-Pakistan talks, which failed to achieve significant progress. Little progress was made in the peace initiatives over Kashmir and Nagaland. In Assam, there were renewed bomb attacks, as well as assaults on migrants from northern states, in January and November.

At least 400 people were killed as police battled Maoists in central and eastern states. Local communities in these states resisted moves to acquire land for business projects and special economic zones. Several states, including West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Meghalaya, witnessed protests by local communities whose livelihoods were threatened by fast-tracked irrigation, mining, manufacturing and business projects. Unlawful methods were increasingly used to deal with such protests, and impunity for abuses remained widespread.

High suicide rates by debt-ridden farmers continued in some states, including Maharashtra, despite some relief measures. Inadequate access to health care contributed to a cholera epidemic in adivasi communities in south Orissa.

An agreement reached with the USA in 2006 to give India access to strategic nuclear material and equipment for civilian purposes was still not implemented due to domestic political opposition. Arms exports to Myanmar were suspended in November after the suppression of the pro-democracy movement there.

India signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in February and was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. However, India had still not ratified the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Requests to visit the country by the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial executions remained pending. Invitations were also not issued to the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Around 300 million people – around a quarter of the population – remained in poverty. Concerns grew over protection of the rights of already marginalized communities. Existing constitutional provisions were ignored as resource-rich areas, demarcated as exclusively adivasi habitations, were allotted to extractive and other industries. Affected communities were generally excluded from decision-making except in relation to resettlement and rehabilitation following displacement. Authorities continued to be reluctant to disclose crucial information despite legislation on the right to information.

In Nandigram in West Bengal, private militias owing allegiance to the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist – CPI-M) and armed supporters of local organizations battled for territorial control. The authorities failed to persuade farmers protesting against the decision to relocate an industrial project to the area to lift their blockades. A range of human rights violations followed, including unlawful killings, forced evictions, excessive police force, violence against women, denial of access and information to the media and human rights organizations, harassment of human rights defenders and denial of justice to victims of violations.

  • In January and March, at least 25 people, mostly local residents, were killed in Nandigram, more than 100 were injured and at least 20 women were sexually assaulted by private militias allied to the ruling CPI-M. Earlier, 1,500 people, mostly CPI-M supporters, were displaced from their homes after supporters of local organizations erected blockades during protests against forced displacement.
  • In Orissa, at least 50 people were injured during year-long protests by farmers’ organizations against forced displacement because of a steel plant project. An official probe into the killing by police of 12 adivasi protesters in Kalinganagar in 2006 remained suspended. After prolonged campaigning by local adivasis, in November the Supreme Court ruled against the state government’s decision to allow a multinational company to mine in protected forest areas in Niyamagiri.
  • In July, police used excessive force against protesters at Badwani in Madhya Pradesh injuring at least 10 people and detaining 92. The protests were against forced displacement caused by the Narmada dam project.

Violence against adivasis and marginalized communities

There was rising violence in Dantewada area in Chattisgarh between armed Maoists and state forces supported by Salwa Judum, a civil militia widely believed to be state sponsored. Civilians, mostly adivasis, were targeted by both sides. Unlawful killings, abductions, torture and mutilation by both sides were reported; instances of sexual assault by state agents and killings after summary trials by the Maoists were reported; an overwhelming majority of these abuses were not fully investigated.

Around 50,000 adivasis continued to be internally displaced from the Dantewada area, a majority of them living in special camps. No serious attempt was made to ensure their voluntary return amid reports that some of their land could be offered for businesses and development projects. At least 10,000 other adivasis were reported to have fled into Andhra Pradesh.

  • On 15 March, at least 55 people, mostly belonging to the Salwa Judum, were killed in an attack by suspected Maoists near Bijapur.
  • On 31 March, 12 adivasis were killed by the state police and the Salwa Judum at Santoshpur.
  • On 14 May, a well-known activist of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Dr Binayak Sen, was arrested; he was charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and the amended provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. His arrest led to widespread protests by human rights organizations and the medical community.
  • On 10 July, 24 personnel of various security forces and 20 suspected Maoists were killed in attacks and counter-attacks at Konta.
  • Similar human rights abuses were reported from several other states, including Karnataka, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
  • On 10 July, five adivasi activists were killed by the Karnataka police at Adyaka in Chikmagalur district.
  • On 20 August, 11 adivasi women were sexually assaulted by the Andhra Pradesh police at Vakpalli in Visakhapatnam district.
  • On 26 October, armed Maoists set off a landmine at Vidyanagar in Nellore district apparently targeting former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Janardhana Reddy and his wife, N Rajyalakshmi, a minister. Three people in the convoy were killed.
  • On 27 October, armed Maoists fired on a cultural festival at Chikhadia, killing 18 people.
  • Activists campaigning for land rights or environmental issues relating to marginalized communities faced abuses.
  • In July, Saroj Mohanty, a writer-activist protesting against the threat of displacement of adivasis by the Utkal Alumina industrial project at Kashipur in Orissa, was detained on charges of dacoity (robbery), trespass and attempted murder.
  • Roma, an activist working among dalits and adivasis in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, was detained under the National Security Act in August.
  • New legislation guaranteeing adivasis right of access to forest land was largely ignored and communities suffered police violence.
  • In April, police used excessive force against adivasis protesting against threatened forced evictions by the state forest department in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. Seven adivasis were injured.
  • In July, seven protesters were killed when police fired into demonstrations for land rights in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.

Security and human rights

Demands for new domestic anti-terror legislation continued. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, was not repealed despite widespread protests. Uttar Pradesh joined the list of states with legislation for the control of organized criminal activity which provided for arbitrary detention.

Impunity

Impunity remained widespread.

Jammu and Kashmir

State and non-state actors continued to enjoy impunity for torture, deaths in custody, abductions and unlawful killings. A human rights organization reported that in the past 18 years 1,051 people had been victims of enforced disappearance in Baramulla district alone. Human rights organizations challenged official claims that there had been no disappearances until 10 November 2007, saying that 60 people had disappeared since 2006, including nine in 2007. Five people, who had allegedly been detained illegally, were traced. In a few cases criminal action was initiated for human rights violations committed years earlier.

  • In May, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court directed the state police to file murder charges against 11 officials of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in connection with the disappearance of Ashraf Ahmad Koka, a resident of Gond, in October 2001.

Gujarat

Five years after the violence in which thousands of Muslims were attacked and more than 2,000 killed, justice continued to elude most victims and survivors. Perpetrators of the violence indicated in the media that members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were implicated in the violence, yet no substantive investigation was carried out.

Little action was taken over an official report that more than 5,000 displaced families continued to live in “sub-human” conditions in Gujarat. Several key cases relating to killings and sexual assault of Muslim women were still pending before the Supreme Court.

In May, Gujarat authorities admitted that senior police officials had been involved in the unlawful killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife, Kausar Bi, in November 2005. Following this development, relatives of at least three other people killed by the police in previous years sought fresh investigations.

Punjab

A majority of police officers responsible for serious human rights violations during the 1984-94 civil unrest in Punjab continued to evade justice. The findings of a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations of unlawful killings of 2,097 people who were cremated by the police had still not been made fully public, nine years after the investigation was launched. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) awarded compensation to the relatives of 1,298 victims of such killings in one district, Amritsar. However, the NHRC was criticized for the slow pace of its investigations, and a commission appointed by the NHRC in 2006 to examine compensation claims was criticized in October by human rights organizations for various failings.

In May, the government ordered an investigation into three unlawful killings by the police in Punjab in 1993-94, after reports that three people, listed as among those killed, surfaced in their native villages.

Karnataka/Tamil Nadu

Eleven years after allegations of unlawful killings, torture, sexual assault and illegal detention of adivasis were first levelled against a joint Tamil Nadu-Karnataka force established to catch sandalwood smugglers, the NHRC had failed to initiate charges against any of the 38 officials cited as perpetrators of the abuses. In January, the NHRC ordered interim compensation for 89 of the 140 victims and their relatives who had made the allegations.

Assam

A commission of inquiry into the unlawful killings between 1998 and 2001 of 35 individuals associated with the United Liberation Front of Asom published its findings in November. It concluded that the killings were carried out by surrendered members of the organization at the behest of a former chief minister and the state police. It remained unclear if anyone would be brought to justice.

Death penalty

At least 100 people were sentenced to death although no executions took place. In December, India voted against a UN General Assembly resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.

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