The government maintained its focus on economic growth, at times at the cost of protecting and promoting human rights within the country and abroad. Around 250 people were killed in ongoing clashes between armed Maoists and security forces in several central and eastern states. At least 40 people were killed in bomb attacks in Mumbai and Delhi. Anna Hazare’s campaign for comprehensive laws against corruption scored initial successes; however, Parliament failed to enact the proposed legislation. Adivasi (Indigenous) communities intensified their protests against corporate-led moves to acquire and mine their lands without free, prior and informed consent, resulting in suspension of some industrial projects. Authorities introduced new legal frameworks to reform land acquisition, rehabilitation and mining. Human rights defenders faced the ire of both state and non-state agencies, with sedition and other politically motivated charges levelled against some. Many were threatened, harassed and intimidated, and at least four activists were killed. Authorities extended a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures to visit the country. However, torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody and administrative detentions remained rife in a number of states. New legal initiatives to outlaw torture had yet to yield results. Institutional mechanisms meant to protect human rights remained weak, and judicial processes were slow in ensuring justice for victims of past violations including extrajudicial executions and mass killings. This was despite new legislation introduced to ensure justice and reparations for victims of past communal violence. Past violations and abuses continued to remain outside the purview of ongoing peace initiatives on Nagaland and Assam. Courts sentenced at least 110 people to death, but, for the seventh successive year, no executions took place.
Rapid economic growth in key urban sectors slowed down, in part as a result of the global downturn and rising inflation. The recent growth left large parts of rural India relatively untouched, with communities living in endemic poverty aggravated by a stagnant agricultural sector and problems of food security. According to official estimates, India’s poor accounted for between 30 and 50 per cent of the country’s population. At least 15 per cent of the population were leading a precarious existence in urban slums without proper access to health care, water, food and education.
India’s election to the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council underscored its growing international and regional status. The country took positive steps to co-operate with UN Special Procedures. In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders visited India on official invitation. In September, in an unprecedented move, the authorities issued a standing invitation to all thematic UN Special Procedures.
Authorities were reluctant to speak out on human rights crises in the region and elsewhere. India was silent on violations committed during the dramatic changes in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as on those committed by neighbouring Myanmar. It failed to support demands for Sri Lanka to be held accountable for the violations committed at the end of that country’s war in 2009.Top of page
In Chhattisgarh state, clashes continued between armed Maoists and security forces supported by the state-sponsored Salwa Judum militia. Both sides routinely targeted civilians, mainly Adivasis, and engaged in killings, abductions and arson. In Chhattisgarh alone, more than 3,000 people, including combatants, had been killed in the clashes since 2005. Around 25,000 people remained displaced; about 5,000 were living in camps and 20,000 were dispersed in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
Similar clashes between Maoists and state forces took place in Adivasi areas of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The suspension of anti-Maoist operations in West Bengal since May was marred by political violence and arrests; peace initiatives collapsed in November after the death of Maoist leader Koteshwar “Kishenji” Rao, who was allegedly extrajudicially executed.
In July, India’s Supreme Court issued a landmark judgement to disband all Chhattisgarh state-sponsored anti-Maoist militias alleged to have committed serious human rights violations. The state authorities responded by disbanding and incorporating them into a 6,000-strong auxiliary force, ignoring allegations of their involvement in such violations.
In several states, protests by Adivasi and other marginalized communities blocked ongoing and proposed extractive, irrigation and other corporate projects affecting their rights over their traditional lands. In response, the authorities proposed to reform outdated legal frameworks and ad hoc practices for land acquisition and mining, offering monitored rehabilitation and benefit-sharing arrangements to the communities. Nevertheless, the protests continued, with the communities complaining that recent legislation guaranteeing their rights over forest lands was not being properly implemented, and alleging that the new laws did not address the issue of their free, prior and informed consent for the projects.
In several instances, police used excessive force to quell protests by marginalized local communities, including small farmers, Adivasis and Dalits. The authorities also failed to carry out impartial and timely inquiries into most of these incidents.
People defending the rights of Adivasis and other marginalized communities, and those using recent legislation to obtain information to protect their rights, were targeted by state and non-state agencies. Activists demanded special legislation to protect them from such attacks – a fact highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in January.
Impunity for abuses and violations remained pervasive. Despite ongoing protests in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir, the authorities remained unwilling to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958, or revoke the Disturbed Areas Act, which grant security forces in specified areas the power to shoot to kill even where they are not at imminent risk.
Perpetrators of past enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations in Punjab (in 1984 and 1994), Assam (in 1998 and 2001), Nagaland and Manipur continued to evade justice. Members of Dalit communities in several states faced attacks and discrimination. There was little political will to use existing special laws to prosecute perpetrators of such violence.
Almost a decade after the 2002 riots which killed about 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat, the first convictions were announced.
Those working to ensure justice for the victims of past violations in Gujarat continued to face harassment.
Impunity prevailed for violations in Kashmir, including unlawful killings, torture and the disappearance of thousands of people since 1989 during the armed conflict there. A majority of the killings of more than 100 youths by the security forces during protests in 2010 also went unpunished.
In March, Amnesty International published a report in Srinagar, calling for an end to administrative detentions there and for the repeal of the Public Safety Act (PSA). Following this, the state authorities proposed to amend the PSA to limit the period of detention, and amend the state juvenile justice law to ban the detention of anyone below the age of 18. However, detentions under the PSA continued on a regular basis and a number of political leaders and activists remained held without charge or trial. Several children were released after Amnesty International’s intervention.
More than 50 people were detained without charge, for periods of one week to a month, in connection with bomb attacks in Mumbai and Delhi. Security legislation, tightened after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, was used to detain suspects. However, investigations and trial proceedings relating to a majority of past cases of terror attacks made little progress.
At least 110 people were sentenced to death. However, for the seventh successive year, no executions took place. Nevertheless, fears grew that executions would be revived with the authorities rejecting mercy petitions of five death row inmates, including three people convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
New laws, passed in December, provided for the death penalty for those convicted of “terrorist” attacks on oil and gas pipelines that result in death, and in Gujarat state, for those found guilty of making and selling illicit liquor.Top of page