International Report on India, 2001
Human Rights violations occurred throughout India, with socially and economically
disadvantaged sections of society continuing to be particularly vulnerable.
Inter-caste, communal, inter-religious and political violence claimed
many lives in several states including Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and
Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. The government's continuing preoccupation
with national security led it to pursue several initiatives for tackling
"terrorism" throughout the country, including giving increased
powers to a police force which continued to be identified with torture,
corruption and other abuses.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic alliance
continued in office throughout 2000 with A.B. Vajpayee as Prime Minister.
Armed conflicts continued to claim hundreds of lives in Jammu and Kashmir
and states of the northeast, despite apparent moves towards ceasefire
and peace talks in several states. A cease-fire was announced by the armed
opposition Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir at the end of July but
collapsed 15 days later. A further cease-fire for the month of Ramzan
was announced by the government in November. Killings of civilians the
state continued at an alarmingly high level despite this and other political
initiatives towards an end to the conflict. Three new states were established
in northern India during the course of the Years: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand
Torture by police and security forces remained endemic in states throughout
India. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed concern about
the wide spread of torture. In August it disclosed that between 1999 and
2000 it has recorded 1143 deaths in police and judicial custody. Figures
for the number of complaints of torture are not made public although the
chair of NHRC reportedly indicated that the majority of complaints received
relate to police empresses.
A number of official studies which reported during 2000 acknowledged the
widespread use of torture and ill treatment and pointed to political influence
broad power of arrest, public approval and in inadequate method of investigation
as reason for the continuing practice of torture. During the consideration
of India's initial report to the UN Committee on the rights of the child,
concern was expressed by the Committee about reports of routine ill-treatment,
corporal punishment, torture, and sexual abuse of children in detention
facilities. By the end of 2000 India had not yet ratified the UN Convention
against torture which was signed in October 1977, nor had it invited the
UN special rapporteur on torture to visit the country.
In discussions with officials of the government of India about measures
needed to end torture all recommended initiatives including people reform,
enactment of new legislation and comprehensive monitoring mechanism.
In Kurnool district of A.P. in October, 23 year old dalit (member of disadvantaged
community), Peddinti, Tirupalu, was found dead near a police station where
he had been detained for questioning about gambling offences 48 hours
earlier. Police denied a role in his death but relatives claimed that
he had been severely beaten. Three police officers were transferred to
other area and a magistrate enquiry was ordered but had not concluded
by the end of 2000.
While in a few cases individual members of the security forces were brought
to justice for Human Rights violations, most violations were committed
with impunity. Lack of political will, compromise and coercion allowed
law enforcement officials to escape censure for violating the rights of
people who were mostly members of underprivileged sections of society.
In areas of armed conflict, special legislation continued to shield perpetrators
from prosecution. A cautious welcome was given to an announcement by the
government of Jammu and Kashmir in October that it was establishing judicial
inquires into a series of incidents which took place in March and April
in which scores of civilians were killed by security forces and unidentified
gunmen. By the end of 2000 no inquires had begun. Numerous other incidents
remained uninvestigated. In Punjab the establishment of a "People
Commission", which sought to document evidence of widespread human
rights violations in the face of the failure of the state to investigate
past human rights violations, was halted by the High Court on the basis
that it was establishing a parallel judicial system. The decision was
upheld by the Supreme Court in May.
A new one-man Commission of Inquiry was established in May to investigate
the 1984 riots in Delhi which claimed the lives of more than 2500 people,
mainly Sikhs. In October the retired judge presiding over the inquiry
was reported to have already received over 10,000 affidavits. An earlier
inquiry held between 1985 and 1986 had found 147 police officers guilty
of dereliction of duty but proceedings were initiated in only around 20
cases. Of more than 700 criminal cases filed in connection with the riots,
only two per cent had resulted in conviction.
In Mumbai, recommendations made by the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry
into riots which took place in the city in 1992-1993 remained unimplemented.
Despite safeguards in the Constitution and in law, certain groups remained
particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses based on discrimination.
Access to justice for women, dalits and others who suffer from social
and economic discrimination remained problematic.
In January, India's initial report under the UN Women's Convention was
heard by the Committee, which monitors adherence of states parties to
the Convention. Concern at the level of gender-based violence in the country
was expressed by the committee, whose recommendations included the need
for rigorous implementation of existing legislation prohibiting such practices
as dowry and caste-based discrimination.
International attention continued to focus on violence. State-backed violence
in several areas included Muslims, dalits and adivasis (tribal people).
Concerns about discrimination based on religion, particularly directed
at members of the Christian community, were heightened by statements made
by members of right-wing Hindu groups which appeared to encourage the
use of violence. Attacks on members of Christian communities and church
Human Rights Defenders
Harassment of human rights defenders in many parts of India continued.
In April, All hosted a meeting of human rights defenders from throughout
the country which concluded by drawing up a set of recommendations for
the better protection of human rights defenders. The recommendations included
calls for a review of preventive detention provisions used to detain human
rights defenders to victims of human rights violations in all areas of
India, and to international forums outside India in order to report on
hr concerns or to undergo training.
In Gujarat in August, several hundred people were arrested under preventive
detention provisions to stop them from going to a public hearing organized
by a people's organisation, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, about the human
rights impact of the construction of dams on the Narmada river. Those
detained included individuals facing displacement and senior human rights
activists. They were released after the public hearing had taken place.
In November T. Puroshottam, Joint Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Civil
Liberties Committee, was killed and other human rights defenders in the
state received threats. These attacks were believed to be the work of
former members of an armed group operating with the tacit and often active
support of state authorities. The state government refused to carry out
a judicial inquiry into these incidents.
In April the Law Commission of India submitted the draft Prevention of
Terrorism Bill 2000 to the government prior to its introduction to parliament.
Provisions of the Bill reflected many of those found in the Terrorist
and Disruptive (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA), which lapsed in 1995. In
July the NHRC indicated its opposition to the Bill on several grounds,
stating that it would violate international human rights standards and
lead to human rights violations. Although it was not introduced to parliament
by the end of 2000, state governments were reported as having given it
In April Al raised concerns with the authorities about the use of the
Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. The Indian government dismissed clear
evidence of its abuse and maintained that provisions of the Act provide
sufficient safeguards for detainees. Leaders of the All Parties Hurriet
Conference arrested under the Act between late August and early November
1999 were released in April and May. The Indian government also dismissed
claims that TADA was still being used in Jammu and Kashmir to detain people
retrospectively, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
The fate of 50 people, including 12 women, detained under TADA in Karnataka,
some since 1993, received national attention after a notorious sandalwood
smuggler kidnapped a veteran film star and listed the release of these
detainees as one of his demands. While the state governments of Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu expressed their willingness to drop charges against them,
the Supreme Court stayed their acquittal despite their detention without
trial for up to seven years and evidence that almost all had been illegally
detained and tortured after arrest.
Human Rights Commissions
The NHRC submitted recommendations to the government of India for amendments
to its statute -- the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993. These were
based on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee established in
1998. The NHRC's recommendations were not made public and by the end of
2000 the government had given no indication that it was considering amendments
to the Act. The NHRC continued to indicate its frustration at statutory
limitations on its powers, particularly in relation to investigation of
allegations of human rights violations by armed and paramilitary forces,
and the investigation of incidents, which took place more than a year
before a complaint was made.
In Rajasthan the Chair of the State Human Rights Commission established
in early 2000 resigned after four months, complaining that the government
for it to operate had provided no resources. In Uttar Pradesh the government
had still not set up a Human Rights Commission by the end of 2000 despite
a High Court order to do so.
At least 30 people were sentenced to death in 2000. It was not known if
any executions were carried out. The government of India does not publish
statistical information about the implementation of the death penalty.
At least 60 people remained on death row. Legislation to extend the use
of the death penalty to crimes of rape remained pending. An increasing
number of human rights organizations continued to campaign against the
death penalty and a national conference against the death penalty was
held in New Delhi in July.
In April the sentence of death against Nalini, one of the four whose death
sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1999 in connection with
the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, was commuted
to life imprisonment. The clemency petitions of the remaining three remained
pending along with those of several others.
Abuses by Armed Groups
Abuses by armed groups operating in many areas continued, including hostage-taking,
torture, and deliberate killings of civilians, Hostage-taking, including
of children, continued at an alarming level in Tripura, where in November
it was reported that members of an armed group had tortured a four-year-old
hostage. In Jammu and Kashmir, civilians continued to be targeted for