Poor Indian human rights exposed in US report

April 26, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Human RightsGuwahati, April 26, 2013: Even as activists like Irom Sharmila has spent more than a decade fasting to secure the basic human rights of the people in India, especially in the north-eastern part and Jammu and Kashmir, a report by the US Department of State has exposed the poor condition of world’s biggest democracy.

The report, which has several references of the north-eastern states, said that the most significant human rights problems in India during the year 2012 were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.

The report also criticised the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is imposed in northeast states and in Jammu and Kashmir. Under the AFSPA, the government can declare any state or union territory a ‘disturbed area’, a declaration that allows security forces to fire on any person to ‘maintain law and order’ and to arrest any person ‘against whom reasonable suspicion exists’ without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest.

Quoting South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), run by the non-profit Institute for Conflict Management, the report said that during the year 2012 there were 805 fatalities (Unlawful Deprivation of Life) in the country–including members of the security forces, individuals classified by the government as terrorists, and civilians. This, however, represented a decrease from 1,073 fatalities in 2011. The Ministry of Home Affairs 2010-11 report, released during the year, noted a perceptible decline in incidents of violence in Kashmir and all the Northeastern states.

According to the report the other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life-threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention. The judiciary was overburdened, and court backlogs led to lengthy delays or the denial of justice. Authorities continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights. The law in some states restricted religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests, but no reports of convictions under these laws. There were some limits on freedom of movement. Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious problems.

“Child abuse and child marriage were problems. Trafficking in persons, including widespread bonded and forced labour of children and adults, child prostitution, and forced adult prostitution, were serious problems. Caste-based discrimination and violence continued, as did discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous persons,” the report said.

It further added that discrimination against persons with HIV and discrimination and violence based on gender identity continued. Religiously based societal violence remained a concern. Forced labour and bonded labour are widespread. Child labour also is a serious problem.

Widespread impunity at all levels of government remained a serious problem. Investigations into individual cases and legal punishment for perpetrators occurred, but in many cases a lack of accountability due to weak law enforcement, a lack of trained police, and the overburdened and under resourced court system created an atmosphere of impunity.

Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-eastern states and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians. Insurgents were responsible for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture, rape, and extortion, and they used child soldiers.

Another serious part of the report which quoted Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that 128 cases of custodial deaths and 675 cases of custodial torture were reported from various states during the period April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012. The MHA also stated that during the period April 1 to July 31, 46 cases of custodial deaths and 129 cases of custodial torture were reported by the states.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 104 deaths in judicial custody in 2011, of which 35 were due to unnatural causes, such as suicide or murder by other inmates. The NCRB reported that no police were convicted for custodial deaths during the year.

The role of the police and security apparatus in India is also criticized. According to the MHA’s 2011-12 annual report, 74,918 cases were registered with the NHRC nationwide against security personnel. A total of 45,571 cases were resolved, including cases brought forward from previous years, and 19,355 cases were transferred to state human rights commissions for resolution.

On the Indian judiciary system the report said that it was seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice.By October of 2012 nearly one-third of sanctioned judges’ positions (895 posts) in the country’s 21 high courts were vacant.

As of November 30 in the same year there were 65,703 cases pending in the Supreme Court; 22,133 cases were less than one year old. The report also quoted Delhi High Court Acting Chief Justice AK Sikri as saying that at the pace at which cases were then being processed, the Delhi High Court would likely take 466 years to clear its case backlog.

Another shocking revelation that at least 75 complaints of corruption and misconduct against serving judges of the Supreme Court and high courts had been forwarded to the chief justice for action during the previous 12 months on May 1.

It, however, said that the total terrorism or insurgency related fatalities continued to decrease from the previous year. The total deaths reported declined from 1,073 in 2011 to 804 in 2012 (252 civilians, 139 security personnel, and 413 militants). The SATP database reported that 368 persons–including 118 militants, 104 security force personnel, and 146 civilians–were killed during the year as a result of Naxalite (Maoist) violence, a decrease from 2011, when 199 militants, 128 security force personnel, and 275 civilians were killed. The Institute for Conflict Management reported that there were 117 fatalities in Jammu and Kashmir during the year, including 84 alleged terrorists, 17 members of the security forces, and 16 civilians.

Besides, on abduction it said that human rights groups maintained that military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Jharkhand, and the Naxalite belt. There were 8,000 to 10,000 persons missing but in custody in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 8, the Jammu and Kashmir state government stated that of 2,305 persons reported missing, only 182 FIRs had been filed, and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stated that the discrepancy between reported missing persons and FIRs filed was due to “missing reports”.

Since 1990 the conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-eastern States and the Naxalite belt have displaced an estimated 621,000 persons; most remained without permanent homes at year’s end. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) have fled the Kashmir valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict. According to the MHA’s 2011-12 annual report, 58,697 Kashmiri Pandit families remained displaced from their homes.

Violence between ethnic groups in the states of Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram displaced an unknown number of persons during the year 2012 and more than 227,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) remained from previous incidents of communal violence dating back to 1993. The July-August violence in Assam between tribal groups and migrant Muslims displaced approximately 4,50,000 persons.

There were several groups of IDPs in various locations in the country, including those displaced by internal armed conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, the Naxalite belt and the North-eastern States as well as in Gujarat. On April 23, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), operated by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the UN, estimated that regional conflicts had displaced at least 506,000 persons. The IDMC estimated that at least 53,000 persons were newly displaced.

In Assam violence between tribal groups and alleged migrants resulted in the displacement of more than 450,000 persons. According to a 2012 survey from the NGO Janvikas, 16,087 persons of the approximately 250,000 displaced in the 2002 Gujarat violence remained in camps, living in 83 relief colonies that lacked adequate infrastructure and security.

“The government had no national policy or legislation to address internal displacement resulting from armed conflict or from ethnic or communal violence. The responsibility for assisting IDPs was delegated to the state governments and district authorities, allowing for gaps in services and poor accountability. When state- or district-level authorities provided assistance, it was often ad hoc and inadequate. The central government provided some assistance to IDPs and allowed them access to NGOs and human rights organizations, but neither access nor assistance was standard for all IDPs or all situations,” it said.

Then another worst scenario in India is on crime against women. Official statistics pointed to rape as the fastest growing crime, even when compared to murder, robbery, and kidnapping. The NCRB reported 24,206 cases of rape across the country in 2011; rape is considered an underreported crime. Law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the issue effectively. “Law enforcement officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. Doctors sometimes further abused rape victims who had come to report the crimes by using the ‘two finger test’ to speculate on their sexual history,” the reported added.

Domestic violence continued to be a problem, and the National Family Health Survey revealed that more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing some form of violence in their home. The NCRB reported that in 2011 there were 99,135 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives,” an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous year. Advocates reported that many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures.

According to the NCRB Crime in India 2011 Statistics, there were 228,650 crimes against women in 2011, a 7 percent increase from 2010. These crimes included kidnapping and abduction, molestation, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and trafficking. The NCRB noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. Delhi recorded the highest proportion of crimes against women with 4,489 cases, followed by Bengaluru, Karnataka, with 1,890. Besides, there are several shocking facts which revealed the scene of the country.

– tcn

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