NEW DELHI – Custodial killings, police abuse including torture, and failure to implement policies aimed at protecting vulnerable communities marred India’s record in 2011, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report.
The global report released on Monday pointed out that immunity for abuses committed by security forces also continued, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and areas facing Maoist insurgency.
However, the report found that killings by the Border Security Force (BSF) along the Indo-Bangladesh border decreased dramatically.
“India, the world’s most populous democracy, continues to have a vibrant media, an active civil society, a respected judiciary, and significant human rights problems,” the report said.
The report highlights that India is yet to repeal laws or change policies that allow de jure and de facto impunity for human rights violations, and has failed to prosecute even known perpetrators of serious abuses.
“The Indian defence establishment resisted attempts to repeal or revise the Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( AFSPA), a law that provides soldiers in disturbed areas widespread police powers,” it said.
The report says that thousands of Kashmiris have allegedly disappeared – victims of “enforced disappearance” – during two decades of conflict in the region, their whereabouts unknown.
A police investigation in 2011 by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) found 2,730 bodies dumped into unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir. At least 574 were identified as the bodies of local Kashmiris.
The government had previously said that the graves held unidentified militants, most of them Pakistanis whose bodies had been handed over to village authorities for burial. Many Kashmiris believe that some graves contain the bodies of victims of enforced disappearances.”
Mentioning the anti-corruption movement of social activist Anna Hazare, the report says it brought the government to a standstill, with widespread street protests and sit-ins demanding legal reform and prosecutions.
“Activists working with two prominent efforts to address poverty and accountability — India’s rural employment guarantee scheme and right to information law — came under increasing attack, facing threats, beatings, and even death,” it said.
Maoist forces continue to engage in killings and extortion, and target government schools and hospitals for attacks and bombings. At this writing the Maoists had killed nearly 250 civilians as well as over 100 members of the security forces in 2011.
The report says that deaths from terror attacks in 2011 had decreased significantly from earlier years with two major blast incidents in Mumbai and Delhi.
Despite repeated claims of progress by the government, there was no significant improvement in access to health care and education.
“The 2011 census data revealed a further decline in India’s female/male sex ratio, pointing to the failure of laws aimed at reducing sex-selective abortions. A series of honour killings and rapes rocked the country in 2011 but there has been no effective action to prevent and effectively prosecute such violence,” it said.
According to Human Rights Watch, India’s policy in the subcontinent continues to be heavily influenced by strategic and economic concerns about China’s growing influence in countries like Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
“As a member of the United Nations Security Council and the Human Rights Council (HRC), India in 2011 had an opportunity to align its foreign policy with the ideals it claims to stand for, but officials remained reluctant to voice concerns over even egregious human rights violations in countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, and Sudan,” it said.
“Despite concerns over the safety of its nationals in Libya, India did support UN Security Council resolution 1970 on Libya calling for protection of the Libyan people. India later abstained on resolution 1973, which authorized military force to protect civilians,” it added.