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The situation of human rights in India is a complex one, as a result of the country's large size and tremendous diversity, its status as a developing country and a sovereign, secular, democratic republic, and its history as a former colonial territory. The Constitution of India provides for Fundamental rights, which include freedom of religion. Clauses also provide for Freedom of Speech, as well as separation of executive and judiciary and freedom of movement within the country and abroad.

It is often held, particularly by Indian human rights groups and activists, that members of the Dalit or Untouchable caste have suffered and continue to suffer substantial discrimination. Although human rights problems do exist in India, the country is generally not regarded as a human rights concern, unlike other countries in South Asia[1]. Based on these considerations, the report Freedom in the World 2006 by Freedom House gave India a political rights rating of 2, and a civil liberties rating of 3, earning it the designation of free[2]

Contents

Chronology of human rights in India

  • 1973 - Supreme Court of India rules in Kesavananda Bharati that the basic structure of the Constitution (including many fundamental rights) is unalterable by a constitutional amendment.
  • 1975-77 - State of Emergency in India - extensive rights violations take place.
  • 1978 - SC rules in Menaka Gandhi v. Union of India that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be suspended even in an emergency.
  • 1978-Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 [4] [5]

Custodial deaths

Despite state prohibitions against torture and custodial misconduct by the police, torture is widespread in police custody, which is a major reason behind deaths in custody.[10][11] The police often torture innocent people until a 'confession' is obtained to save influential and wealthy offenders.[12] G.P. Joshi, the programme coordinator of the Indian branch of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi comments that the main issue at hand concerning police violence is a lack of accountability of the police.[13]

In 2006, the Supreme Court of India in a judgment in the Prakash Singh vs. Union of India case, ordered central and state governments with seven directives to begin the process of police reform. The main objectives of this set of directives was twofold, providing tenure to and streamlining the appointment/transfer processes of policemen, and increasing the accountability of the police.[14]

Indian administered Kashmir

Several international agencies and the UN have reported human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir. In a recent press release the OHCHR spokesmen stated "The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned about the recent violent protests in Indian-administered Kashmir that have reportedly led to civilian casualties as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression."[15].A 1996 Human Rights Watch report accuses the Indian military and Indian-government backed paramilitaries of "committ[ing] serious and widespread human rights violations in Kashmir."[16] One such alleged massacre occurred on January 6, 1993 in the town of Sopore. TIME Magazine described the incident as such: "In retaliation for the killing of one soldier, paramilitary forces rampaged through Sopore's market setting buildings ablaze and shooting bystanders. The Indian government pronounced the event 'unfortunate' and claimed that an ammunition dump had been hit by gunfire, setting off fires that killed most of the victims."[17] In addition to this, there have been claims of disappearances by the police or the army in Kashmir by several human rights organizations.[18][19]

A soldier guards the roadside checkpoint outside Srinagar International Airport in January 2009.

Many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indians such as "extra-judicial executions", "disappearances", and torture;[20] the "Armed Forces Special Powers Act", which "provides impunity for human rights abuses and fuels cycles of violence. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants the military wide powers of arrest, the right to shoot to kill, and to occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations. Indian officials claim that troops need such powers because the army is only deployed when national security is at serious risk from armed combatants. Such circumstances, they say, call for extraordinary measures." Human rights organizations have also asked Indian government to repeal[21] the Public Safety Act, since "a detainee may be held in administrative detention for a maximum of two years without a court order."[22].A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that Indian Administered Kashmir, was only 'partly Free' [23].

[24] [25].[26] [27]

Press Freedom

According to the estimates of Reporters Without Borders, India ranks 105th worldwide in press freedom index (press freedom index for India is 29.33 for 2009).[28] The Indian Constitution, while not mentioning the word "press", provides for "the right to freedom of speech and expression" (Article 19(1) a). However this right is subject to restrictions under subclause (2), whereby this freedom can be restricted for reasons of "sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, preserving decency, preserving morality, in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence". Laws such as the Official Secrets Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act [29] (POTA) have been used to limit press freedom. Under POTA, person could be detained for up to six months before the police were required to bring charges on allegations for terrorism-related offenses. POTA was repealed in 2004, but was replaced by amendments to UAPA.[30] The Official Secrets Act 1923 remains in effect.

For the first half-century of independence, media control by the state was the major constraint on press freedom. Indira Gandhi famously stated in 1975 that All India Radio is "a Government organ, it is going to remain a Government organ..." [31] With the liberalization starting in the 1990s, private control of media has burgeoned, leading to increasing independence and greater scrutiny of government. Organizations like Tehelka and NDTV have been particularly influential, e.g. in bringing about the resignation of powerful Haryana minister Venod Sharma. In addition, laws like Prasar Bharati act passed in recent years contribute significantly to reducing the control of the press by the government.

LGBT rights

Homosexuality is criminalised in India by interpretations of the ambiguous Section 377 of the 150 year old Indian Penal Code (IPC). The punishment ranges from ten years to lifelong imprisonment. The law has been used to harass HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, as well as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and other groups at risk of the disease.[32] Scott Long, director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the arrests of 4 men in 2006 in Lucknow and another 4 in 2001. However, in most areas of India, this law is very rarely enforced.[33] The People's Union for Civil Liberties has published two reports of the rights violations faced by sexual minorities and, in particular, transsexuals (hijras and kothis)in India.

On June 2 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised consensual private sexual acts between adults [34] saying

"We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution."

[35]

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is a $8 million illegal business in India. Around 10,000 Nepali women are brought to India annually for commercial sexual exploitation.[36] Each year 20,000-25,000 women and children are trafficked from Bangladesh.[37]

Babubhai Khimabhai Katara was a Member of Parliament when arrested for smuggling a child to Canada.

Religious violence

A Christian girl who was burned during religious violence in Orissa

Communal conflicts between religious groups (mostly between Hindus and Muslims) have been prevalent in India since around the time of its independence from British Rule. Among the oldest incidences of communal violence in India was the Moplah rebellion, when Militant Islamists massacred Hindus in Kerala. Communal riots took place during the partition of India between Hindus/Sikhs and Muslims where large numbers of people were killed in large-scale violence.

The 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots was a four-day period during which Sikhs were massacred by members of the secular-centrist Congress Party of India; some estimates state that more than 2,000 were killed.[38] Other incidents include the 1992 Bombay Riots and the 2002 Gujarat violence —in the latter, more than 1,000 Muslims (no citation) were killed following a militant Islamist attack on a train full of Hindu pilgrims in the Godhra Train Burning, where 58 Hindus were killed.[39]. Lesser incidents plague many towns and villages; representative was the killing of five people in Mau, Uttar Pradesh during Hindu-Muslim rioting, which was triggered by the proposed celebration of a Hindu festival.[39] Other such communal incidents include the 2002 Marad massacre, which was carried out by the militant Islamist group National Development Front, as well as communal riots in Tamil Nadu executed by the Islamist Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham against Hindus.

Caste related issues

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, "Dalits and indigenous peoples (known as Scheduled Tribes or adivasis) continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of communal violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection, but are not being faithfully implemented by local authorities."[40]

Amnesty International says "it is the responsibility of the Indian government to fully enact and apply its legal provisions against discrimination on the basis of caste and descent.[41]

Denotified tribes of India, along with many nomadic tribes collectively 60 million in population, continue to face social stigma and economic hardships, despite the fact Criminal Tribes Act 1871, was repealed by the government in 1952 and replaced by Habitual Offenders Act (HOA) (1952), as effectively it only created a new list out of the old list of so-called "criminal tribes. These tribes even today face the consequences of the 'Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act' (PASA), which only adds to their everyday struggle for existence as most of them live below poverty line. National Human Rights Commission and UN’s anti-discrimination body Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) have asked the government to repeal this law as well, as these former "criminalized" tribes continue to suffer oppression and social ostracization at large and many have been denied SC, ST or OBC status, denying them access to reservations which would elevated their economic and social status [42][43][44].

Other violence

Conflicts such as Anti-Bihari sentiment have sometimes escalated to violence.

Invasive methods like 'narcoanalysis' (controlled anesthesia)is now commonly permitted by Indian courts for crime investigation. Even though according to Indian constitution "nobody may be made a witness against himself", courts have recently proclaimed that even a permission from court is not necessary for conducting this practice. Narcoanalysis is now widely used to replace/circumvent the lack of skill and infrastructure for conducting scientific methods of crime investigation. Narcoanalysis is also alleged as against medical ethics.

It has been found that more than half of the prisoners of the country are detained without adequate evidence. Unlike in other democratic countries, the investigation in India generally commence with the arrest of the accused. As the judicial system is understaffed and sluggish, it is not uncommon to find innocent civilians languishing in jail for many years. For instance, the Bombay high court in September 2009 asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 1 lakh as compensation to a 40-year-old man who languished in prison for over 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

See also

References

  1. ^ India, a Country Study,United States Library of Congress
  2. ^ "Freedom in the World 2006: Selected Data from Freedom House's Annual Global Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties"PDF (122 KiB), Freedom House, 2006
  3. ^ [http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/11/19/india-repeal-armed-forces-special-powers-act ]
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ The Right to Food
  7. ^ Right to Information
  8. ^ Police Reforms ordered by Supreme Court
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ Torture main reason of death in police custody The Tribune
  11. ^ Custodial deaths in West Bengal and India's refusal to ratify the Convention against Torture Asian Human Rights Commission 26 February, 2004
  12. ^ Custodial deaths and torture in India Asian Legal Resource Centre
  13. ^ Police Accountability in India: Policing Contaminated by Politics
  14. ^ The Supreme Court takes the lead on police reform: Prakash Singh vs. Union of India, CHRI
  15. ^ http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/1058F3E39F77ACE5C12574B2004E5CE3?opendocument
  16. ^ http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/kashmir/1996/India-07.htm
  17. ^ Blood Tide Rising - TIME
  18. ^ India
  19. ^ BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Kashmir's extra-judicial killings
  20. ^ Behind the Kashmir Conflict - Abuses in the Kashmir Valley
  21. ^ India: Repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
  22. ^ Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Undermining the Judiciary (Human Rights Watch Report: July 1999)
  23. ^ Freedom in the World 2008 - Kashmir (India), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2008-07-02
  24. ^ [4]
  25. ^ Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Undermining the Judiciary (Human Rights Watch Report: July 1999)
  26. ^ Behind the Kashmir Conflict - Abuses in the Kashmir Valley
  27. ^ [5]
  28. ^ Worldwide press freedom index 2009 Reporters Without Borders
  29. ^ "The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002". http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/actandordinances/POTA.htm. 
  30. ^ Kalhan, Anil et al. (2006). Colonial Continuities: Human Rights, Antiterrorism, and Security Laws in India. 20 Colum. J. Asian L. 93. http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=970503. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  31. ^ "Freedom of the Press". PUCL Bulletin, (People's Union for Civil Liberties). July 1982. http://www.pucl.org/from-archives/Media/freedom-press.htm. 
  32. ^ India: Repeal Colonial-Era Sodomy Law, report from Human Rights Watch, January 11, 2006.
  33. ^ Letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh On the arrest of four men on charges of homosexual conduct in Lucknow letter by Scott Long, director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch
  34. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Homosexuality-no-crime-Delhi-High-Court/articleshow/4726608.cms
  35. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/photo.cms?msid=4728348
  36. ^ Human trafficking turning into organised crime in India Zee News
  37. ^ India among top human trafficking destinations India eNews
  38. ^ Nichols, B (2003). "The Politics of Assassination: Case Studies and Analysis". Australasian Political Studies Association Conference. http://www.utas.edu.au/government/APSA/BNichols.pdf. 
  39. ^ a b Human Rights Watch 2006, p. 265.
  40. ^ "India Events of 2007". Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/legacy/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/india17605.htm. 
  41. ^ "India's Unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste System". 2005. http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA2005100705001&lang=e. 
  42. ^ Meena Radhakrishna (2006-07-16). "Dishonoured by history". folio: Special issue with the Sunday Magazine. The Hindu. http://www.hinduonnet.com/folio/fo0007/00070240.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  43. ^ Repeal the Habitual Offenders Act and affectively rehabilitate the denotified tribes, UN to India Asian Tribune, Mon, March 19, 2007.
  44. ^ Suspects forever: Members of the "denotified tribes" continue to bear the brunt of police brutality Frontline, The Hindu, Volume 19 - Issue 12, June 8-21, 2002.

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