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2008 Human Rights Reports: India

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India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament and a population of approximately 1.1 billion with an active civil society. Manmohan Singh became prime minister following his Congress Party-led coalition's victory in the 2004 general elections, which were considered free and fair, despite scattered instances of violence. Serious internal conflicts affected the states of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as several states in the north and east. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, security forces occasionally acted independently of government authority during incidents of communal tensions in states such as Karnataka.

The government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however, serious problems remained. Major problems included extrajudicial killings of persons in custody, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces. Investigations into individual abuses and legal punishment for perpetrators occurred, but for the majority of abuses, the lack of accountability created an atmosphere of impunity. Poor prison conditions and lengthy detentions during both pretrial and trial proceedings remained significant problems. Officials used special antiterrorism legislation to justify the excessive use of force. Corruption existed at all levels of government and police. The government applied restrictions to the travel and activities of visiting experts and scholars. Significant restrictions remained on the funding and activities of NGOs. Increasing attacks against religious minorities and the promulgation of antireligious conversion laws were concerns. Violence associated with caste-based discrimination occurred. Domestic violence, child marriage, dowry-related deaths, honor crimes, female infanticide and feticide remain serious problems. Trafficking in persons and exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor were continuing problems.

Separatist guerrillas and terrorists in Kashmir, the Northeast, and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, judges, and civilians. Insurgents engaged in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion; however, the number of incidents declined compared to the previous year.

Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were credible reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents. A high rate of encounter killings occurred in the Northeast, particularly in the states of Assam and Manipur. Sources also reported encounter killings in Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh. Custodial deaths remained a serious problem, and authorities often delayed prosecutions.

Despite the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) recommendations that all police encounter deaths be investigated by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), many states conducted internal reviews only at the discretion of senior officers. For example, between January and July, Mumbai police killed 12 alleged criminals in nine separate encounters. There was no investigation of these incidents despite NHRC recommendations to do so. On August 31, police dismissed senior inspector Pradeep Sharma of the Mumbai police after he was implicated in numerous encounter deaths. He is alleged to have killed more than 112 persons over 25 years.

On July 4, according to Human Rights Alert, Manipur Police arrested L. Bimolchandra in Imphal, Manipur, on suspicion of armed activities against police. His death in police custody at Changangei prompted a July 6 general strike by civil society organizations; the inquiry into his death continued at year's end.

On September 19, police killed two suspected terrorists for involvement in the September 13 Delhi serial blasts during an encounter at Batla House, Delhi. Police Inspector MC Sharma was killed. Media and human rights groups alleged that Delhi police staged the encounter, including the shooting of Inspector Sharma. After the NGO Real Cause filed a petition to investigate the shooting, the court directed an inquiry according to NHRC guidelines. The investigation continued at year's end.

On October 27, Rahul Raj, who had taken passengers hostage on a public bus, was shot by police in Mumbai. The case was under investigation at year's end.

There were no updates on several high profile killings. These included the March 2007 killings of seven villagers near Santoshpur village in Dantewara district of Chhattisgarh by "unknown uniformed persons." No investigation occurred in the April 2007 killings of two boys, Asif Iqbal and Sahin Sk, allegedly by Border Security Forces (BSF) in Murshidabad district. No developments occurred in the October 2007 arrest of Mohammed Tariq for the alleged torture and encounter killing of schoolteacher Abdur Rashid Mir in Jammu.

In February a civil court in Srinagar charged seven policemen, including Hans Raj Parihar, Senior Superintendent of Police, for the 2006 encounter killing of Abdur Rahman Padder. A trial continued at year's end.

There were no developments in the following 2006 cases: the killing of Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, the killing of Abu Osama, or the encounter killing of two suspected Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) terrorists in Delhi. The 2006 death of Captain Sumit Kohli in Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir, remained unresolved, with the army claiming he committed suicide but the family alleging that he was killed because he was scheduled to testify against another officer.

The 2006 Ram Narayan Gupta case before the Mumbai High Court continued after investigators introduced evidence in September that Gupta had been killed while in police custody.

Deaths while in police and judicial custody remained a significant problem. According to the Home Ministry, the NHRC reported 1,459 deaths nationally in police and judicial custody between April and December 2007. The Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) alleged that custodial deaths were a severe problem and reported that 7,468 persons died in prison or police custody since 2002.

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