Torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody and arbitrary detentions persisted. Victims of human rights violations and abuses were frustrated in their quest for justice largely due to ineffective institutions and a lack of political will. The first execution in India since 2004 took place in November. At least 78 people were sentenced to death. The authorities persistently failed to curb violence against women and girls, and a high-profile rape case in December spurred countrywide protests for legal and other reforms. At least 340 people, including civilians, were killed in clashes between armed Maoists and security forces. Accountability for crimes under international law remained outside the scope of ongoing peace initiatives in Nagaland and Assam. At least 65 people were killed in intra-ethnic and communal clashes in Assam leading to the temporary displacement of 400,000 people. Adivasi (Indigenous), fishing and other marginalized communities continued to protest against forced eviction from their land and habitats, while official investigations progressed into the allocation of land for corporate mining. Defenders of human rights were threatened and harassed by state and non-state actors; some were sentenced to long-term imprisonment. The government attempted to censor websites and stifle dissent expressed through social media, prompting protests against internet restrictions.
The government faced allegations of corruption over its failure to ensure inclusive growth, within the context of a global recession which severely affected India’s economy. Poor and already marginalized communities, estimated at 30% to 50% of the population, were hit hard by price rises.
Government talks with neighbouring Pakistan continued, including on Kashmir. In March, India supported UN Human Rights Council Resolution 19/2, urging Sri Lanka to address alleged violations of international law, but was reluctant to speak out on other human rights concerns. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions visited India in March. India’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May; the state did not accept recommendations to facilitate a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, or to hold its security forces to account for human rights violations. Parliament amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on financing terrorism but failed to bring it in line with international human rights standards.Top of page
Clashes between armed Maoists and security forces continued in eastern and central India. Both sides routinely targeted civilians, and killings, arson and abductions spread to Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra state, where Maoists killed 19 civilians including eight serving and former local government members.
In Chhattisgarh, the number of people killed since 2005, including members of the security forces and armed Maoists, rose to 3,200. Some 25,000 people remained displaced – 5,000 in camps and 20,000 dispersed in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Hundreds of members of the state-sponsored Salwa Judum militia continued to be integrated into a 6,000-strong auxiliary police force, despite concerns over their involvement in human rights violations.
In August, the Indian Supreme Court ordered that toxic waste lying in and around the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal should be disposed of within six months by the central and state governments. It also ordered better medical surveillance, monitoring and referral systems to improve health care for victims. The Court ruled that the state government should provide clean water to people living in the vicinity of the factory.
UK-based Vedanta Resources continued to fail to provide remedies to Indigenous and other local communities for the impact of its alumina refinery project in Lanjigarh and failed to consult on plans to undertake mining in a joint venture with the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) in the Niyamgiri Hills. The OMC’s challenge to the central government’s refusal to grant forest clearance for the mining project was pending before the Supreme Court.
On 21 November, India resumed executions after an eight-year hiatus by hanging Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national, for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. During the year, courts sentenced at least 78 people to death, raising the number of prisoners on death row to over 400. Ten death sentences were commuted by presidential order. Five other prisoners challenging the President’s rejection of their mercy petitions awaited the Supreme Court’s verdict.
In July, 14 former judges appealed to the President to commute the death sentences of 13 prisoners, which the judges claimed had been wrongly upheld by the Supreme Court. In November, the Supreme Court called for a review of the sentencing principles given the inconsistent application of the death penalty. The Supreme Court ruled against the mandatory application of the death penalty for the use of prohibited firearms resulting in death. In December, India voted against UN General Assembly resolution 67/176 calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.Top of page
The authorities failed to curb high levels of sexual and other violence against women and girls, even as reports of such incidents increased.
Impunity for human rights violations remained pervasive, with no repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or the Disturbed Areas Act. Both Acts grant excessive powers to security forces in specified areas, and provide them with de facto impunity for alleged crimes. Protests against these laws were held in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east, with concerns expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during his visit to India in March, and by the UN Human Rights Council in September. Suspected perpetrators of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Assam (in 1998 and 2001), Manipur, Nagaland, Punjab (during 1984-1994) and other states, remained at large.
Widespread impunity prevailed for violations of international law in Kashmir, including unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions, torture and the enforced disappearance of thousands of people since 1989. The majority of cases of more than 100 youths shot dead by the police and other security forces during protests in the summer of 2010 were not fully investigated.
Limited amendments to the Public Safety Act (PSA) in April after calls for its repeal, failed to bring it in line with India’s international human rights obligations. Administrative detentions under the PSA continued with political leaders and separatist activists held without charge or trial.
Proposed amendments to the state’s juvenile justice law, raising the age of majority from 16 to 18, remained pending before the legislative assembly.Top of page
In July and August, 75 villagers were killed in clashes between Bodo and Muslim communities in Assam. A total of 400,000 people were temporarily displaced across 270 camps. Involvement of armed groups exacerbated tensions and violence. The authorities were criticized for their inadequate response.
Ten years after the 2002 Gujarat violence in which 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, the majority of victims and their families had not secured justice. At least 78 suspects were convicted, including former Minister Maya Kodnani, and some 90 acquitted, in three of the cases being monitored by the Supreme Court.
Members of Dalit communities continued to face discrimination and attacks. Special laws to prosecute suspected perpetrators were rarely used.
On several occasions, police used unnecessary or excessive force to quell protests, and authorities failed to conduct prompt, impartial and effective inquiries into most incidents.
Protests grew against archaic sedition laws used to imprison peaceful demonstrators.
People defending the rights of marginalized communities continued to be targeted by state and non-state actors – as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in February.
The authorities used overbroad and imprecise laws to arrest at least seven people for posting online comments criticizing the government.