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    Posted on 30 August 2011
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    HUMAN RIGHTS

    NHRC figures paint rosy picture of Kashmir and Northeast; UP and Bihar are worst offenders

    Experts dismiss record of cases of custodial deaths, torture; demand passing of long pending anti-torture law soon

    Arpit Parashar
    New Delhi

    The image used above is for representation purpose only


    Police from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra have registered the worst record in terms of the number of custodial deaths in the past three years, with UP recording as many as 999 deaths over the period, an average of almost one death every day. The state has also recorded 1,552 cases of torture in police custody in the past three years, which is more than three-fourths of all such cases in the country over the period, at an average of almost three cases every day.

    Ironically, the figures from the Northeastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, and states affected by Naxalism are extremely low.

    Human rights organisations have blamed the Central government for fudging facts on violations in these states repeatedly. They are not buying even the high figures in some states, terming them doctored, and blaming India for its poor human rights record, highly incompetent administrative system, and failure of the government to pass effective laws at par with international standards to curb such cases and bring the perpetrators to book.

    As per data collected by the National Human Rights Commission, Bihar and Maharashtra recorded 419 and 413 custodial deaths from 2008-09 to 2010-11, with hardly any signs of the number of cases going down over the three years. Other states with alarming figures but a steady decline in the number of cases over the three years are Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat.

    Uttar Pradesh has registered three times more torture cases than all the other states combined – 1552 out of a total of 2127. The increase in the number of such cases has been steady, with the number of cases going up to 667 in the year 2010-11 from 396 in 2008-09. Interestingly, the Union Territory of Delhi has also registered a steady increase in the number of cases of custodial torture compared to the other states, barring UP, registering 31 cases in 2010-11 compared to 17 in 2008-09.

    Number of custodial deaths in Jammu and Kashmir over the three years is 1, 4 and 6 respectively – barely 11 registered custodial deaths over the period, while the number of cases of torture is just 7. Strife-torn Manipur has record of just 2 cases of custodial deaths and 4 cases of torture over the three years. Assam is the worst offender among the Northeastern states, with 92 custodial deaths and 18 cases of torture over the three years.

    The low figures are a stark reminder of the existence of the Army in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, where they are allowed extraordinary powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

    More than 500 of the 2000+ bodies discovered by the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission in the mass graves in north Kashmir last month have been identified as those of local residents killed at the hands of the security forces in the name of killing terrorists.

    Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international human rights agencies have already urged India to immediately open an independent, transparent, and credible investigation into the unmarked graves.

    Srinagar-based International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPT) had documented unidentified bodies buried in the state’s northern areas as long back as 2009. It has claimed that 8,000 people have gone missing in the state in the past 20 years and demanded that investigations be done into whether the bodies found are those of people who ‘disappeared’ as security forces battled insurgency.

    Similar are the cases of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, where the security forces have been fighting the Maoists. The three states have registered barely 18, 13 and 11 cases of custodial torture respectively over the past three years.

    Human rights organisations have termed even the alarmingly high figures in many states as eyewash, contending that most cases of custodial deaths and tortures go unreported in the country.

    The NHRC has framed guidelines for reporting all deaths and cases of custodial deaths whether natural or otherwise within 24 hours of their occurrence and also prepares reports to ascertain any foul play by police and government officials. Also, as per section 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) the district administration is required to conduct mandatory judicial enquiry in case of death, disappearance or rape of an inmate and conduct a thorough medical examination withing 24 hours in case of death.

    However, these norms are flouted openly. “The district administrations have the sole authority to get the cases registered and order enquiries. The criterions of provisions under the laws are never fulfilled,” said Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre of Human Rights (ACHR). As a result the number of cases that are actually reported to the NCHR or enquired into falls way short of the actual figure. To top it all, “there is no provision for the NHRC to take punitive action against offenders,” Chakma points out.

    Despite repeated efforts by activists including those by the NHRC India has not ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment) although it has been a signatory since October 1997.

    As a result required changes have not been made to the prevailing laws to enable institutions and executing authorities to be accountable. This has meant that India’s record compared to international standards has been abysmal.

    “As a result India is unable to get people easily extradited for trial, a recent example being that of Kim Davies, accused in the Purulia Arms Drop Case of 1995,” said Chakma.

    Another case is that of Mohammad Hanif Umerji Patel alias Tiger Hanif, the alleged mastermind of the 1993 Surat bomb blast, who is to be extradited from the United Kingdom. Hanif cited India’s poor human rights record and his fear of torture in India while opposing the extradition plea in a British court.

    Because of this the Home Ministry had to give in to the demand to allow the visit of a British human rights expert, a doctor, to Gujarat to examine the conditions at the prison where Hanif will be kept after being extradited.

    ANTI-TORTURE BILL STILL STUCK

    The Home Ministry had prepared a bill titled ‘The Prevention of Torture Bill 2010’ last year and placed it before the Parliament, which has still not passed it. The initial draft of the Bill was went through many changes until it was finally presented before the Standing Committee of the Parliament headed by Ashwini Kumar, in its present form.

    The Bill is the first step towards ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1975. Ratification of the convention requires enabling legislation having provisions that would be necessary to give effect to the articles of the convention.

    “The first draft (of 2008) was very weak and failed to recognise even the basic definition of torture. Over many deliberations and discussions it has been modified considerably to fulfill international criterion. But the government has shown no seriousness about getting the Bill passed,” said Chakma. "The civil society too has done little on this front to pressure the government," he lamented.

    FIGURES IN TABLE

    STATE

    Custodial deaths (2008-09 to 2010-11)

    Cases of torture (2008-09 to 2010-11)

    Andhra Pradesh

    369

    13

    Assam

    92

    18

    Bihar

    419

    27

    Gujarat

    237

    19

    Jammu and Kashmir

    11

    7

    Karnataka

    132

    19

    Madhya Pradesh

    270

    23

    Maharashtra

    413

    19

    Manipur 2

    2

    4

    Nagaland

    11

    2

    Orissa

    161

    13

    Punjab

    285

    8

    Uttar Pradesh

    999

    1552

    West Bengal

    262

    16

    Delhi

    52

    67

    Chhattisgarh

    121

    11

    Jharkhand

    198

    18

    Arpit Parashar is Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
    [email protected]


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    Posted on 30 August 2011
 

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