Annual Report: India 2005

Report
May 28, 2005

Annual Report: India 2005

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Head of state: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Head of government: Manmohan Singh (replaced Atal Bihari Vajpayee in May)
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed
UN Women’s Convention: ratified with reservations
Optional Protocol to UN Women’s Convention: not signed


Summary

Perpetrators of human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity in many cases. Gujarat state authorities failed to bring to justice those responsible for widespread violence in 2002. Security legislation was used to facilitate arbitrary arrests, torture and other grave human rights violations, often against political opponents and marginalized groups. In the north-eastern state of Manipur, local groups opposed human rights violations under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and called for its repeal. In numerous states, human rights defenders were harassed. The new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government made a number of promises that, if implemented, could improve human rights. Socially and economically marginalized groups, such as dalits, adivasis, women and religious minorities, continued to face discrimination at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system.

Background

Relations between India and Pakistan improved during the year with talks and a series of confidence-building steps taking place. In July the government of Andhra Pradesh revoked an eight-year ban on the Maoist (naxalite) People’s War Group (PWG) and six associated organizations. In October the first ever peace talks were held between state officials and PWG representatives. In other areas of low intensity conflict, including in Assam and Manipur, tensions intensified.

In May the ruling National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), suffered a surprise defeat in national elections which brought the UPA coalition government, led by the Congress Party, to office. Manmohan Singh was appointed Prime Minister after party leader Sonia Gandhi declined the post.

The BJP retained power in several states and the party returned to a more overtly Hindu nationalist agenda.

More than 15,000 people were killed or remained missing, and over 112,000 were displaced by the 26 December tsunami that caused extensive damage to coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states and two Union Territories – the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Pondicherry. National and local relief efforts began immediately.

Violence against women

Despite the efforts of women’s rights advocates to address the widespread problem of violence in the home, India still lacked comprehensive legislation addressing domestic violence.

The government failed to submit overdue periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Impunity continued for most perpetrators of widespread rape and killing in Gujarat in 2002. During the communal violence Muslim women were specifically targeted and several hundred women and girls were threatened, raped and killed; some were burned alive (see Gujarat below).

Impunity

Members of the security forces continued to enjoy virtual impunity for human rights violations.

In April women members of the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons were beaten by police when they demonstrated in Srinagar against continuing impunity for those responsible for “disappearances” in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. While the state admitted in 2003 that 3,744 persons had “disappeared” since insurgency began in 1989, human rights activists believed the true figure to be over 8,000. No one had been convicted by the end of 2004.