Head of government Manmohan Singh
Death penalty retentionist
Population 1,198 million
Life expectancy 63.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 77/86 per 1,000
Adult literacy 63 per cent
Tighter anti-terror and security legislation in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks was linked to reports of arbitrary detention and torture. Maoist violence in central India spread to West Bengal, with local communities being targeted and at least 300 civilians killed. Extrajudicial executions took place in a number of states and human rights defenders were threatened and detained arbitrarily. Judicial processes continued to fail to ensure justice for many victims of past human rights violations, violence against religious minorities and corporate abuses. Adivasis (Indigenous communities), small farmers and city dwellers living in poverty across India whose livelihoods were threatened by fast-tracked development and mining projects continued to resist moves to acquire their lands and natural resources. At least 50 people were sentenced to death but, for the fifth successive year, there were no executions.
India-Pakistan peace initiatives languished, with the Indian authorities reiterating that the 2008 attacks in Mumbai had been carried out by people or groups based in Pakistan. The attacks lasted three days and killed 174 people. India-Pakistan initiatives on the Kashmir issue also failed to make progress, despite the Indian authorities resuming talks with Kashmiri leaders. Indian security forces launched co-ordinated paramilitary and police action against the spreading Maoist insurgency; there were protests over human rights abuses by both sides. About 200 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the April/May general elections and in various bomb attacks throughout the country.
Economic growth remained confined largely to key urban sectors and was tempered by global recessionary trends, security concerns and ongoing human rights abuses by state and armed groups. Government estimates from 2005 indicate that around a quarter of India's population were living below the national poverty line.
Counter-terror and security
Investigations into the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and elsewhere led to the detention under various security laws of more than 30 suspects without charge in several states, for periods ranging from one week to two months. Reports of unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment of suspects, and failure to hold independent inquiries into such incidents led to protests.
- In October, the Supreme Court rejected a plea to hold an independent inquiry into the September 2008 killings of two young men and a police officer in a shootout at Batla House, Delhi. The two men were allegedly involved in the serial bomb attacks in Delhi in September 2008.
Violence between security forces, militia and Maoists
The conflict in Chhattisgarh, central India, between Maoist armed groups which are banned by the authorities and the police and paramilitary forces, spread to other states after months of political violence. Both sides abducted, tortured and killed people with impunity, often targeting civilians. The paramilitary forces include the Salwa Judum militia, widely believed to be sponsored by the state. Around 40,000 Adivasis remained internally displaced by the ongoing conflict, with 20,000 living in camps and the rest scattered in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh. Human rights defenders who exposed abuses by state forces continued to be harassed by the authorities.