Annual Report: India 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: India 2011

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  • In May, at least 144 passengers were killed and 200 others injured when an express train derailed reportedly after an explosion on the track in West Medhinipur district. The area routinely saw violence between armed Maoists on the one hand and on the other, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) and the central paramilitary forces. In August, one of the people accused in the explosion case, Umakanta Mahato, an Adivasi leader of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), was extrajudicially executed after a round of political violence in which three CPI-M supporters were killed by the PCPA.
  • In September, security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh illegally detained 40 Adivasis, stripped and tortured them. They detained 17 other people, two of whom were 16 years old, and sexually assaulted two of the women. The authorities failed to pursue the findings of an initial inquiry which held security force personnel responsible for the violations.
  • Peace activists belonging to Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), a Gandhian NGO, were forced to stop working in the conflict areas of Chhattisgarh. VCA founder Himanshu Kumar could not return to Dantewada town which he had fled in 2009 following persistent harassment and intimidation by Salwa Judum, the state police and paramilitary forces.
  • In September, the Chhattisgarh police accused Adivasi leader and prisoner of conscience Kartam Joga, whose petition against impunity was being heard by the Supreme Court, of collaborating with armed Maoists.
  • In December, a local court in Chhattisgarh convicted human rights defender, medical practitioner and prisoner of conscience Binayak Sen of collaborating with Maoists and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Corporate accountability

Both the authorities and companies failed to ensure adequate consultation with and protection of the rights of local marginalized communities affected by mining, irrigation and other corporate projects. In several states, Adivasi and other marginalized local communities staged protests - some of them successful - against the authorities' failure to respect their claims, guaranteed by the Constitution and recent legislation, over lands which were threatened by corporate ventures.

  • In a landmark victory for Adivasi rights, the Indian government rejected plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, and to expand an alumina refinery in nearby Lanjigarh. The plans were proposed by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation. The authorities found that both projects violated forest and environmental laws and would perpetrate abuses against the Dongria Kondh and other Adivasi communities.
  • In June, a Bhopal court sentenced eight Indian executives at Union Carbide to two years' imprisonment for their role in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. The gas leak killed between 7,000 and 10,000 people in its immediate aftermath, and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years. The case was reopened by the Supreme Court in August, following public anger at what were widely viewed as excessively lenient sentences.

Excessive use of force

The police used excessive force to quell protests by local communities against forced evictions and the acquisition of their lands for corporate projects. The police failed to protect protesters when private militias, reportedly allied with ruling political parties, violently suppressed protests. The authorities did not carry out impartial and timely inquiries into most of these incidents.