Annual Report: India 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: India 2011

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  • In May, Adivasi leader Laxman Jamuda was killed when police fired at people protesting against the acquisition of Adivasi lands for a proposed Tata Steel project in Kalinganagar, Orissa. Nineteen people were injured, 10 sustaining bullet wounds. One thousand police officers cordoned off the villages while 200 private militia members forced their way in and demolished some houses.
  • In May, at least 20 protesters were injured when police used tear gas and batons to disperse about 1,000 farmers demonstrating against the takeover of their farmlands and village common land for South Korean Pohong Steel Company's (POSCO) proposed steel project in Jagatsinghpur district, Orissa.
  • In July, two fishermen were killed when police fired at a protest against the government's takeover of land for a thermal power project promoted by Nagarjuna Construction Company in Sompeta town, Andhra Pradesh. Five people sustained bullet wounds, and 350 people, including 60 police officers, were injured as police, assisted by a private militia, dispersed protesters from 10 villages. The next day, the authorities cancelled the environmental clearance given for the project.

Continuing protests forced the authorities to reconsider existing land acquisition laws. In September, the Federal authorities proposed new legislation for the extractive sector with benefit-sharing arrangements for local communities along with new frameworks for free, prior and informed consent for Adivasis and consultation for other marginalized communities. New legislation containing improvements in land acquisition procedures and rehabilitation and resettlement policies was pending before parliament.

Human rights defenders

People defending the land rights of Adivasis and other marginalized communities, in some cases by using recent legislation to obtain information to protect their rights, continued to face serious threats and violent attacks from private militias.

  • In January, Sadhu Singh Takhtupura was killed in Amritsar district, Punjab, after he led local farmers to resist land grabs allegedly by an alliance of local political leaders, contractors and corrupt officials. In October, another peasant leader, Pirthipal Singh Alishar, was shot dead by assailants after he led a campaign against usury by money lenders. In both cases, local communities alleged that the police failed to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
  • In January, Satish Shetty was murdered after refusing to stop exposing land grabs in Pune city using new Right to Information legislation.
  • In July, Amit Jethwa, who had campaigned against illegal mining in the Gir forest of Gujarat, was shot dead outside the high court complex in Ahmedabad.

Campaigners against human rights violations faced harassment, intimidation and arrests on false and politically motivated charges.

  • Between March and June, the Gujarat police detained 13 activists, including Adivasi labour activist Avinash Kulkarni. They faced trial on charges of collaborating with armed Maoists.

Impunity

Impunity for abuses and violations remained widespread; despite ongoing protests in the north-east, the authorities remained unwilling to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which facilitates impunity. Perpetrators of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations in Punjab between 1984 and 1994, and Assam between 1998 and 2001, continued to evade justice. Members of Dalit communities in several states faced attacks and discrimination. The authorities failed to use existing special laws enacted to prosecute perpetrators of such violence.

1984 massacre

In September, the Supreme Court directed the trial of Congress Party leader Sajjan Kumar to proceed. The case against another former Congress Party leader, Jagdish Tytler, was closed in April by a Delhi court. Both men were accused of inciting their supporters to commit the Delhi massacre, in which thousands of Sikhs were killed, following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Communal violence