Annual Report: India 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: India 2013

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  • In March and April, Maoists abducted two Italian tourists in Orissa, releasing them in exchange for six Maoists captured by security forces. Maoists released an Orissa legislator after 33 days.
  • In April and May, Maoists shot dead two security guards and abducted the head of Sukma district administration in Chhattisgarh. They released him after 13 days, when the state authorities promised to consider the release of 300 Maoist suspects on bail.
  • In June, central paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh claimed to have killed 17 Maoists in “combat”, but human rights activists discovered the victims to be local unarmed Adivasis, including three teenagers. A judicial inquiry into the killings commenced five months later.

Corporate accountability

In August, the Indian Supreme Court ordered that toxic waste lying in and around the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal should be disposed of within six months by the central and state governments. It also ordered better medical surveillance, monitoring and referral systems to improve health care for victims. The Court ruled that the state government should provide clean water to people living in the vicinity of the factory.

UK-based Vedanta Resources continued to fail to provide remedies to Indigenous and other local communities for the impact of its alumina refinery project in Lanjigarh and failed to consult on plans to undertake mining in a joint venture with the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) in the Niyamgiri Hills. The OMC's challenge to the central government's refusal to grant forest clearance for the mining project was pending before the Supreme Court.

  • Adivasis in the Mahan and Chhatrasal areas of Madhya Pradesh state and the Saranda area of Jharkand state, protested against moves to divert land to mining projects which flouted their claims to the land under the Forest Rights Act.

Death penalty

On 21 November, India resumed executions after an eight-year hiatus by hanging Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national, for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. During the year, courts sentenced at least 78 people to death, raising the number of prisoners on death row to over 400. Ten death sentences were commuted by presidential order. Five other prisoners challenging the President's rejection of their mercy petitions awaited the Supreme Court's verdict.

In July, 14 former judges appealed to the President to commute the death sentences of 13 prisoners, which the judges claimed had been wrongly upheld by the Supreme Court. In November, the Supreme Court called for a review of the sentencing principles given the inconsistent application of the death penalty. The Supreme Court ruled against the mandatory application of the death penalty for the use of prohibited firearms resulting in death. In December, India voted against UN General Assembly resolution 67/176 calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Violence against women and girls

The authorities failed to curb high levels of sexual and other violence against women and girls, even as reports of such incidents increased.

  • In December, 11 men were convicted for the sexual assault of a woman in Guwahati city, Assam.
  • Five men and one boy were arrested in December for the gang-rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi. The assault prompted countrywide protests calling for a review of laws addressing violence against women.

Impunity

Impunity for human rights violations remained pervasive, with no repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or the Disturbed Areas Act. Both Acts grant excessive powers to security forces in specified areas, and provide them with de facto impunity for alleged crimes. Protests against these laws were held in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east, with concerns expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during his visit to India in March, and by the UN Human Rights Council in September. Suspected perpetrators of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Assam (in 1998 and 2001), Manipur, Nagaland, Punjab (during 1984-1994) and other states, remained at large.