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Amnesty International Report 1994 - India

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - India, 1 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9f56e.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Tens of thousands of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were held without charge or trial under special or preventive detention laws. Torture of detainees was routine throughout the country and scores of people died in police and military custody as a result. Scores of political detainees "disappeared". Hundreds of people were reported to have been extrajudicially executed by the security forces. At least three people were executed. Armed opposition or separatist groups committed numerous abuses, including deliberate killings of civilians and taking hostages.

The government faced violent political opposition in several states, notably in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and the other northeastern states.

Jammu and Kashmir remained under direct rule by central government throughout the year, as did Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan until November.

In September the government established a National Human Rights Commission with the stated objective of improving India's human rights record. However, the Commission's mandate effectively excludes investigation of particularly widespread violations committed by the army and paramilitary forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states. Moreover, when investigating other alleged violations it must rely on state investigative agencies, which may have a vested interest in covering up human rights violations.

No legal reforms were implemented to safeguard detainees or to limit the arbitrary powers granted to the security forces under special legislation such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). The TADA, which was in force in 22 of India's 25 states, was extended in May for a further two years. In March the Supreme Court ruled that victims of abuses are entitled to compensation if the state fails to protect human rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Tens of thousands of political prisoners were held without charge or trial under the special laws. According to official figures released in February, for example, 52,268 people were being held under the TADA nationwide. Many were apparently held on suspicion of committing ordinary criminal offences in states where there is no organized armed opposition violence, but others were clearly held for political reasons. Hundreds of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the TADA were pending before the Supreme Several newspaper editors and journalists were among those detained in 1993, including Parag Kumar Das, Krishna Barua and Nripendra Sarma, respectively editor, publisher and printer of the Assam newspaper Budbhar. Apparently prisoners of conscience, they were detained under the TADA in February, reportedly because of an article commemorating the death of an opposition leader. The government said they had advocated "disruptive activities" but they were released on bail in March to await trial. Several other prisoners of conscience were held throughout the year, including Shabir Ahmed Shah, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People's League, who had been arrested in 1989 and remained in detention without charge or trial (see Amnesty International Report 1993).

Hundreds of suspected political activists were also detained without charge or trial under the National Security Act and, in Jammu and Kashmir, the Public Safety Act.

Torture of detainees in police and military custody was routine in every state. Torture methods most frequently cited were beatings, often with lathis (canes), and, less frequently, suspension by the wrists or ankles, electric shocks and rape. Most victims were criminal suspects, although many were political detainees suspected of supporting armed opposition or separatist groups. Victims often came from underprivileged and vulnerable sections of society, particularly the scheduled castes and tribes. For example, Buhiben, a villager from Antras in Gujarat State, was seized in April by police searching for her husband. She was reportedly stripped, beaten with sticks and raped by two police officers.

Senior police officials frequently participated in covering up torture and prosecutions of police were rare. Amnesty International identified 484 deaths in custody allegedly resulting from torture between January 1985 and June 1993. In only six of these cases were police officers known to have been convicted. In April the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that it had verified 230 of the cases with the relevant state governments, and that in 85 of these there was evidence to justify further action against police officers.

In Delhi, the capital, there was an apparent increase in the number of deaths in custody allegedly caused by torture, rising to nine during 1993. Satyavan, a truck driver, was arrested with two friends in March. All three were reportedly beaten in Najafragh police station until Satyavan collapsed and died. One police officer was subsequently transferred and one suspended, but no independent investigation was ordered.

In Punjab, officials continued to falsely attribute deaths under torture to "encounters" between armed militants and the police or to "escapes". For example, Gurdev Singh Kaonke, a former Sikh religious leader, died in early January, allegedly as a result of torture. The police said he had "escaped", but he never returned home. Punjab's Chief Minister said in February that the police in the state would not be "screened and cleaned up" as it would hamper "anti-terrorist operations". No prosecutions for human rights violations took place in Punjab.

In Jammu and Kashmir, torture by the security forces was reported almost daily. Police records reportedly showed 132 deaths in custody in 33 days during March and April alone. One victim, Manzoor Ahmed Ganai, a farmer, had to have both legs amputated after prolonged torture by the army's Bihar regiment. This reportedly included hanging him upside-down by his ankles for several days and burning the back of his thighs with lighted paraffin. He died in February apparently as a result of the injuries he had sustained under torture.

A rare survivor of torture and attempted extrajudicial execution in Jammu and Kashmir, Masroof Sultan, a student, was beaten, shot five times and left for dead by the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) in April. He was found by the police who had been told by the BSF to collect the bodies of "militants killed in an exchange of fire".

Scores of political detainees "disappeared" during the year. Most were young men suspected of having links with armed secessionist groups. Many were taken into custody solely because they lived in areas where armed separatist groups were active. Few "disappearances" were clarified. Sometimes officials eventually admitted that an arrest had been made, only to claim later that the "disappeared" person had "escaped" or was killed in an "encounter".

In Jammu and Kashmir, the army and paramilitary forces were responsible for scores of "disappearances". Ashiq Hussain Ganai, a student, was arrested by an army unit in March. His relatives were given conflicting reports on his fate by various officials but he remained "disappeared".

In Punjab, most "disappearances" were carried out by the police. Victims included 65-year-old Budh Singh and his son, Tejinder Singh, who were arrested by police in mid-May. They were both apparently held in Lada Kothi detention centre and tortured. Budh Singh was last seen there; Tejinder Singh was released provisionally then detained again in July, following which he too "disappeared". The police denied all knowledge of their whereabouts.

Hundreds of people were reported to have been extrajudicially executed by security forces. At least 53 people were killed in the town of Sopore, Kashmir, by members of the BSF on 6 January. Witnesses said that soldiers fired indiscriminately into a crowded bazaar, dragged people from their homes and shot them at point-blank range, and burned others to death. The killings were apparently in retaliation for the death of a BSF member in a clash with Kashmiri separatists. The dead included a 70-year-old shopkeeper, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh; a woman and her two children who were burned alive in their car; and a bus driver and at least 15 passengers who were forced off a bus and shot. A judicial inquiry was ordered but had not concluded by the end of the year.

Extrajudicial executions in Jammu and Kashmir continued throughout the year. Fifty-one people were arbitrarily shot dead in Srinagar and Bijbehara on 22 October, most by the BSF, during an apparently peaceful protest against an army siege of the Hazratbal shrine.

In Bombay, a judicial investigation continued into the deaths of 1,788 people during riots between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities in December 1992 and January 1993 following the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya (see Amnesty International Report 1993). The investigation, which was still in progress at the end of 1993, investigated reports that the police had sided with Hindu mobs during the rioting.

An official committee reported in July that police had colluded in killings during anti-Sikh riots in 1984, after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in which almost 3,000 people died. Police had failed to intervene and subsequently failed to register reports, allowing those responsible to escape punishment. The committee's report indicted 298 police officers and two senior Congress Party leaders but they had not been brought to trial by the end of the year.

At least three people were executed; the three were all members of the same family who had been convicted of multiple murder.

Armed opposition groups committed grave human rights abuses, including hostage-taking, torture and deliberate and arbitrary killings. The victims included officials, politicians, relatives of members of the security forces, and suspected informers. For example, on 2 March separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir killed former assistant commissioner Ghulam Nabi Baba. In Punjab, although violence declined in 1993, officials and Hindu civilians continued to be targeted by armed opposition groups. In Andhra Pradesh, members of the Naxalite People's War Group were reportedly responsible for torturing and killing many people whom they suspected of being police informers. Armed groups in Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir were reported to have taken hostages.

Amnesty International called on the government to release prisoners of conscience and to ensure that all other political prisoners were brought to trial promptly and fairly, or released; to investigate impartially all allegations of torture and deaths in custody and to bring to justice those responsible for torturing or ill-treating prisoners; and to implement safeguards outlined in a 10-point program to halt torture.

Amnesty International repeatedly expressed grave concern about continuing reports of deaths in custody and of extrajudicial executions. In April it published India: Sopore - a case study of extrajudicial executions in Jammu and Kashmir, which appealed to both the authorities and armed opposition groups to stop human rights abuses. In October Amnesty International called for an investigation into the killings by the BSF of 51 people in Srinagar and Bijbehara. Throughout the army siege of the Hazratbal mosque, Amnesty International urged the government to instruct the security forces to act with restraint and urged armed separatists to safeguard the lives of civilians trapped inside the mosque. It welcomed the peaceful ending of the siege.

In December Amnesty International published India: "An Unnatural Fate" - "Disappearances" and Impunity in the Indian States of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, which documented 208 alleged "disappearances" since January 1990. It urged the government to establish the fate or whereabouts of the victims and implement detailed recommendations to halt "disappearances". Amnesty International appealed for the commutation of death sentences and the abolition of the death penalty.

Amnesty International welcomed reports that plans to forcibly repatriate some 30,000 tribal refugees from Tripura State to the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh were not to be implemented. The organization called for assurances that no refugees would be repatriated against their will.

Amnesty International also welcomed the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission but criticized the severe limitations placed on its powers, mandate and methodology.

Amnesty International renewed its long-standing request to conduct independent research in various Indian states. The government allowed Amnesty International representatives to visit Bombay but authorization for access to Jammu and Kashmir had not been granted by the end of the year.

In oral statements to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in July and the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in August, Amnesty International included reference to its concerns in India.

Amnesty International condemned deliberate and arbitrary killings and other abuses by armed opposition groups and urged them to respect basic standards of humanitarian law and release all hostages immediately.

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