U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - India
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - India, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7d10.html [accessed 25 April 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
INDIAIndia is a longstanding parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament. Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, whose Janata Dal Party was part of the 16-party United Front (UF) coalition, took office in April and heads the Government. President R.K. Narayanan, who was elected by an electoral college made up of Members of Parliament and members of state assemblies, is Head of State and also has special emergency powers. President Narayanan dissolved the lower house of Parliament on December 4. Elections are scheduled for February and March 1998. The judiciary is independent. Although the 25 state governments have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, the central Government provides guidance and support through use of paramilitary forces throughout the country. The Union Ministry for Home Affairs controls most of the paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and the nationwide police service; it provides training for senior police officers for the state-organized police forces. The armed forces are under civilian control. Security forces committed significant human rights abuses, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and in the northeastern states. India is in a transition from a government-controlled economy to one that is largely market-oriented. The private sector is predominant in agriculture, most nonfinancial services, consumer goods manufacturing, and some heavy industry. Economic liberalization and structural reforms begun in 1991 continue, although momentum has slowed. The country's economic problems are compounded by rapid population growth of 1.7 percent per year with a current total above 950 million. Income distribution remained very unequal. Forty percent of the urban population and half the rural population live below the poverty level. There continued to be significant human rights abuses, despite extensive constitutional and statutory safeguards. Many of these abuses are generated by intense social tensions, violent secessionist movements and the authorities' attempts to repress them, and deficient police methods and training. These problems are acute in Jammu and Kashmir, where the judicial system has been disrupted by terrorist threats, by judicial tolerance of the Government's heavy handed antimilitant tactics, and by the refusal of security forces to obey court orders. Separatist insurgent violence in the northeastern states increased, along with reported incidents of security force abuses. Serious human rights abuses include: Extrajudicial executions and other political killings and excessive use of force by security forces combating active insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and several northeastern states; torture and rape by police and other agents of government, and deaths of suspects in police custody throughout the country; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast; continued detention throughout the country of thousands arrested under special security legislation; lengthy pretrial detention; prolonged detention while under trial; legal and societal discrimination against women; extensive societal violence against women; female bondage and prostitution; discrimination and violence against indigenous people and scheduled castes and tribes; widespread intercaste and communal violence; child prostitution, trafficking, and infanticide; and widespread exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor. During 1997 India made further progress in resolving human rights problems. In Punjab serious abuses of the early 1990's were acknowledged and condemned by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's investigation of serious abuses in the Punjab in the early 1990's continues. Continuing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) prison visits in Jammu and Kashmir demonstrated some government transparency on human rights problems. However, researchers for international human rights organizations like Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) were not permitted to visit Jammu and Kashmir or the northeast. The Government's signing of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was welcomed by human rights activists. However, its decision not to accept Articles 20, 21, and 22 of the Convention means effectively that the U.N. Human Rights Commission will not be able to investigate allegations of torture in India. However, insurgency-related deaths were slightly higher than last year, due largely to an increase in violent encounters in the Northeast. The proportion of civilian deaths increased slightly apparently due to militant efforts to disrupt the newly elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. Separatist militants were responsible for numerous, serious abuses, including extrajudicial executions and other political killings, torture, and brutality. Separatist militants were also responsible for kidnaping and extortion in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast India.