Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - India

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - India, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7f0.html [accessed 28 December 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.
 

India is a parliamentary democracy with a free press, civilian-controlled military, independent judiciary, and active political parties and civic associations. Competitive elections produce regular changes of leadership at the national, state, and municipal levels.

The 25 state governments have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. However, the central Government provides guidance and support through use of national paramilitary forces and in law has ultimate responsibility for protecting the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The Union Ministry for Home Affairs controls the nationwide Indian Police Service, most of the paramilitary forces, and the internal intelligence bureaus. The rapid growth of the internal intelligence bureaus and the increased use of paramilitary forces against separatist insurgencies and communal unrest have given the Home Ministry increasing day-to-day control over law and order operations. Centrally controlled paramilitary forces are deployed throughout India and have been responsible for significant human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast. These abuses ultimately raise questions about the effectiveness of civilian oversight and the extent of the Government's willingness and ability to prosecute offenders vigorously. Army units are also deployed for internal security duty in Kashmir and the northeast, and generally show greater respect for human rights than the paramilitary forces, although they have also been responsible for some abuses.

India has a mixed economy, with the private sector dominating agriculture, most nonfinancial services, consumer goods manufacturing, and some heavy industry. The Congress (I) Government pursued economic liberalization and structural reforms begun in 1991. Trade and foreign investment restrictions were relaxed, certain government subsidies and foreign exchange and price controls were reduced, and the government deficit was brought under control. India's economic problems are compounded by population growth of 2 percent per year, with a current total of about 891 million. Income distribution remained very unequal. Forty percent of the urban population and 51 percent of the rural population live in extreme poverty.

Despite extensive constitutional and statutory safeguards, significant human rights abuses persist throughout India. The abuses are aggravated by severe social tensions and the authorities' attempts to contain violent secessionist movements. Abuses are particularly acute in disturbed areas, such as Punjab and Kashmir, where the judicial system has broken down in the face of terrorist threats. As in past years, areas of abuse include: extrajudicial executions and reprisal killings by security forces in Kashmir, Punjab, and northeast India (encouraged in some cases in Punjab by government bounties on killed militants); political killings, kidnaping, and extortion by militants; torture, rape, and deaths of suspects in police custody throughout India; incommunicado detention for prolonged periods without charge under special security legislation; inadequate prosecution of police and security forces' personnel implicated in abuse; widespread intercaste and communal violence; legal and societal discrimination as well as extensive violence, both societal and by police and other agents of government against women; infrequent prosecution of "dowry deaths" (wife murder); and widespread exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor.

In 1993 the Government sought to address human rights concerns by opening dialogs with international human rights organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), allowing some international monitors access to Kashmir and other parts of India, enhancing human rights training for police and army personnel, and creating a National Human Rights Commission with powers to investigate and recommend punishment in cases of police abuse. To date these efforts have produced only modest results.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political killings by both government forces and militants continued at a disturbing rate, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and the northeast, where separatist insurgencies continued in 1993. Extrajudicial executions of suspected militants and their supporters by government security forces accounted for hundreds of deaths, as did terrorist attacks by militant groups. Ethnic and communal strife resulted in additional killings. Deaths in police custody received increased public attention in 1993 and were the subject of significant court decisions mandating compensation for victims and their families. However, as in the past, there was little evidence that the responsible officials received appropriate punishment.

Extrajudicial executions in areas facing separatist insurgency were generally tolerated by state authorities, who claimed the breakdown of judicial systems left security forces no alternative for dealing with accused terrorists. A September 1991 amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure granted broad protection to all public servants, including the security forces, for acts committed while discharging their official duties in states under President's rule. This provision contributed to the security forces' sense of impunity in Jammu and Kashmir, which remained under President's rule throughout the year.

Civilian and security force casualties reported in Kashmir were relatively stable, but the number of militants killed climbed significantly. Press reports indicate that 1,161 civilians and 215 security force personnel died in insurgency-related violence in Kashmir in 1993. Militant casualties during this same period numbered 1,438, many of whom died under suspicious circumstances. The Jammu and Kashmir Basic Rights Protection Committee, a group headed by a retired high court justice, drew on press accounts to detail 168 deaths in security force custody during the first 4 months of 1993. The victims of custodial violence included a state police constable, whose reported death in army custody in April sparked a 6-day police rebellion centered in Srinagar. (See Section 1.g. for further discussion of extrajudicial killing in Jammu and Kashmir.)

Kashmiri militant groups carried out politically motivated killings on a wide scale, targeting government officials, alleged police informers, members of rival factions and Hindu civilians. On August 14, militants stopped a bus in Jammu and killed 16 Hindu men. On August 3, militants attacked Hindu pilgrims near Anantnag, killing 1 and injuring 23. Among those killed in targeted militant attacks were a retired assistant commissioner, a Hindu leader in Jammu, a Srinagar-based news reader for All India Radio, and the relative of a local Congress(I) leader.

In Punjab police continued to engage in extrajudicial killings including faked "encounter" killings. In the typical scenario, police take into custody a suspected militant or militant supporter without filing an arrest report. If the detainee dies during interrogation or is executed, officials deny he was ever in custody and claim he died during an armed encounter with police or security forces. Alternatively, police may claim to have been ambushed by militants while escorting a suspect. Although the detainee invariably dies in "crossfire," police casualties in these "incidents" are rare.

In one such incident, a 22-year-old Sikh farmer, Manjinderpal Singh, was picked up by police on July 12. According to the Punjab Human Rights Organization, the detainee's father and members of the village council on July 14 contacted the district police chief, who told them Singh would be released soon. On July 20, the police chief reported that Singh had been killed on July 15 in an encounter with militants. The police reportedly offered no explanation for the delay in informing the family.

In another case of extrajudicial killing, Kulwant Singh, a Sikh lawyer, disappeared on January 25 along with his wife and child after he was called to the Ropar police station to pick up a client. Following repeated inquiries by local lawyers for over 2 weeks, the district police superintendent announced that Kulwant Singh and his family were killed on January 25 by two terrorists who wanted to surrender. The police superintendent claimed the terrorists who allegedly confessed to the killings committed suicide by swallowing cyanide shortly before their role in Kulwant Singh's murder was made public. Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh agreed to order an inquiry into the case but reportedly backed off in the face of police resistance.

The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act of 1983 grants army and paramilitary personnel wide discretion in the use of lethal force, giving authorities an easy defense for "encounter" killings. Extrajudicial executions were also encouraged by the Punjab government's practice of offering bounties for killed militants. The chief minister told the state assembly that over 41,000 such bounties were paid between 1991 and 1993; in some cases more than one person claimed credit for the same killing.

The claim of Indian human rights groups that Punjab police were engaged in a systematic campaign to liquidate militants and their supporters is borne out by data showing a high ratio of militant to security force casualties. Press reports indicate 589 alleged Sikh militants were killed in Punjab in 1993, compared to 23 civilians and 16 members of the security forces.

There were several reports during 1993 that Punjab police "hit teams" were pursuing Sikh militants in other parts of India. On May 17, one such team raided an apartment in Calcutta looking for alleged militant Lakshmi Singh. According to neighbors, Punjab police commandos broke into the apartment early that morning, shot Singh and his wife in their bedroom, then fled with the bodies. The government of West Bengal lodged a protest with the Punjab government, but no disciplinary action was reported against the police commandos.

In a similar incident, on July 3 two brothers, Dilbagh and Kashmir Singh, were taken into custody in Bombay by a Punjab police team. After his release, Kashmir Singh claimed they were subjected to mental and physical torture before being put on a train for Punjab on July 5. When they turned his badly bruised body over to family members, police said Dilbagh Singh had fallen from the moving train. Bombay Sikh activists claimed Dilbagh Singh was killed by the police and called for a full investigation, but no action was taken. Punjab Police Chief K.P.S. Gill told journalists on July 22 that "the purpose of having such teams has been to trace, identify, and kill top militants." Gill added that Punjab police teams were stationed in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh.

There were few instances of terrorist violence in Punjab during 1993, in part a consequence of stringent government security measures. On April 25, the district commissioner (head of civil administration) in Bathinda was injured by a bomb that exploded near his vehicle. On March 24, militants on a scooter killed seven people and injured two when they opened fire on a crowd near Ludhiana. Sikh militants operating in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh killed 11 people and injured 3 in a string of apparently random attacks on June 9. On September 24, Sikh militants reportedly fired on a bus-load of Youth Congress leaders near Ludhiana, killing 3 and injuring 11.

In the states of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, Maoist revolutionary Naxalites targeted politicians, landlords, and government officials in terrorist attacks. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, in turn, charged the state government with killing 249 suspected Naxalites in faked "encounters" during 1992. In February the People's War Group (PWG) assassinated the Additional Director of the Andhra Pradesh police academy in a daylight attack. The PWG killed several dozen other police and paramilitary personnel in ambushes and land mine attacks. The Maoist Communist Center (MCC), a Naxalite group active in Central Bihar, operated a parallel judicial system that ordered summary executions of landlords and other "class enemies."

In the seven states of northeastern India, at least 18 major insurgent groups were active, including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), and the Bodo Security Force. Most of the reported casualties in the northeast were army and paramilitary personnel. In August and September, however, NSCN militants killed more than 200 Kuki tribesmen, including women and children, in a series of attacks in the hill districts of Manipur. This followed an NSCN ambush on June 29 that left 27 army personnel dead and 24 injured.

Large-scale army operations in Assam were suspended, but the army retained overall responsibility for coordinating police and paramilitary forces in the region. Under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958, army and security forces were given wide discretion to use lethal force in Assam and four other northeastern states. In February the regional high court in Guwahati ordered the Indian army to pay $1,600 in compensation to the family of a man who disappeared in 1991 while in army custody. The court had earlier issued a habeas corpus petition ordering the Government and army to produce the man in court after he had been detained for interrogation about his son. ULFA militants in Assam killed accused informers and at least seven "deserters" who had accepted a government amnesty. ULFA's chairman reportedly issued a directive from Bangladesh calling for the death of all ULFA members who surrendered to police.

Indian newspapers reported nine deaths in custody or after police torture in and around Delhi during 1993. Press reports from the southern city of Bangalore alleged there were six deaths in police custody there during the year ending August 30. The Chief Minister of West Bengal told the state assembly there had been 277 custodial deaths in his state since 1977, of which only 1 case was probed by the courts.

India's Criminal Procedure Code requires a magisterial inquiry in every case of a death in police custody. However, most custodial abuse is directed at the poor and uneducated lower castes, who are unlikely to understand their right to redress. Inquiries are often not carried out, and when an investigation does occur, the results are generally not made public.

b. Disappearance

Disappearances are believed to occur on a large scale. There are credible reports that police throughout India often do not file required arrest reports, with the result that there are hundreds of unsolved disappearances in which relatives claim a person was taken into police custody and never heard from again. Police usually deny these claims, countering that there are no records of arrest.

This problem is particularly acute in Punjab, where there was a sharp rise in reported disappearances as the police sought to eliminate militants and their supporters. Sikh human rights groups reported dozens of disappearances in which police claimed they never held a person, even when there were witnesses to the arrest.

In cases where officials acknowledged an individual was in custody, police sometimes report the detainee was killed while trying to escape when taken to recover an alleged arms cache. Without exception, human rights groups say, these detainees are never seen again. The Human Rights Trust, a Delhi-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), reported 28 such cases, with registered arrest reports, between January and May. One case involved Gurdev Singh Kaonke, a Sikh religious leader who reportedly escaped while being taken to recover an arms supply on January 2 and has not been seen since.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although torture is prohibited by law, there is credible evidence that torture of detainees is common throughout India. Sometimes this abuse is part of the interrogation process, sometimes it is to extort money from the victim or his relatives, and sometimes it is summary punishment doled out by individual police officials.

Confessions extracted by force are generally inadmissible in court. Under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), however, a confession made to an officer above the rank of superintendent of police is admissible as evidence, provided the police have "reason to believe that it is being made voluntarily." Press accounts and reports by human rights groups indicate that brutality in extracting confessions under the TADA is common.

Indian human rights groups have detailed numerous individual cases of torture and abuse during interrogation by police and paramilitary forces in Kashmir, Punjab, and Assam. Forms of torture include beatings, rape, burning with cigarettes and hot rods, suspension by the feet, crushing of limbs with heavy rollers, and electric shocks. Many alleged torture victims die in custody, and others fear to speak out due to the threat of police retaliation. Consequently there are few firsthand accounts. One exception was the case of Masroof Sultan, a Kashmiri student who was pulled from a bus on April 8 and tortured with electric shocks. Sultan told foreign journalists he was shot and left for dead by border security force (BSF) soldiers who tried to pass off his death as a crossfire incident. Sultan's family claims to have seen him in custody and pleaded for his release. Although his case was taken up by several governments and international human rights groups, the Government did not investigate Sultan's torture or punish those responsible.

Another case involved the gang-rape of a Kashmiri woman on May 25 by army troops outside Srinagar. The victim, Nazeera Jan, told reporters that 10 soldiers broke into her room, tied her husband to a tree outside, and sexually assaulted her. A medical examination confirmed that she had been raped, and the army announced court-martial proceedings against four of the accused. State officials claimed that the four were each sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, but this punishment was not publicized. In Calcutta, a police constable was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in a custodial rape incident in 1992 that was taken up by opposition politicians and women's groups.

In response to a parliamentary question on August 19, the Home Ministry stated that 146 security force personnel had been disciplined for "acts of omission and commission during operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the past 3 years." Because the Government did not publicize the forms of punishment or the crimes involved, it was impossible to judge the adequacy of the punishment or even if the crimes involved human rights issues. A Home Ministry note given to the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center described punishments ranging from 7 years' to 6 months' imprisonment meted out in nine cases of rape, extortion, or sexual abuse. There is no evidence that any member of the security forces has been punished for an incident of custodial death or custodial torture in Jammu and Kashmir. Among Kashmiris, there is a general impression that official abuse goes unpunished.

Custodial abuse is common even in Indian states free of insurgency. Scheduled castes and harijans, people at the bottom of India's social ladder, are particularly vulnerable to police violence. There continued to be consistent reports that police, mostly upper caste Hindus, deliberately targeted members of these groups and religious minorities for beatings and rape. A highly publicized case from 1992, involving a low caste thief castrated while in police custody, remained stuck in the courts. The district magistrate's report to the Supreme Court called for disciplinary action against four police officers, along with three doctors accused of altering evidence. As of the end of the year, the station house officer and assistant subinspector charged in the case remained out on bail, despite a Supreme Court recommendation that bail be cancelled by May 10.

The Government grew increasingly sensitive to allegations of police abuse during 1993 and took some steps to address the problem. The Home Ministry reiterated instructions to police authorities that coercive methods should not be used on persons in police custody and expanded human rights training at India's elite national police academy. The Government says many members of the police have been disciplined for abuse of detainees. However, punishment is usually meager (suspension or transfer) and occurs only in a small percentage of incidents. The courts have played a role in trying to bring police behavior into line with Indian law. In a key decision on March 30, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of victims and their families to seek compensation from the Government for abuse while in police custody. However, the serious backlog in India's judicial system means that custodial abuse cases usually move slowly. In 1993, for instance, three policemen were sentenced to life imprisonment for their role in a custodial death in 1980. In August the principal suspect in this case was granted bail, pending his appeal before the Delhi high court.

The Government does not allow independent monitoring of prisons by NGO's. Prison conditions are, however, the subject of frequent press reports and have been assessed by human rights groups relying on testimony from former detainees. Press reports include charges of sexual abuse of prisoners; the use of prisoners by prison officials for domestic labor; the sale on the black market of food and milk meant for prisoners; and the sale of women prisoners to brothels. Women constitute 2 to 6 percent of the total prison population, according to the 1987 National Expert Committee on Women Prisoners Report.

A June 1993 report by the Human Rights Trust charged that prisoners in New Delhi's Tihar jail, considered one of the best-run in India, had inadequate food, medical care, and clothing. The prison houses approximately 8,500 prisoners in facilities designed to hold 2,219. Over 90 percent are awaiting trial, according to the jail's inspector general, and may be held months or even years before getting a court date. There were reportedly some 120 suicides in Tihar between 1988 and 1992.

The Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 provides that boys under 16 and girls under 18 are not to be held in prisons. However, these provisions appear to be widely ignored, especially in police lockups. The Supreme Court has criticized the states for not providing separate facilities for children in jails and for not constructing reformatory institutions.

In August the Supreme Court took up the issue of persons with mental disorders who have committed no crimes but are held in prisons throughout India. In its response to a petition by a West Bengal human rights monitor, the Court restrained the Government from putting mentally ill people in jail and directed all state governments to report on the status of "noncriminal lunatics" in their states. A senior West Bengal official stated that there were more than 1,000 such persons in West Bengal prisons.

There are three classes of Indian prison facilities. Class "C" cells are the worst. They often have dirt floors, no furnishings, and poor quality food. They are overcrowded, and the use of handcuffs and fetters is common. Prisoners in these cells reportedly suffer the most abuse. Prisoners are designated class "C" on the basis of their standing in society, not on the nature of the crime – those who cannot prove they are either college graduates or income taxpayers when they come before the magistrate are class "C."

Class "B" cells are for college graduates and taxpayers. Crowding is less of a problem in "B" cells, and the food and treatment of prisoners are reportedly better than in class "C." Class "A" cells are for "prominent persons," as designated by the Government. Prisoners in these cells are accorded private rooms, visits, and adequate food, which can be supplemented by their families. In fact, very few prisons actually maintain class "A" cells; class "A" prisoners are usually held in government guest houses. These provisions are not evenly enforced. Kashmiri political leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, for instance, were held in class "C" cells at New Delhi's Tihar jail, even though their backgrounds entitle them to class "A" facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were credible reports of widespread arbitrary arrest and detention under the special security laws enacted over the past decade to help law enforcement authorities fight separatist insurgencies.

The Constitution requires that an arrested person be informed of the grounds for arrest, given the right to be represented by counsel, and (unless he is being held under a preventative detention law) produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. At this initial appearance, the accused is committed to custody (either police or judicial remand) or released. An accused must be informed of his right to bail at the time of arrest and (unless he is being held for a nonbailable offense) may apply for bail at any time. The police must file a charge sheet within 60 or 90 days of arrest, depending on the severity of the crime. If the police fail to do so, court approval of a bail application becomes mandatory.

The Constitution permits the enactment of preventive detention laws in the event of threats to public order and national security. These laws provide for limits on the length of detention and for judicial review. Government critics charged with political offenses such as sedition or disruptive speech are typically held for extended periods under the TADA or the National Security Act (NSA) but are never formally tried. Some alleged militants in Kashmir and Punjab have been in detention for years. International human rights groups claim there are thousands of political detainees in India.

The NSA, passed in 1980, permits detention of persons considered security risks; police anywhere in India (except Kashmir) may detain suspects under NSA provisions. The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (1978) covers corresponding procedures for that state. Under the NSA's strong preventive detention provisions, a person may be detained without charge or trial for up to 1 year on loosely defined security grounds. A detention order must be confirmed by the state government and reviewed by an advisory board of three high court judges within 7 weeks of arrest. NSA detainees are permitted visits by family members and lawyers and must be informed of the grounds for detention within 5 days (10-15 days in exceptional circumstances). Some 16,000 people have been detained under the NSA since its inception. More than two-thirds of those detained were released by order of the state government or advisory board. According to the Government, as of May 1993, there were 639 people under NSA detention nationwide. The cumulative figure for Public Safety Act arrests in Kashmir (as of January 1, 1993) was 2,983, with all but 998 of the arrestees subsequently released.

The TADA, though enacted in 1985 to fight insurgency in Punjab, has been invoked by almost every state in India, including those where no real emergency exists. The TADA punishes those found guilty of terrorist and disruptive acts or membership in a terrorist gang with no less than 5 years' imprisonment and up to the death penalty for certain terrorist crimes. Disruptive activities are defined broadly to include speech or actions that disrupt or challenge the sovereignty or territorial integrity of India. The TADA extends the period to 60 days during which a detainee may be held in police custody after remand by the court and allows administrative detention up to 180 days (1 year in special circumstances). Suspects held under the TADA must be presented within 24 hours before an executive magistrate who reviews the detention order, but human rights groups say this requirement is frequently ignored. The Act was extended for 2 years in May, when an amendment was added requiring authorization from a state police inspector general before a court takes cognizance of a TADA case. (See also Sections 1.c. and 1.e.)

There were 7,816 reported arrests under the TADA in 18 states and union territories during 1992. The Government claimed a total of 52,268 people were arrested under the TADA between 1985 and February 15, 1993. Of these, only 434 were convicted. The vast majority of TADA detainees are eventually freed on bail or released without charge.

There are widespread accusations that the special security laws have been misused in states not experiencing civil unrest as a convenient way to hold people without trial. These accusations are borne out by government data showing TADA and NSA arrests by state. In 1992, for instance, TADA was used more frequently in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh than in Punjab, which was the Act's original target. Indeed, during the first 7 months of 1993 Gujarat registered 1,409 TADA arrests, more than half the nationwide total of 2,514. As of April, detentions under NSA in 1993 were highest in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Human rights monitors and the president of the Madras High Court Lawyers Association accused the Tamil Nadu government of using the NSA and other special security laws to detain political opponents under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In Punjab, state authorities used the TADA to arrest Sikh political leaders and prevent opposition rallies. In Assam, authorities used the TADA to silence journalists and human rights activists suspected of separatist sympathies. In Maharashtra, police were accused of using the TADA to round up Muslims indiscriminately on suspicion of involvement in the March 12 Bombay bombings.

Exile is not practiced.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

India has an independent judiciary with strong constitutional safeguards. An October Supreme Court decision gave the Chief Justice of India – in consultation with his colleagues – a decisive voice in selecting judicial candidates. Under the Constitution, judges are appointed by the President and may serve up to age 65 in the Supreme Court and age 62 in the state high courts. India's legal procedures generally assure a fair trial when they function normally, but the process can be drawn out and inaccessible to the poor. Defendants have the right to choose counsel from an Indian Bar that is fully independent of the Government. There are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system. This is not true for cases tried under the TADA which can be appealed only to the Supreme Court. Since many TADA detainees lack the resources to gain access to the Supreme Court, the act effectively limits appeal.

The Indian Criminal Procedure Code provides for an open trial in most cases but allows exceptions in proceedings involving official secrets, trials in which statements prejudicial to the safety of the State might be made, or under provisions of special security legislation such as the TADA. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty except in certain cases (see below). There are effective channels for appeal at all levels of the judicial system, although there is some limitation on appeals under the special security laws. Sentences must be announced in public.

The TADA authorizes secret testimony to protect witnesses and suspends the usual prohibition on the use of evidence gathered through police interrogation. Indians charged under the TADA with certain categories of crimes are presumed guilty and carry the burden of proving their innocence. Human rights groups charge that these categories are so broad – including cases in which weapons are recovered or there is strong incriminating evidence – that they can be manipulated to fit any case. TADA trials are held before special courts. The state or central government may designate a court as a TADA court for any geographic area, any case, or any class of offenses. Appointees to TADA courts must have served as a Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge immediately prior to their appointment. Some 450 petitions have been filed before the Indian Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Act, but the court has yet to give its opinion. Constitutional challenges to the TADA cover a broad spectrum. Many contend that the TADA violates the accused's right to due process. Others claim the TADA abrogates the jurisdictional rights of the States by eliminating appeal to the High Court. Still others address the TADA's incompatibility with the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Muslim personal law governs many noncriminal matters involving Muslims, including family law, inheritance, and divorce. The Government's declared policy is not to interfere in the personal laws of the minority communities, with the result that laws that discriminate against women are upheld. Different personal laws are administered through the single civil court system.

In Kashmir and Punjab the judicial systems barely function. In both states, threats by militants against judges, witnesses, and their family members have created a situation in which no court is willing to hear cases involving terrorist crimes. As a result, there were no convictions of alleged terrorists in Kashmir or Punjab during 1993.

There are no political prisoners in India. (For political detainees, see Section 1.d.)

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Under Indian law, warrants are normally required for searches and seizures. In a criminal investigation, however, police may conduct searches without a warrant if obtaining one would cause undue delay. They must justify such searches after the fact in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense being investigated. This requirement appears to be respected. The Special Powers Acts allow an officer or noncommissioned officer of the Armed Forces to arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offense or against whom a reasonable suspicion of such an act exists. The officer may use such force as necessary to effect the arrest, enter and search, without warrant, any premises, and recover any property reasonably suspected to be stolen or any arms believed to be unlawfully kept. There is no judicial review of this procedure. Indeed, the Acts bar any prosecution, suit, or other legal proceeding against any person in respect to anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by the Acts, except with the prior sanction of the central Government.

Surveillance of communications, including tapping telephones and intercepting personal mail, is authorized under the Indian Telegraph Act "on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety or tranquility." These powers have been used by every state government.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

Both government forces and militants committed egregious violations of humanitarian law in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir valley increasingly found itself trapped between the repressive tactics used by security forces to combat insurgency and the militants' acts of wanton violence. Approximately 400,000 Indian army and paramilitary forces have been deployed throughout Jammu and Kashmir to contain the separatist movement. Under the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, security force personnel have sweeping powers, including authority to shoot to kill suspected lawbreakers or disturbers of the peace and to destroy structures suspected of harboring militants or arms.

There were credible reports that security forces frequently used excessive force against civilians, sometimes in retaliation for attacks by Kashmiri militants. On January 6, a 40-man BSF unit responded to a hit-and-run attack by militants by firing on civilians and setting fire to buildings in Sopore, a stronghold of the Hizb-Ul Mujahideen militant group. According to Kashmiri and Delhi-based investigators, the day-long BSF rampage left 43 people dead, 14 injured, and around 300 homes and businesses burned. Witnesses reported that BSF personnel used rags dipped in fuel to spread the flames and fired indiscriminately on civilians.

The Government responded by dispatching senior officials to Sopore, promising compensation to victims, suspending nine BSF personnel (including the commandant), and transferring the entire BSF unit. The Government also ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. This effort was hampered by a reported militant order to witnesses to boycott the investigation. As of year's end, the judge assigned to the probe had yet to complete his investigation. BSF troops were accused of firing without warning on an October 22 demonstration in the militant stronghold of Bijbehara, leaving 41 dead and 76 injured, according to the Peoples Union for Civil Liberty. Despite government claims that the security forces were ambushed by militants, only one BSF subinspector was injured. The Government subsequently announced two official investigations and a separate inquiry by the National Human Rights Commission into these incidents.

There were other examples of BSF personnel using excessive force against civilians. In mid-April, at least 16 people were killed and 260 shops and houses were gutted when fire swept through the Lal Chowk area of Central Srinagar. It appeared the blaze began when Kashmiri demonstrators set fire to an abandoned BSF bunker. However, press reports indicate the BSF troops responded by firing randomly at demonstrators and setting fire to homes and businesses in neighboring areas. An official inquiry was announced, but the results were never released. In July a BSF soldier shot and killed an 8-year-old boy when he reportedly mistook a kitchen utensil the boy was holding for a grenade. When the enraged parents ran at the BSF men, they too were shot and killed.

Kashmiri militant groups were also guilty of serious human rights abuses. In addition to political killings detailed in Section 1.a., militants committed extortion and carried out acts of random terror that left hundreds of Kashmiris dead. Two people were killed and three injured on May 11 when militants reportedly fired a rocket at the government headquarters in Srinagar. Twenty-five people were injured on May 3 when a bomb planted by alleged militants exploded in a Jammu theater. On September 15, a bomb reportedly planted by militants exploded in a Hindu temple in Jammu, killing one person and injuring eight others. Between January 1990 and July 1993, the Government claimed, militants killed 1,817 civilians.

Militant groups were accused of executing captured soldiers and informers by strapping grenades to their bodies and setting them off in public. In addition, militants were implicated in dozens of killings involving rival separatist factions. The Government accused the Hizb-Ul Mujahideen group of responsibility for the March 31 execution of Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, a leading Kashmiri human rights monitor. On March 22, a Delhi paper carried a report that Dr. Guru was being used by the Home Ministry as a channel to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Ten days later, his bullet-ridden body was found on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Kashmiri militants continued to use kidnapings of prominent businessmen and politicians to seek the release of detained militants, sow terror, and extort funds. After a hiatus of several months, kidnapings in Jammu and Kashmir climbed sharply during the first part of 1993. Among those held were a former Member of Parliament, the director of the State Tourism Development Corporation, and a university professor. The Home Ministry reported that 22 government employees were kidnaped during the period from April to June. Press reports indicate that abductions continued at a similar pace throughout the year.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution protects these freedoms, and they are, with some limitations, exercised in practice. A vigorous press reflects a wide variety of public, social, and economic beliefs. Indian newspapers and magazines regularly publish investigative reports and allegations of government wrongdoing, and the press as a whole champions human rights and criticizes perceived government lapses.

The Press Council of India is a statutory body of journalists, publishers, academics and politicians, traditionally chaired by a sitting or former Supreme Court justice. Designed to be a self-regulating mechanism for the press, it investigates complaints of irresponsible journalism and sets a code of conduct for publishers. This code includes not publishing articles or details that might incite caste or communal violence. The council publicly criticizes newspapers or journalists it believes to have broken the code of conduct, but its findings, while noted by the press community, carry no legal weight and have little influence on journalists.

National television and radio are government monopolies and are frequently accused by opposition politicians and the print media of manipulating the news to the benefit of the Government. However, international satellite television is not censored or otherwise controlled by the Government and is widely distributed in middle-class neighborhoods via cable. It is gradually eroding the Government's monopoly on electronic media.

Under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Government may restrict publication of sensitive stories, but this is sometimes interpreted broadly by the Government to suppress criticism of its policies. For instance, in Punjab, despite the decline of militancy, the Government occasionally impounded issues of newspapers because of what it considered objectionable reporting.

The 1971 Newspapers Incitements to Offenses Act remained in effect in Jammu and Kashmir throughout 1993. Under the Act, a district magistrate may restrict the press from carrying material resulting in "incitement to murder" or "any act of violence." Punishment permitted under the Act includes seizure of newspapers and printing presses. Despite these restrictions, newspapers in Srinagar regularly carried militant press releases attacking the Government and reported in detail on alleged human rights abuses. The Government has taken no steps to prevent Kashmiri papers from printing militant press releases. Reporters were subject to harassment by security forces. On August 5, three journalists in Srinagar were beaten with batons and rifle butts by BSF troops who objected to their coverage of an opposition rally. In Assam, the Government arrested an editor and several reporters in connection with articles they published about ULFA militant activities. Journalists and academics who gathered in the state capital on February 20 to protest these arrests were met with a police baton charge in which 25 people were reportedly injured.

In Tamil Nadu, the state government applied intense pressure to the opposition press as relations between the state government and Delhi deteriorated. State officials frequently used "defamation" charges in the courts to intimidate editors and journalists. In July the state government withdrew police protection from a Madras weekly; shortly thereafter, the newspaper was ransacked. An official investigation was launched immediately after the attack. There has never been a determination of responsibility. The Government permitted foreign journalists to travel freely in Kashmir, meet with militant leaders, and file reports on government abuses.

On January 31, militants in Punjab assassinated a reporter for the Hind Samachar News Group. The Babbar Khalsa International claimed responsibility, saying it would not tolerate journalists who projected a negative image of militancy.

In Kashmir, rival militant groups threatened journalists and editors and even imposed temporary bans on some publications. Militants burned the residence of an Urdu-language newspaper editor who refused to carry their press release. In September the paper suspended publication, citing militant harassment.

Journalists in the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were subject to regular harassment by Hindu radicals representing nongovernment political groups. On August 18, members of the Shiv Sena Organization assaulted the editor of a Bombay newspaper when he criticized the Shiv Sena newspaper at a journalists' seminar. The same day, members of a Hindu labor organization ransacked the office of a Bombay tabloid and beat up its senior reporter. In May the editor of a Gujarat newspaper was stabbed to death by unidentified attackers. Six months earlier, the local Shiv Sena chief had publicly threatened the editor's life, after he published editorials critical of the group.

A government censorship board reviews films before they are licensed for distribution. Board members are appointed by the Government, through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The board deletes material deemed offensive to public morals or communal sentiment. Producers of video news magazines are also required to clear their products with the board, which occasionally censors parts of stories that put the Government in a bad light. There is a mechanism to appeal the board's decision which sometimes results in a censorship ruling being overturned.

Indians enjoy complete academic freedom, and students and faculty espouse a wide range of views. In addition to 10 national universities and about 160 state universities, states are empowered to accredit local private institutions.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution protects the right of peaceful assembly and the right to form associations, and these rights are generally respected in practice.

Local governments ordinarily respect the right to protest peacefully, but authorities sometimes require permits and notification prior to holding parades or demonstrations. Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC), the authorities may order the dispersal of any assembly of five or more people that is likely to cause a disturbance of the peace. The Code allows the authorities to ban such assemblies prospectively for a period up to 2 months. At times of civil tension, authorities may ban public assemblies or impose a curfew. In February the Government used provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code to ban a large rally in the capital by the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and to arrest those defying the ban. The BJP claimed about 50,000 people were arrested nationwide, most of whom were released within a few days. In October and December, the State government in Punjab arrested over 1,000 opposition party members in an effort to prevent a protest march to Delhi and a proposed series of sit-ins at district headquarters buildings.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 empowers the Government to ban organizations whose activities promote communal hatred. Five religion-based organizations (three Hindu and two Muslim) were banned under the Act in reaction to the destruction of a mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992, but enforcement of the bans was lax. A special tribunal overturned the ban on three of the organizations in June. The Government restricted freedom of assembly in Srinagar and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir by placing them under sporadic curfew during much of the year.

c. Freedom of Religion

India is a secular state in which all faiths enjoy freedom of worship. Government policy does not favor any religious group. Nevertheless, tensions over religious differences pose challenges to the secular foundation of the Indian State.

Hindu-Muslim tensions remained high in the aftermath of the December 1992 Ayodhya crisis. Communal riots in Bombay during early January left at least 550 people dead and 2,500 injured. Witnesses said some of those killed were stoned to death or burned alive. In a report published in August, the Indian People's Human Rights Tribunal, led by two retired high court judges, characterized the riots as "an organized crime perpetrated by communalists in connivance with the police." The Tribunal's report, supported by over 2,000 depositions, asserts that the police were either passive bystanders or openly sided with Hindu mobs. Press accounts state that the overwhelming majority of those killed or injured in the riots were Muslims.

The Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act makes it an offense to use any religious site for political purposes or to use temples for harboring persons accused or convicted of crime. While specifically designed to deal with Sikh places of worship in the Punjab, the law technically applies to all religious sites.

Indian religious organizations may maintain communications with coreligionists abroad, but financial contributions from overseas are regulated by the Home Ministry and may not be used to finance publishing. There is no national law to bar proselytizing by Indian Christians, but laws in some states discourage them from practicing openly.

Foreign missionaries can generally renew their visas, but since the mid-1960's the Government has refused to admit new resident missionaries. Those who arrive now do so as tourists, and stay for short periods. As of January 1992, there were 1,611 registered foreign missionaries in all of India. The sharp rise of conversions among tribals of the northeast continued to create tensions; as in the past, state officials refused to issue permits for foreign Christian missionaries to enter some northeastern states.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Indian citizens enjoy full freedom of movement within the country, except in certain border areas where, for security reasons, special permits are required. Travel abroad is generally not restricted, but there are exceptions. Under the Passports Act of 1967, the Government may deny a passport to any applicant who "may or is likely to engage outside India in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India." This provision is occasionally used to bar government critics (especially advocates of Sikh independence) from traveling abroad.

Millions of people of Indian origin live abroad. Indian citizens may emigrate without restriction.

Although India is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees, the Government follows the general principles laid down in that document, including opposition to turning back refugees at the border. Those whom it recognizes as refugees are placed in camps (Chakmas, Sri Lankan Tamils) or resettlement areas (Tibetans). Tibetans have been accommodated by the Indian authorities since the 1950's. Afghans, Burmese, and other nationalities are neither deported nor recognized as refugees. Instead, they receive renewable residence permits and are recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or are ignored.

Bangladeshis formerly received the same treatment, but as domestic political pressure increased during 1991 and 1992, the Indian government began to crack down on their entry. During 1991, according to government statistics, 53,733 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were apprehended on the border and turned back. Government officials say there is no firm estimate of the number of Bangladeshis living illegally in India, but estimates range from 2 to 15 million. In addition, India is home to over 54,000 Chakma tribal people who fled the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh during the 1980's. Indian and Bangladeshi officials meeting in May reached agreement for expeditious repatriation of the Chakmas. Press reports assert that rations and cash assistance to the camps in Tripura were reduced in a bid to encourage repatriation under this agreement. As of the end of the year, however, there had been no discernible repatriation.

About 80,000 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka were living in 131 government-run camps, and up to 100,000 more were settled with friends and relatives throughout Tamil Nadu. The state government, using central government resources, provided shelter and subsidized food to those in the camps. In May the Tamil Nadu government banned all NGO assistance to the camps in an apparent effort to encourage repatriation. About 7,000 Tamils were repatriated voluntarily during August and September under an Indian government program monitored by the UNHCR. India also provided humanitarian assistance to over 100,000 Tibetan refugees in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and elsewhere in India.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Indian citizens freely exercise their right to change their government. India has a democratic, parliamentary system of government with representatives elected under universal adult suffrage; the voting age is 18.

Multiparty elections are held regularly at local, state, and national levels. A Parliament sits for 5 years unless dissolved earlier for new elections or under constitutionally defined emergency situations. State governments are elected at regular intervals except in states under President's rule.

On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President may proclaim a state of emergency in any state in the event of war, external aggression, or armed rebellion. Similarly, President's rule – rule from the center – may be declared in the event of a collapse of a state's constitutional machinery. President's rule remained in effect in Jammu and Kashmir throughout the year. It was lifted in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachel Pradesh, and Rajasthan following elections in 1993 and declared in the northeastern state of Manipur on December 31.

Under the Constitution, seats are reserved for scheduled tribes and scheduled castes in Parliament and state legislatures in proportion to their population. Political parties and tribal groups work to advance the interests of indigenous people and on several occasions have extracted specific concessions from the Government. Women account for about 7 percent of the members of Parliament. They hold or have held a variety of senior positions, including Deputy Speaker of the upper house and Prime Minister. By law, women are guaranteed 30 percent of seats in all local elected bodies (municipal councils and village panchayats). Some states have discussed the idea of a similar reservation for state assemblies. A government report stated that 40 to 50 percent of women exercised their franchise in the 1991 national election.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Independent Indian human rights organizations are active and vocal. They include the People's Union for Civil Liberties, the People's Union for Democratic Rights, the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, Citizens for Democracy, and numerous regional organizations. These groups investigate specific allegations of human rights abuses and publish reports on their findings, which are often highly critical of the Government and militant groups. All of India, including Kashmir and Punjab, is open to Indian investigators.

The central Government is generally tolerant of dissent. Nonetheless, human rights monitors have been targeted by the police for arrest and harassment. In addition, a number of monitors were the victims of killings, some of which may have been politically motivated. Dr. Farooq Ashai, a prominent Kashmiri orthopedic surgeon and specialist in the treatment of torture victims, died on February 18 when he was caught in the line of fire from a security forces' bunker. Five weeks later, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, a leading Kashmiri human rights activist, was abducted and killed by unidentified gunmen (see Section 1.g.). Another Kashmiri human rights figure, Hirdai Nath Wanchoo, was killed under similar circumstances in December 1992. Results of the official investigation were never released; however, according to press accounts the Government investigators blamed the Jamait-ul-Mujahideen for Wanchoo's death. Since Wanchoo was a vocal critic of security force abuses, most Kashmiris found the accusation not credible and accused the Government of the killing.

In Punjab, the police harassed, intimidated, and occasionally arrested human rights monitors. In one case, a Sikh human rights monitor was held without charge for 3 weeks, then released with instructions to say nothing about his time in police custody. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, hundreds of activists and local residents attempting to block the Narmada Dam project were arrested and subjected to police intimidation; some alleged they were tortured by police. Doctors in Delhi who treated victims of communal riots in December 1992 and documented charges of official involvement were later subject to harassment by police investigators. Hospital administrators reportedly received requests from the Home Ministry directing them to seek explanations from some doctors who were involved in an NGO investigation of the Delhi riots. The doctors were associated with the Delhi Medicos and Scientists Forum, which published a report on the Delhi riots that accused the Delhi police of communal bias and excessive use of force.

In May the Government introduced authorizing legislation for a national human rights commission. The bill was criticized by Indian human rights groups, which claimed the commission would be dominated by government servants, barred from investigating allegations of abuse involving the army and paramilitary forces, and provided with inadequate investigatory staff. A Presidential Ordinance issued on September 29 and passed by the Parliament in December revised the Commission to give greater representation to retired jurists but left it with a limited mandate to investigate security force abuses In December the Commission instructed state governments to inform it within 24 hours of any custodial death. If an incident is not reported on time, the Commission will assume there was a cover-up attempt.

The central Government remains sensitive to international allegations of human rights violations. However, in July the Home Ministry reversed its longstanding policy of barring investigating teams from Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations. Although no such investigations occurred in 1993, the Government indicated the timing of such visits would be determined in consultations with the central Government and the concerned state government. The Government also reached agreement with the ICRC for a seminar on international humanitarian law to be held in Delhi in early 1994. In August a four-member delegation from the International Commission of Jurists traveled to Kashmir as guests of the Government and met with a range of lawyers and human rights monitors.

Indian human rights groups say the Government seldom responds to inquiries from U.N. bodies such as the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on Torture. The official review performed by the Human Rights Committee of India's 1989 Report to the Committee produced several recommendations for policy changes to strengthen the protection of human rights in India, including revision of India's special security legislation which could violate provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The traditional caste system as well as differences of ethnicity, religion, and language deeply divide Indian society. Despite laws designed to prevent discrimination, these differences are frequently manifest in social and cultural practices that have a profoundly discriminatory impact.

Women

India has an elaborate system of laws to protect the rights of women, including the Equal Remuneration Act, the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, and the Sati (Widow Burning) Prevention Act. Deeply rooted traditions, often tied to religious or social practice, lead to lax and sometimes no enforcement of these laws, especially in rural areas. Female bondage and forced prostitution remain common in parts of Indian society.

According to an Indian government study, which is borne out by press reporting, violence against women – including molestation, rape, kidnaping, and wife murder ("dowry deaths") – has increased over the past decade. Domestic violence in the context of dowry disputes is a particularly serious problem. In the typical dowry dispute, a groom's family will harass a woman they believe has not provided a sufficient dowry. Occasionally, this harassment ends in the woman's death, which family members often try to pass off as a suicide or kitchen accident. Although most "dowry deaths" involve lower middle-class families, the phenomenon crosses both caste and religious lines. The Government's strategy to combat violence against women emphasizes education and legislation to stiffen punishment for abuse. A National Commission for Women, established in January 1992, investigates cases of abuse and reports to the Government on measures to improve the status of women in Indian society. The Commission has publicized several cases of sexual harassment and physical abuse, but is criticized by women's groups for acting in a politicized manner.

Government figures show a total of 4,785 dowry deaths during 1992, down about 7 percent from 1991. Under a 1986 amendment to the Indian Penal Code, in every unnatural death of a woman in the first 7 years of marriage where it is proved she was subject to harassment, the court must presume her husband or in-laws were responsible. In such cases, police procedures require that the investigation be conducted by an officer of deputy superintendent rank or above and that a postmortem be performed by a team of two or more doctors.

In March three family members were sentenced to capital punishment in a dowry death case in Aligarh. However, such convictions are rare. One case highlighted by the Indian press took 4 1/2 years to reach a preliminary hearing where a judge was to decide if there was sufficient evidence to try the victim's husband and in-laws for murder. Moreover, lawyers handling dowry cases complain that judges and prosecutors (usually men) are uninterested in cases of domestic violence and are susceptible to bribes.

Despite several provisions in the Constitution promising equality before the law and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender, the personal laws of several Indian religious communities provide for legally sanctioned gender discrimination. Under Islamic personal law, a Muslim husband may divorce his wife unilaterally; there is no such provision for women. Islamic law also provides for a man to have up to four wives, while polyandry is prohibited. These provisions have sparked debate within India's Muslim community and have been loudly criticized by some Hindu groups as examples of preferential treatment given to Muslims.

Existing laws relating to asset and land ownership give women little control over land use, retention, or sale. The Hindu Succession Act provides equal inheritance rights for Hindu women, but in practice married daughters are seldom given a share in parental property. Islamic personal law, while recognizing the right to inheritance of both sons and daughters, specifies that a daughter's share should be only one-half of a son's. Under the tribal land system, notably in Bihar, tribal women do not have the right to own land; the traditional practice of putting women to death there as "witches" is closely linked to the denial of property rights.

India has thousands of grassroots organizations working for social justice and economic advancement of women. These efforts are usually supported by the Government, despite strong resistance from traditionally privileged groups. This resistance is illustrated by a case in September 1992 in which a women's rights activist in rural Rajasthan was gang-raped by men who objected to her advocacy against child marriage. Although the case was referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, as of late October the five men accused by the victim had not been arrested.

Children

The Government places a high priority on children's health and welfare, but its resources are often overwhelmed by demographic pressures. A recent government report estimated the population under 6 years of age at 130 million. A Department of Women and Child Development functions under the Human Resources Ministry. The Department's 1992-93 budget accounted for about 0.44 percent of total government expenditures. India has a large population of street children, with perhaps as many as 100,000 in major cities such as Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta. Child prostitution in these cities is rampant. Child marriage, a traditional practice in northern India, was outlawed by the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act of 1976. This law raises the age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18, but enforcement is uneven. (See Se ction 6.d. on child labor.)

Because of a strong cultural preference for male offspring, sex-determination tests (amniocentesis and sonogram) are widely used, resulting in a disproportionate number of abortions of female fetuses. Human rights groups estimate that at least 10,000 cases of female infanticide occur each year throughout India, primarily in poor rural areas. Female foeticide and infanticide have produced a steady decline in the ratio of females to males in the Indian population. This figure has gone from 972 per 1,000 at the turn of the century to 955 per 1,000 in 1981 and 927 per 1,000 in 1991. Parents often give priority in both health care and nutrition to male infants over females. Women's rights groups point out that the burden of providing an adequate dowry for girls is one factor in making female births less desirable. Although abetting or taking dowry is theoretically illegal under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, it is still widely practiced.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution gives the President authority to specify historically disadvantaged scheduled castes and tribes which are entitled to affirmative action in employment and other benefits. Scheduled tribes constitute about 8 percent of the Indian population and scheduled castes about 16 percent. Scheduled castes and tribes benefit from targeted development funds, government hiring quotas, and special training programs. However, spaces in national education institutions reserved for tribals and lower castes are often taken by more influential people from other backgrounds. A national commission on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes reports annually on the status of tribal peoples and investigates specific complaints about deprivation of rights of scheduled castes and tribes. The seven-member commission was established through a constitutional amendment in March 1992. Although the commission was given the powers of a civil court to call witnesses and investigate abuse, it has yet to issue a report and has had no impact thus far.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 provided additional legal protections for these disadvantaged groups. However, it has not checked atrocities committed against them. Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes continued to be the victims of murder, rape, robbery, burning, and beating because of their status. The Welfare Ministry told Parliament in 1993 that in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, not a single trial involving atrocities against scheduled castes and tribes had been completed since 1986.

Although the practice of untouchability was in theory outlawed by the Constitution and the 1955 Civil Rights Act, it remains very much a part of life in India. The resulting intercaste violence claims hundreds of lives each year. In Karnataka, 2 people were killed and 51 injured when police fired on a procession of dalits (untouchables) protesting against atrocities and discrimination by higher caste Hindus.

The Innerline Regulations, enacted by the British in 1873, still provide the basis for safeguarding tribal rights in most of the border states of northeastern India. These regulations prohibit any person, including Indians from other states, from going beyond an inner boundary without a valid permit. No rubber, wax, ivory, or other forest products may be carried out of the protected areas without prior authorization. No outsiders are allowed to hold land in the tribal areas without approval from tribal authorities.

Despite constitutional safeguards, the rights of indigenous groups in eastern India are often ignored. There has been encroachment (including by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh) on tribal land in almost all the states of eastern India, and businessmen, flouting the Innerline Regulations, have taken out forest and mineral resources. These violations have given rise to numerous tribal movements demanding protection of land and property rights, including the Jharkhand movement in Bihar and Orissa and the Bodo movement in Assam.

Religious minorities

There is no obvious discrimination against religious minorities in civil rights areas such as jobs, housing, and education.

People with Disabilities

India has a long history of concern for its disabled. The country's first NGO dedicated to rehabilitation of the blind was created nearly a century ago. With over 12 million Indians suffering from physical disabilities, according to the Government, demand for services often exceeds supply.

The Government's Ministry of Welfare has principal responsibility for programs for the disabled and targets comprehensive rehabilitation services to India's rural population through 16 district centers. A national rehabilitation plan commits the Government to putting a rehabilitation center in each of India's more than 400 districts, but services are now concentrated in urban areas. The Government reserves 3 percent of positions in official offices and parastatal enterprises for people with visual, hearing, or orthopedic disabilities. Other support programs include: special railway fares; assistance for purchase and fitting of aids and appliances; customs exemptions under bilateral agreements for donated rehabilitation supplies; education allowances; and scholarships. The Welfare Ministry also provides substantial funding to several hundred NGO's involved in rehabilitation and training of special educators.

National education policy emphasizes the mainstreaming of handicapped children and stipulates that all educational and vocational programs must provide for the special needs of people with disabilities. The Department of Education provides funding to state governments and NGO's to install necessary facilities. Although the Government is developing legislation modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is currently no requirement for provision of accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution guarantees the right of association. Workers are guaranteed the right to form and join unions of their own choosing without prior authorization, including in export processing zones (EPZ's). Several trade union centrals also exist. Most trade unions have some tie to a national or local political party. However, trade unions stress their formal independence from political parties and, on occasion, differ from their respective political allies on labor-related issues. According to available data, somewhat less than 25 percent of workers in the modern sector – roughly 2 percent of the total work force – are organized.

Trade unions have the legally protected right to strike, but public sector unions mustgive at least 14 days' notice prior to striking. Some states have laws requiring workers in certain nonpublic sector industries to give prior strike notice. The Essential Services Maintenance Act allows the central Government to ban strikes and requires conciliation or arbitration in specified essential industries. Legal mechanisms exist for challenging the assertion that a given dispute falls within the scope of this Act. In 1992 (the last year for which data are available) there were 894 strikes. The Trade Unions Act of 1926 specifically prohibits employers from taking retribution against striking workers.

Human rights abuses against nationally organized unions or unionized workers have generally not been a problem in India. However, as with other peripheral groups in Indian society, unaffiliated unions of low caste or tribal workers cannot always avail themselves of protections and rights guaranteed by law. The investigation into the 1991 murder of Shankar Guha Niyogi, a tribal union leader, is yet to be completed. The judicial inquiry that was to investigate the killing of more than 18 of Niyogi's followers during a protest sitdown in July 1992 has not yet commenced. In June a "peoples tribunal" inquiry held state government authorities responsible for the massacre.

Unions are free to affiliate with international trade union organizations. For example, the Indian National Trade Union Congress is affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is affiliated with the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize (including protection against antiunion discrimination) and to bargain collectively has existed in Indian laws for decades. Trade unions carry out these activities independently and without government or, in general, employer interference. Although hampered by long delays and a severe backlog of unresolved cases, a system of specialized labor courts exists to hear and adjudicate labor-related complaints.

Collective bargaining is the normal means of setting wages and settling disputes in the organized industrial sector, and trade unions are usually vigorous in defending worker interests in this process. When collective bargaining fails to establish locally equitable wage levels, the Government may set up tripartite boards, including trade union representation, to determine them. The Trade Union Act prohibits discrimination against union members and organizers, and employers may be penalized if they discriminate. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the 1926 Act and reinstated workers dismissed for union activity.

There are seven EPZ's in India. Physical access to the EPZ's ordinarily is limited to those who work in them, and union organizers are not exempt from these limitations. While workers in EPZ's have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively, trade union activity is rare. Women workers constitute the bulk of the work force in the EPZ's.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced labor, and legislation passed in 1976 specifically bans the practice of "bonded labor." A Supreme Court decision defined "forced labor" as work at less than the minimum wage (minimum wages are usually set by the states, not the central Government). Under this definition, "forced labor" is widespread throughout India, particularly in rural areas. "Bonded labor," the result of a private contractual relationship whereby a worker incurs or inherits debts to a contractor and then must work off the debt (plus extensive interest), is illegal but prevalent. While violations are punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years, individual state labor departments are responsible for law enforcement, and prosecutions are rare.

Based on reports from the states, the Government estimates that between enactment of the Bonded Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act in 1979 and March 31, 1993, approximately 251,424 bonded workers had been released, of whom 223,108 had been "rehabilitated" by March 31, 1992. Other sources, including the Bandhua Mukti Morcha and the Gandhi Peace Foundation, have estimated that those released represent only one-tenth of the total number of bonded laborers in India. Private and autonomous social organizations, such as trade unions, the Council for Advancement of Peoples' Action and Rural Technology, and Action for Welfare and Awakening Rural Environments, attempt to identify cases of bondage and pursue them with the appropriate officials. However, even with better coordination and increased resources to overcome the complicated jurisdictional division between central and state governments, the eradication of bonded labor is proceeding slowly.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children under 14 years of age in factories, mines, or other hazardous employment; Article 45 encourages states to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. A law passed in 1986 banned the employment of children under 14 in hazardous occupations (such as glass making, fireworks, match factories, and carpet weaving) and regulated their employment in others. The Factories Act of 1948 limits the working hours of children between the ages of 15 and 18 to 5 hours per day. However, these constitutional and legal provisions have had little impact on the use of child labor. Government statistics put the total number of child workers at 17.5 million in 1985. The International Labor Organization (ILO) put the number at 44 million, while NGO's cite a still higher figure of 55 million. As in the case of bonded labor, the central Government often faults divided jurisdiction with state governments for its inability to curb the practice. The continuing prevalence of child labor can be attributed to social acceptance, a widespread official belief that poverty causes child labor, and the failure of the state governments to make primary school education compulsory.

Two German-funded International Labor Organization (ILO) projects begun in 1992 seek to end child labor in the formal sector and reduce it elsewhere through promotion of primary school and vocational training alternatives. Some 25 activities of different NGO's have been approved under the projects thus far. The Tamil Nadu state government and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a joint program to eradicate child labor by promoting primary education, with state authorities pledging to enact legislation making it compulsory.

Certain industries, especially carpet weaving, have expanded their presence in the export market by exploiting the low cost of child labor. The South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) promoted consumer education campaigns in the United States and Germany (the world's two largest markets for South Asian carpets) as well as other European nations and lobbied for the selective boycott of carpets produced by child labor. SACCS' efforts induced a significant portion of the industry in India to join hands with NGO's and the Indo-German Export Promotion Project to formulate a certification process for carpets made without child labor. SACCS has lobbied states to enact universal, compulsory primary school education laws and force political leaders, irrespective of their party affiliation, to take a stand on the issue.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In the "unorganized sector," each state sets separate minimum wages for agricultural workers, which are not well enforced. While the basic minimum wage varies according to the state and sector of industry, most "organized" workers receive much more than the minimum wage, especially when legislatively mandated bonuses and other benefits are included. The minimum wage is considered adequate only for the most minimal standard of living.

The Factories Act established an 8-hour workday, a 48-hour workweek, a 24-hour rest period each week, and various standards for working conditions. These standards are generally enforced and accepted in the modern industrial sectors but tend not to be observed in the more extensive older, smaller, and less economically robust industries. State governments are responsible for enforcement of the Factories Act. However, the large number of industries covered by a small cadre of factory inspectors and their limited training and susceptibility to bribery make for lax enforcement. Although occupational safety and health measures vary widely, in general neither state nor central government resources for inspection and enforcement of standards are adequate. Safety conditions tend to be better in the EPZ's. Workers are not guaranteed the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. The ILO, in conjunction with the International Social Security Administration and the Indian National Safety Council, held its 13th World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health in New Delhi in April. This was the first time this ILO Congress was held in a developing country. Although the congress evoked a good response from foreign and Indian practitioners in this field, it failed to generate interest among India's general public.

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