Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

Fresh probe into India politician

December 18, 2007

A court in the Indian capital Delhi has ordered a fresh investigation into the alleged role of a former central minister in anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged role of Jagdish Tytler, a month after a case against him was closed.

However, a witness said recently he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob against Sikhs.

The riots, sparked by the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi by Sikh bodyguards, left more than 3,000 Sikhs dead.

Mr Tytler is a MP with the ruling Congress party, and has consistently denied any role in the rioting.

‘No evidence’

In November, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top central detective agency, closed a case against Mr Tytler saying there was “no evidence” or “witness” to establish that he had a role in the rioting.

However, Jasbir Singh, who lives in California, recently claimed that he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob on a Sikh temple in Delhi during the riots.

Three Sikhs were burnt to death in the attack on the temple.

Mr Singh, who lost 26 family members in the rioting, left the country after the incident.

Now the court has asked the CBI to carry out a fresh investigation into Mr Tytler’s alleged role and submit a report by 16 January.

Mr Tytler was earlier implicated by a judicial commission set up to investigate the 1984 killings.

The report, by retired Supreme Court judge GT Nanavati, was the ninth inquiry commission into the riots, and was set up in 2000 by the then governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is now in opposition.

The inquiry found “credible evidence” against Mr Tytler and recommended further investigation into his role.

Mr Tytler submitted his resignation as a minister for expatriate Indians after being implicated in the riots.

He said he had resigned to his “name cleared”.

Story from BBC NEWS:

An open letter to Malaysian Indians

December 6, 2007

A family mourning death of a child on the street in Triplicane area in Chennai. The family is homeless, the live on the sidewalk. There were heavy rains for several days, it was relatively cold, the child got serious fever and died soon © Maciej Dakowicz www.flickr.comTo begin with, this picture is not from Malaysia. It is from Chennai, the capital city of southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. According to flickr, this photo is part of their most interesting 50 sets. It says a lot about the pain, and struggle of Dalit community in India, above all in Tamil Nadu.

Died the night before: A family mourning death of a child on the street in Triplicane area in Chennai. The family is homeless, the live on the sidewalk. There were heavy rains for several days, it was relatively cold, the child got serious fever and died soon. You can see it @ flickr.com © Maciej Dakowicz.

I stand against any discrimination of any human being in any parts of the world. But when it comes to HINDRAF outrage in Malaysia there are some questions one should ask to Hindu Rights Action Force officials. As an Indian, I believe ethnic Indians in Malaysia; still enjoy more rights than Indian citizens who is living in their own country. Since the living standards of Malaysia are far higher than India, I also agree that Hindus in Malaysia need a better deal. As a community with migrant history, majority of Malaysian Indians are Hindus while it also include a minuscule of Muslim, Christian and Sikh presence. The so called “Indian” heritage in Malaysia cannot be limited with Hindu minority in Malaysia.

Unlike Malaysia, discrimination against Indian citizens in India has a multitude of factors. One is the religion and the other is caste factor.

In India, religious discrimination is worst against Muslims followed by Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, and Jainism. The traces of Hindu caste system can be visible among India’s minority communities too. Due to Hindutva’s burgeoning alliance with Zionism, Jews are not attacked or either they are helped to migrate to their dreamland, Israel. Hindutva patriots will never question patriotism of Indian Jews. In 2005, Business Week reported that India became Israel’s largest importer of weapons, accounting for about half of the $3.6 billion worth of weapons exported by the Jewish state.

But in terms of Caste discrimination, it totally alienate lower caste Hindus, Dalits and Tribal or aborigines, who together contribute the largest segment of Hindu religion. Caste system is a part of a Hindu belief that people inherit their stations in life based on the sins and good deeds of past lives.

For the past 60 years the higher caste Hindu elite, effectively ruling this nation under the false cover of democratically elected government. Since majority of Indians are illiterate, it is easy to manipulate their votes offering food kits, liquor, subsidies, and even free Television!

Crime-politics nexus also influences the democracy in India. Most of the ministers in elected democratic governments are from criminal background. They are entering into the political arena, influencing the decision-making at the highest level in their own favor and thereby increasing corruption through patron-client relationship. The reason for this pervasive political corruption, in spite of six decades of democracy, is because we, in India, do not elect representatives but patrons. The rich and the avaricious as well as the poor and the stricken, vote on this principle. Lack of transparency within the bureaucracy is also another important factor responsible for promoting public corruption.

Any attempts from the state to introduce an affirmative action plan to help the down trodden of India, primarily defeated by upper caste student agitations in the campus. In a country where more than 92 % children cannot progress beyond secondary school, a support base for the backward communities in campus is beyond imagination. Furthermore, Indian judiciary is loaded with upper caste judges and they will spoils any affirmative action of the state by restricting reservation quota.

On the other hand, India contributed about $14.5 billion to the US economy through the expenditure on tuition and living expenses by sending the students to US. As a country, it dominated with one in seven (14.4 percent) of the total of 582,984 international students. [The Open Doors 2007, US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Report] In the same period, Australia earned about 500 million Australian dollars from the export of educational services to India. Please note that Government of India’s spending on education is lesser than one-fifth of its defense budget!

The dominant group of Hindu nationalists come from the three upper castes ( Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas ) that constitute only 10 per cent of the total Indian population. But, they claim perhaps 80 % of the jobs in the new economy, in sectors such as software, biotechnology, and hotel management. Thus, Hindutva storm troopers promote enormous blogs, web campaigns and forums to control the media to implement their own political will. India’s fake super power status is also something created by this elite group of Hindu caste who don’t want to care the alienated Hindu classes and minorities.

Let us begin with the educational statistics from Tamil Nadu State itself.

Out of 427 faculties available in Chennai IITs (Tamil Nadu) 400 are from Brahmin caste and only 4 of them are Dalit. Every year, Government of India spend a whopping amount of $ 2000 million for the expenses of IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Gawhati, Kanpur, Kharaghpur, and Madras). But, Indian IITs function as a free educational institute dedicated to the upper class Hindus. Even though IITs are proclaimed as institutions with national importance, 96% of the IIT graduates usually migrate to west or find a job with a multinational corporate company.

According to the Indian census of 2001, the total population was 1.028 billion. Hindus numbered 827 million or 80.5 %. About 25 per cent (24 million) of those Hindus are belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes. About 40 per cent (400 million) are “Other Backward Castes”.Even though, 15 per cent are belonging to Hindu upper castes, they inherited civil service, economy and active politics. And thus the caste system virtually leaves lower caste Hindus in India to an oppressed minority.

Udit Raj, the prominent Dalit intellectual from India, recalls caste issues in Malaysia in his book,

“Caste Hindus can give up anything, including their life, but caste attitude. In 1998, when I was invited to attend the first Dalit International Convention at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it was unbelievable at first sight, but became a reality, when I attended. About 150 years back, British took Indians to Malaysia as labourers and assistants and eventually Indians made their homes there. More than one million Hindus are living there, but are still maintaining their caste identity. Dalits living in Malaysia have lots of grievances, which is not a contribution of the concerned soil, but virus went with them. So far, no medicine has been manufactured that can kill the caste virus” Dalit & Religious Freedom, 2005“, chapter 38.

Considering the media manipulation techniques, time line and nature of the Hindu outrage in Malaysia, there are many reasons to believe that HINDRAF and Uthay Kumar is closely associated with RSS, a Hindu Taliban who already spoiled India’s social fabric with fascist propaganda and communal riots. Watch utube.pngHindutva role in Communal Riots

Mr. P. Waytha Moorthy, the Chairman of Hindu Right Action Force, in fact is the Malaysian representative of global ‘Hindutva’ brother hood called Vishva Hindu Parishat. He also work with Hindu charity institutions like Hindu America Foundation and UK based SEWA International , both of them are in control of their parent demon, RSS . Both of these charity organizations were involved in funding anti minority riots in India. Hiring such a hate monger and ardent admirer of Aryan Hindu supremacy to solve issues of Malaysian Tamils will back fire soon. Tamil values are much closer to Dravidian culture and it will never tolerate the Aryan ideas of racial purity and dictatorship of Brahmins.

Instead, tamil Hindus should find ways for peaceful dialogue with Malay organizations and concentrate more of their energy for caste and poverty eradication. The thoughts of Thanthai Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy should be their guide light, than the false propaganda war initiated by Hindutva and its militant mafia gang, RSS.

Do you know why? RSS is the Hindu-supremacist organization that has fueled a rise in anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-Sikh violence. The former ruling party, the BJP is the political arm of the RSS and helped fascism to spread across civil, judiciary, defence and educational streams of the society. According to National Crime Records Bureau, there was 1822602 riots in 2005 alone. [ Incidence Of Cognizable Crimes (IPC) Under Different Crime Heads, concluded, Page 2] NCRB website

Under India’s notorious caste system, upper caste Hindus inherited key positions and controls all the governmental branches. Violence against victims largely goes unpunished due to the support of this upper caste crooks.

The man, who killed Mahatma Gandhi in January 1948 for seeking conciliation with Minorities Nathuram Vinayak Godse, was a Brahmin and at one time belonged to the RSS. That’s part of the Sangh’s legacy. And it has not only spawned the VHP, but numerous other radical organizations backing the RSS, notably the Shiv Sena (Shiva’s Army) party of Bal Thackeray, a self-declared Hitler fan.”

Since Indian community issues in Malaysia is considered as a ‘Minority vs majority‘ issue, let us also compare the statistics of Indian Muslims, in India it self. Unlike Malaysian Hindus, Indian Muslims have not arrived from outside.

Recently, Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report admitted that 138 Million Muslims across India are severely under-represented in government employment, including Public Sector Units. Ironically, West Bengal, a communist ruled state reported 0 (zero) percent of Muslims in higher positions in its PSUs! It has found that the share of Muslims in government jobs and in the lower judiciary in any state simply does not come anywhere close to their population share. The only place where Muslims can claim a share in proportion to their population is in prison! (Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of under trials is 22.5%, which exceed their population ratio) . A note sent on January 9 by the army to the defence ministry in 2004 says that only 29,093 Muslims among a total of 1.1 million personnel — a ratio of 2.6 %, which compares poorly with the Muslims’ 13 % share in the Indian population. Officially, Indian Army don’t allow head count based on religion.

A Muslim child attends school for three years and four months, compared to the national average of four years. Less than two percent of the students at the elite Indian Institutes of Technology comprise of the Muslim community.

Please note that, Malaysian Indians are not the original inhabitants of the country; but Indian Muslims are from the same racial and ethnic groups as their compatriots. And still they face discrimination in the world’s largest democracy called India. (Ref. Indian Express, The Missing Muslims)

81 % Malaysia’s ethnic Indians are mostly from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, an impoverished land lagging with illiteracy and feudalism fueled by Delhi’s north favored rule. The traditional Hindu caste system compelled caste minorities including Dalits to move even to Sri Lanka. But unfortunately, this Tamils are currently in extreme war with their own hosts, Sinhalese!

Does Tamil community in Malaysia want to do the same rebellion to their own host, the Malays?

The Tribune News paper has a story about Malaysia’s care to India. “In 1971, Malaysia sent a team to enquire about the welfare of its pensioners residing in Punjab. Further, pensions paid in that country are free of income tax,” The Tribune, February 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India.

Do HINDRAF want to trouble the interests of Malaysian Indians by misleading Tamil Hindu community against such generous government like of Malaysia? Can we expect proper pension from India Government?

The Human Development Report for 2007-08 released by the UNDP ranked India 128 out of 177 countries, working it out through measures of life expectancy, education and income. Malaysia ranked 63 and listed at under High Human Development category. The report found that India’s GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is $3,452, far below Malaysia’s $10,882. Read the statistics from UNDP website

Indian workers form the third largest foreign work force in Malaysia, with 140,000 of them seeking out a living there. Most of these migrant workers are the relatives of ethnic Indians who comprise 7% of Malaysia’s population of around 24 million.

Every year, more than 1 million Indian citizens are forced to leave their country in search of better life.

Indians form about half of the 2.6 million expatriate workers in the United Arab Emirates’ private sector which includes Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. In 2006, India received the highest amount of remittance globally from migrants, 27 $Billion. The large part of it came from the Gulf expatriate workforce.

Further, Indian government expects overseas Indians to pump in about US$500 billion into the FOREX reserves of the country in the next 10 years, making them the single largest source of foreign receipts. Do Indian Government want to hurt their own economy by interfering in Malaysian affairs?

Migrated Hindus from India constitutes 1 million or 0.4 per cent of US population now. With the approval of U.S authorities, they built around 1,000 Hindu temples throughout the US. The generosity of the American administration did n’t stop Hindutva idiots from bashing Christian around the globe.

In Tamil Nadu, last year, 250 temples were brought down to earth following High Court orders in Madurai. The reason was those temples were built on public property. There were no protests. Tamil Hindus there thought such a drive was carried out in the interest of people at large.

Like India, thousands of smaller Hindu temples, often originating in the placement of a deity under a tree, should have mushroomed across Malaysian rubber plantations and the rural countryside. As the Hindu community grew, some of them may be converted to larger structures and government should have brought down in public interest. But why so much huge and cry in Malaysia alone?

By falsely claiming of “Ethnic cleansing against Hindus in Malaysia”, HINDRAF officials are working against the interests of India’s peaceful migrant community around the world. While Dalits, Lower castes, Sikhs, Chrisitans and Muslims are the daily victims of Hindutva’s communal riots in India, Tamil Hindus in Malaysia haven’t faced any single riots orchestrated by Malay Muslims.

Remember that India, as a country cannot offer you food or job. Tamil politicians are engaged in lip service. Leaders with Dravidian origin have limited say in India’s central government which is ruled by majority north Indian Aryans. They consider TamilNadu as the bastion of opposing imposition of north Indian rule and its Hindi language in its territories. South Indians mostly consider English as their national language than Hindi. This north and south division has a long history in India and will continue to go on for ages, as long as people in India continue to remain emotionally myopic, narrow minded and accepting of propaganda and social myths. Govt. of Tamil Nadu website has something to say about Politics of Dravidian thoughts.

Hindutva vs Tamil culture

Before the invasion of Aryans, Tamils have practiced a dual spirituality called Saivism and Thirumalism . But Brahmins enslaved Tamils with cultural and spiritual corruption.

The Hindu nationalist movement headed by Brahmin chiefs grew up in the 1920s with the establishment of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS ) The RSS gradually established a network of local branches that met daily for training sessions on martial arts. With ideological sermons making Indian identity synonymous with Brahmin culture it floated new motto even to the south, “Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan” (one people, one language, one country).

In 1965, after a 15 year gap, Hindi was declared as the solitary national language of India. This led to violent protests in Tamil Nadu and so many deaths of tamilians.

In 1996, Inspired by Hindu myths, a Marathi Hindu mafia leader called Bal Thackeray floated ‘Shiv Sena‘ a political party to drive out south Indians from the industrial city of Bombay. Shiv Sena means Army of Shiva, (referring to Hindu King, Shivaji) succeeded in its aim with the help of Hindu militants who unleashed several communal riots in the city.

In 1991, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ( A north Indian brahmin with aryan heritage) at an election rally outside Chennai. Those scars against Tamils are still run deep in north India, especially in a government dominated by Gandhi’s Italian-born widow Sonia.

When it comes to recording Indian history, the north of the country often ignores or overlooks events in the south. Tamils consider Vellore revolt as the first organized revolt against British in India, while Delhi officially consider it started with Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Unlike north Indian Hindus, Tamils consider Lord Rama as the villain and Ravana as the hero. In such many ways, Tamil history and politics are in contradiction with India’s official version, which is in fact authored and promoted by Aryan north. The division within India’s caste maniacs is so deep and it cannot overcome to help anyone outside their circle.

Do the ethnic Indians in Malaysia want to come back to India? I bet none of them will come back to this sinking ship called, India. Instead of asking for more rights they should come out of their caste system and narrowness. Let them learn to respect their hosts, the Malaysian people who provided better opportunities than their caste maniac“Mother India”. Only such an attitude and kindness will bring them prosperity. Let them not forget the millions of impoverished Indian citizens living in their own country. Read more about Our Shining India at here

What make people move to out of India? Read the Real Indian facts

What if you come to Tamil Nadu and join with 1,60,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees ? Read this Report from Asian Centre of Human Rights

150 million rich produced 4.5 times more carbon emissions than the 800 million poor Indians

November 14, 2007

Greenpeace calls for pollution tax on India’s 150 million rich

France24.com, 13 Nov 2007

India’s wealthy consumers, who make up a fraction of its 1.1 billion population, are fuelling the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and should be required to pay extra tax, an environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

Some 150 million Indians, splurging on luxury goods and air travel, produced 4.5 times more carbon emissions than the 800 million poor, according to a Greenpeace report entitled “Hiding Behind The Poor”.

The government should not use its average low carbon per capita emissions as a reason not to try to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released, said Greenpeace India chief, G. Ananthapadmanabhan.

A “relatively small wealthy class (of) … over 150 million Indians are emitting above the sustainable limit which needs to be maintained to restrict global temperature rise to below two degree centigrade,” he told reporters.

New Delhi has refused to accept caps on carbon dioxide emissions, saying doing so would hurt economic growth needed to pull millions out of poverty.

The government has also said that its per capita greenhouse gas emissions are low, accounting for 23 percent of the global average.

India’s position on UN climate change negotiations would be strengthened if New Delhi made the rich pay a special tax for higher carbon emissions, Ananthapadmanabhan said.

“India has always asked the developed nations to reduce its carbon emissions and allow developing nations the carbon space to grow,” he said. “We would be in a stronger position to point fingers if we acted ourselves.”

Besides the well-off, defined as those earning above 8,000 rupees (205 dollars) a month, India’s coal-based thermal power plants add to carbon dioxide emissions, the report said.

The Greenpeace findings were based on a survey of 819 families belonging to seven different income groups across India.

Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%

August 17, 2007

Counter View: A Few Myths, Fewer Facts about Muslims

When Zakir Hussain was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in planting the bombs during the “Bombay Blasts” of 1993, he shouted, “If a Hindu does something, a commission is set up. But if a Muslim does something, he is hanged.” This was in reference to the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the riots that had followed in December 1992 and January 1993.

The Srikrishna Commission, constituted to determine the causes of the riots in which approximately 900 people, predominantly Muslim, were killed, had stated that, “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12th March 1993 appear to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter. There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts.”

The recommendations of the Commission have never been brought into force. This has led to a number of people speculating whether justice is done to Muslims in India, whether they are being punished disproportionately, that, “Soon India’s jails will be choc-a-block with Muslims.”

Indian Muslims in Jail

In such cases it is possibly best to check the facts. The prison statistics from the National Crimes Record Bureau indicate that the percentage of Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%.

This is higher than the percentage of Muslims living in India, at 13.4% or thereabouts. It would be tempting to shout, “Aha! Proof of bias!” but a rigorous analysis would lead to a more nuanced view because of the geographic distribution of both prison population and Muslims. Over half of Indian Muslims live in the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, which account for 21% of convicted prisoners and 42% of undertrials in Indian jails. In effect Indian Muslims live in geographic areas where more people are sent to jail, either as convicts or as undertrials.

A far more fascinating result is that the percentage of Muslims who are undertrials is slightly less than that of those convicted. In other words proportionately more Muslims are adjudged “innocent” than Hindus (whose undertrial to convict ratio is: 69.6% to 70.7% and even Christians (whose undertrial to convict ratio is 3.8% to 4.2%).

Indian Muslims and Crime

The question of bias could also be turned on its head, and it could be said that high proportionately of Muslims means more crime. The data does not support such a conclusion.

The two states where such high population of people are in jail, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have a Muslim population of 18.5% and 16.5% respectively and contribute 6.7% and 5.4% of All-India crimes . West Bengal and Assam, in which the percentage of Muslims is at 25.2% and 30.9%, contribute only 3.6% and 2.3% of all-India crimes.

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu all produce more than 8.5% of India’s crimes individually, making them the most crime-prone states in the country. In all of these high crime states Indian Muslims make up, at the most, 10.6% of the population, less than the Indian average.

The one state where Muslims constitute a majority of the population, at 67% in Jammu & Kashmir, which has been wracked by militancy and violence, contributes to only 1.1% of Indian crime, about the same as its population compared to all-India figures.

Indian Muslims as Citizens or as Muslims

Despite these statistics it would be idle to say that Indian Muslims do not, from time to time, face problems, as do most people that constitute a marginalised group in society. The recent Sachar Committee report by the Government of India cites very low levels of socio-economic indicators for Indian Muslims.

As a child I lived in the Oil & Natural Commission compound in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is a city that has faced many riots and we were the only Muslims in the compound. During times of tension when my father was working offshore on the oilrig, our manservant, Jumraati would assure my mother, “They’ll have to get through me first, behni”.

A decade or so later, my great-uncle, Major-General Afsir Karim, was asked to deploy troops in the same city to help the civilian administration keep the peace. In 2000, when he was with the National Security Advisory Board, he was questioned by a woman during a televised talk show about minorities. He interrupted her to say, “Ma’am, I am a citizen of India, and so are you. What minorities are you talking about?”

His response to state failure is strikingly different to that of the recently convicted Zakir Hussain. Whereas one tried to make sure that such failure did not recur, the other became a pawn used to kill innocents in a supposed act of “vengeance”. For me, between the words of a man of somebody who has put his life on the line many times in the defence of innocent civilians and those of somebody convicted of murdering them, there can only be one choice.

(Omair Ahmad works on issues of Security, Law & Strategic Affairs for PRS Legislative Research, an autonomous institute that provides research support for Indian Parliamentarians. He has previously worked for the British High Commission, New Delhi, and the Voice of America, Washington DC. His novel, “Encounters” on the radicalisation of two young men during the curfew days of the 90s was published in 2007.)

Omair Ahmad / IBNLive Specials; Thursday, August 16, 2007 www.ibnlive.com

21.9 million disabled in India, 2.13 % of the total population

July 5, 2007

Enabling the 21.9 million disabled persons in India

With India signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, laws pertaining to the disabled are likely to undergo a dramatic change. V. Kumara Swamy reports

A fortnight ago, NGO activist Rajiv Ranjan was denied permission to board a flight from Chennai to New Delhi because he was a cerebral palsy patient. Later, the directorate general of civil aviation pulled up the guilty airline. Had there been more awareness about the rights of disabled people and had clear guidelines been issued, the incident could have been avoided, sparing Ranjan needless humiliation.

Shikar Narang also underwent similar humiliation. A dyslexic student, he scored 75 per cent marks in Class XII, and wished to join the University of Delhi (DU) under its three per cent disability quota. But he was denied admission.

The university wasn’t aware that dyslexia came under the purview of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995. Narang challenged the university through a rights group. Finally, Delhi High Court ordered DU to treat dyslexia as a disability.

There are many disabled citizens who face such hurdles not only because of a lack of comprehensive definition of disability in the law, but also because of a lack of understanding of policy-makers about the problems of the disabled and insensitivity towards their rights as individuals.

And this is despite the fact that they constitute 2.13 per cent of the total population. According to the 2001 census, there are 21.9 million persons with disabilities in India. Yet, only 34 per cent of the disabled are employed.

But now there is good news around the corner. With India signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 31 this year, and signalling that it will ratify it soon, laws in India are likely to undergo a dramatic change.

The convention describes discrimination on the basis of disability as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.”

“The convention is a blueprint to end discrimination and exclusion of the physically and mentally disabled in education, jobs and everyday life,” says Ratnabali Ray, founder of Anjali, a Calcutta-based non governmental organisation that works for the mentally disabled.

So those deprived to date have reason to rejoice. “All of us in the disability sector are very happy that India has signed the convention. It means that in addition to our existing laws, the Indian government will now have to adhere to clear-cut international standards and expectations and will also be subject to greater scrutiny,” says Javed Abidi, executive director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Delhi. “At present, gross discrimination takes place all the time, especially in the private sector. After the convention is adopted and its various tenets become firmly applicable, that would no longer be possible.”

Some of the measures that India would have to take include anti-discrimination legislation, eliminating laws and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities, and considering persons with disabilities when adopting new policies and programmes. Other measures include making services, goods and facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.

Rukmini Sen, a lecturer at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta, highlights another pertinent point. “The most important change that we need is a new definition of disability. The manner in which disability is defined in the Persons with Disability Act, 1995, is a medical understanding of disability. The UN Convention gives a comprehensive combination of medical, social and human rights perspective to disability,” she says.

Some other changes, which have been demanded for long by activists working in the field, are also expected. “The signing of this law means that we have to do away with the Mental Health Act which segregates the feeble-minded and mentally ill for other people’s safety, purity, and to keep society sanitised. That is a colonial concept,” says Ray.

The government would also have to change its local by-laws and make it compulsory for buildings to be easily accessible to the disabled. “Going by the convention, building by-laws of all the states have to change. Transportation also needs to be changed keeping disability in mind,” says Sen.

However, in spite of India having ratified the treaty, it will come into force only after 20 signatories ratify it. Currently, Jamaica is the only country to ratify it. “The secretariat of the convention expects the 20 ratifications by the year’s end,” says Edoardo Bellando of the UN department of public information, New York.

Once the convention comes into force, a committee on the rights of persons with disabilities will monitor its implementation. Countries that ratify the convention will need to report regularly on their progress to the committee.

However, people in the field are divided over India opting out of the optional protocol which would have meant that anybody in the country could have appealed to the UN body under the convention, in case the country was not abiding by the rules. Sen says that by not signing the optional protocol, “accountability in a way has been squandered”.

Ray, however, disagrees. “I feel that it is the right thing to do. India is self-reliant. It can and will take care of addressing violations through its national instruments. We certainly do not want foreign agencies to interfere,” she says.

The onus is now on the Indian government to implement the laws. But the disability organisations will also have to ensure that the government keeps the pledge it makes by ratifying the convention, stresses Bellando.

The ministry for social justice and empowerment has set the ball rolling. “We have approached the Law Commission to suggest changes to various laws to adhere to the convention and once they come out with a report, we will proceed accordingly on this matter and place the amendments before Parliament,” says Ashish Kumar, deputy director general, ministry of social justice and empowerment.

According to the ministry, certain changes to the Persons with Disability Act have already been proposed and consultation seminars in various parts of the country are being held to fine-tune the changes.

“The sincerity of the government of India will be tested, and if we unite and fight for our legitimate rights, I am sure tomorrow will belong to us,” says Abidi.

The Telegraph , Calcutta, 4 July 2007

54 % Indians back UN probe on Human rights abuses in India

July 4, 2007

Majority of Indians are likely to support an investigation by United Nations on human rights violations in india, a survey result released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) of Philippines said Monday. 54 % Indians welcomed UN probe on Human rights abuses in their own country while only 29 % opposed to such an action.

Globally, support for “giving the UN the authority to go into countries in order to investigate violations of human rights” had on the average 64% in favor and 23% opposed. Most people in 13 countries are in favor of such UN investigations, led by an overwhelming 92% of the French, followed by Americans (75%), Peruvians (75%) and South Koreans (74%).

But Filipinos are 46% in favor and 46% opposed to such UN investigations. Filipinos show the highest opposition to this idea, followed by Israelis (31%).

France scored the highest with 92 percent of the respondents saying that they are privy to a UN-led human rights probe in their country.

South Korea (74%), Armenia (67%), Ukraine (66%) and Russia (64%) also gave their thumbs up to the UN rights investigation.

The survey also showed the majority of the people in Poland (58%), China (57%), and Thailand (52%) will permit the UN to investigate human rights abuses in their own countries.

The survey was done during the third and fourth quarters in the Philippines and was commissioned by the SWS, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the WorldPublicOpinion.org.

The study was conducted in 18 countries including China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, France, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel, Armenia and the Palestinian Territories

The margin of error was +/- 3 percent.

The Philippines is considered a special case in the international human rights arena.

Philippine-based human rights group have been saying that over 800 cases of forced disappearances among the ranks of labor and left-wing activists took place after President Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Complainants said that the Philippine military is behind the abductions.

Earlier this year, the UN sent Philip Halston to conduct an investigation into the cases of human rights abuses that took place during the term of Mrs. Arroyo.

The President also created a special commission headed by a retired Supreme Court justice to conduct its own probe into cases of alleged human rights abuses.

http://www.sws.org.ph/pr070702.htm

The false pride of the National Human Rights Commission of India

June 20, 2007

Indians take pride in several issues ranging from democracy to unity in diversity. Most of this “pride speech” is often by India’s middle class and neo-rich that are sometimes completely disconnected from reality. The government and its various agencies often reflect similar pride.

The government of India has spared no venue to boast about itself whenever and wherever it has had a chance. This attitude was reflected in the interventions and representations made by the Indian government’s delegation during the fifth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Quite surprisingly, the interventions made by the representative of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, in the same session were also similar in tone.

The NHRC made oral interventions during the session, much of it praising itself and claiming that it was successful in promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and human values in India. The oral interventions made by its representative was evident that it was serving more as a backbench supporter of the government than a independent agency monitoring human rights in India. It appeared to be the victim of its own false pride.

The NHRC’s intervention at the council was also to show off its pride as an effective, authoritative and independent agency committed to rooting out human rights violations in India. However, to date, its work and that of its state subsidiaries proves contrary to this claim. The NHRC and its state bodies lack precisely two elements–independence and authority.

The government at its convenience and pleasure makes appointments to the NHRC and state human rights commissions. In most state human rights commissions, the appointment of the chairperson is at the whims and fancies of the particular state government. For example, despite legally challenging the appointment of the chairperson of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission on allegations of nepotism and corrupt practices, the person continues to serve the commission.

Regarding effective redress for victims, the human rights commissions at both the national and state level are not considered as replacements for the courts. The role of the commission at all levels, among other duties, is to recommend to the government actions required by the government in cases involving human rights violations. The question is whether the government adheres to these recommendations.

The representation made by the NHRC of India to the U.N. Human Rights Council was as if the government follows all its recommendations. A well-worded statement was made to the council to indicate that the government adheres to the recommendations of the commission and that the commission does have some influence upon the government and its actions and polices pertaining to human rights. Both statements are wrong and highly exaggerated.

The state human rights commissions, as well as the NHRC in India, do not have enough resources for effectively investigating a case brought to its notice. Instead, the commissions usually refer cases to the respective state police to investigate. The commissions function in a make-believe world when the complaint is against the police and expect it to be effectively investigated by the same police department.

The NHRC also made a false claim to the council by saying that “100,000,000 Indian rupees [US$2.47 million] had been recommended and also distributed to the victims or next of kin.” Though the recommendations were true, it lacked compliance. Hundreds of victims have not received any compensation awarded by the commission leaving one to wonder where all the money went. The recommendations of the commission seemingly end in a black hole within the government; they are just not implemented.

If the government fails to comply with the recommendations of the commission, the aggrieved party, which includes the commission, can approach the court where one has to wait decades for the verdict. Consequently, why is a person not able to go straight to the court instead of approaching the commission to save time?

If the commission enjoyed a privileged position with the government of India, as claimed at the U.N. Human Rights Council, why has the government not fulfilled the commission’s request for more resources for investigating cases? If the government had provided the commission with the necessary physical and human resources to function effectively, the victims would have had a better chance for redress from the commission.

What was evident during the U.N. Human Rights Council session was a failed attempt of the NHRC of India to show itself as a body respected by the government and its functionaries, though no one believes that the NHRC as an agency is well respected and fully supported by the Indian government.

Forums like the United Nations with their limited opportunities must be utilized by agencies like the NHRC to present facts, not fiction. This is required because one of the roles of agencies like the NHRC is to provide redress to victims and to make recommendations to the government. However, when agencies like the NHRC reduce themselves to blind supporter’s of the government due to their false pride and acts of self-deceit, what is suppressed is the possibility for victims to make their voice’s heard, and, in the process, human rights suffers.

(Bijo Francis is a human rights lawyer currently working with the Asian Legal Resource Center in Hong Kong. He is responsible for the South Asia desk at the center. Mr. Francis has practiced law for more than a decade and holds an advanced master’s degree in human rights law.)

By BIJO FRANCIS, UPIASIA , HONG KONG, Jun. 19,2007

Merits of Mandal report

June 14, 2007

In view of the confusion created by Mandal II, the Supreme Court has asked the government to clarify two things: One, what is the basis for determining who belongs to an OBC category; and two, the rationale behind 27 per cent reservation for OBCs. These two points need to be immediately cleared.
OBCs belong to the shudra category in the caste classification. Several people confuse shudras with Dalits (earlier known as untouchables). OBCs were supposed to be people who lived by their physical labour.

Though not treated as untouchables, they formed the largest segment of low castes and suffered from all sorts of social disabilities. That is why they qualify to be categorised as socially and educationally backward, and thus entitled to affirmative action under the Constitution.

As to their identification, the Mandal Commission undertook the biggest social survey ever attempted in this country. To begin with, an experts’ panel under the chairmanship of eminent sociologist M N Srinivas and 14 other social scientists was formed to devise schedules for identification of OBCs.

Simultaneously, Delhi University held a seminar for a thorough discussion of the terms of reference of the commission. After several meetings, the experts’ panel prepared four comprehensive schedules, two each for rural and urban areas.

All the state governments were sent these schedules for conducting the survey. Two villages and one urban block were selected at random in each and every district of the country, and all the residents of these areas were covered by the survey.

Questionnaires were also sent to all the states and 30 ministries of the central government, and notices published in national dailies and regional papers inviting public response.

The data thus collected was passed on to the National Informatics Centre, which analysed the information contained in the four pre-coded schedules.

The results of this analysis were used by the experts’ panel, which derived 11 indicators of social, educational and economic backwardness. It was by the application of these indicators that OBCs were identified.

As to the number of OBCs and their percentage, government had stopped collecting caste-wise enumeration of population after the 1931 census.

Consequently, the population of various OBCs identified by the commission were culled from this census, and extrapola-ted on the basis of population growth trends over this period.

That is how the percentage of OBCs was arrived at, and it worked out to 52 per cent. When the 11 indicators were applied to identify OBCs, 44 per cent happened to be Hindus and 8 per cent were from other religions.

That shows how authentic the indicators were as it picked up a fair number of non-Hindus who were socially and educationally backward.

Some commentators have pointed out that the National Sample Survey Organisation’s investigations show that OBCs constitute 32 per cent of the population, and National Family Health Survey places the figure at 30 per cent.

These two surveys cannot match the span and depth of Mandal Commission’s investigations, and its findings can be revised only if an exercise of the same magnitude is attempted.

It has also been pointed out that 25-50 per cent of the reserved seats remain vacant for lack of qualified OBC candidates, resulting in a colossal waste of resources. This is true, but it is the result of sloppy and unplanned implementation.

The commission had laid great emphasis on creating suitable infrastructure in institutions to enable OBC candidates to derive full advantage from reservation. This required adequate planning and financial commitment. But as in 1990, the issue is again at present being treated purely as a vote-getting ploy.

The government is now dangling the carrot of proportionately increased seats in professional institutions to obviate any shrinkage in the ‘merit’ quota, as if the additional infrastructure can be created by waving a magic wand.

The current turmoil could have been averted if educationists had been taken into confidence, a sober assessment made of available capacities and a phased scheme of implementation prepared for a smooth transition.

By S S GILL, Times of India, 13 June 2006

[The writer is a former secretary, Mandal Commission.]

Amnesty International’ Full Report on India 2007

May 27, 2007

Amnesty International Press Release, May 25, 2007,

Perpetrators of past human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity. Concerns grew over protection of economic, social and cultural rights of already marginalized communities. Human rights violations were reported in several states where security legislation was used to facilitate arbitrary detention and torture. A new anti-terror law, in place of the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), was being considered in the aftermath of multiple bombings in Mumbai and elsewhere. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), long criticized for widespread abuses in the north-east, was not repealed. Justice and rehabilitation continued to evade most victims of the 2002 Gujarat communal violence.
Human rights legislation was amended undermining the powers of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). New laws to prevent violence against women and guarantee rural employment and right to information had not been fully implemented by the end of the year. Socially and economically marginalized groups such as adivasis, dalits, marginal/landless farmers and the urban poor continued to face systemic discrimination and loss of resource base and livelihood because of development projects.

Background

An agreement reached with the USA in March gave India access to strategic nuclear material and equipment for civilian purposes, and signalled closer Indo-US ties.

Hundreds of people were killed in bomb attacks during the year, including 21 in the north Indian city of Varanasi in March, more than 200 in multiple bombings in Mumbai in July, and 37 in Malegaon, Maharashtra state, in September. Concern about such attacks continued to dominate peace talks between India and Pakistan, which made little progress. The two countries agreed to set up an “anti-terror mechanism”, the details of which were not spelled out. Little progress was made in continuing dialogue over Kashmir, Nagaland and Assam.

Rising Maoist activity in some states added to security and human rights concerns. Several states, including Orissa and West Bengal, witnessed protests by people whose livelihoods were threatened by ongoing and proposed fast-tracked development projects. High suicide rates by debt-ridden farmers were recorded in some states, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Following renewed fighting in Sri Lanka, around 10,000 Tamil refugees fled the island by sea and arrived in Tamil Nadu, already home to over 100,000 refugees; about 50,000 of the refugees were reportedly in camps with inadequate facilities.

Security legislation

India continued to play no direct role in the US-led “war on terror”. However, demands for new anti-terror legislation in place of the repealed POTA grew after the bombings in Mumbai and Malegaon.

Following the bomb attacks, hundreds of people, mostly Muslims, were arbitrarily detained for short periods in Maharashtra. Sixteen people were charged under the state Control of Organised Crime Act. Local courts acquitted three of the 16 for lack of evidence.

Implementation of security legislation led to human rights violations in several states. An official panel report acknowledged widespread abuses of the AFSPA in the north-east but drew criticism for ignoring impunity issues and recommending use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Protests demanded repeal of the AFSPA.

At least 400 people remained in jail under the repealed POTA and several continued to face special trials whose proceedings fail to meet fair trial standards. The few convictions related to serious and high-profile cases. Official committees reviewed a majority of pending cases. However, the review process was questioned, with Gujarat and other states rejecting the committees’ key recommendation to drop POTA charges.

Jammu and Kashmir

Politically motivated violence slightly decreased, but torture, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions continued to be reported. Some six deaths in custody, 38 enforced disappearances including several juveniles, and 22 extrajudicial killings were reported in 2006. Identity-based attacks by Islamist fighters continued.

• In May, 35 Hindus were killed in Doda and Udhampur districts. Government officials accused Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based armed Islamist group, of carrying out the killings to derail the peace process.

• In October, 17-year-old Muhammad Maqbool Dar of Pakherpora died in custody after he was questioned by the Rashtriya Rifles, an army counter-insurgency force. A magistrates’ inquiry and an internal army inquiry were ordered.

Impunity for human rights violations by state agents continued, although in a few cases criminal action was initiated after years of delay.

b In April, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicted five army officers for the extrajudicial killing of five villagers at Pathribal in March 2000. The officers were charged with fabricating evidence to support their claim that the men were foreign fighters killed in an “encounter” with security forces. The officers had earlier claimed that the men had killed 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora four days before the “encounter”. When local villagers protested in Brakpora that the five men were innocent villagers, the army opened fire, killing 10 protesters. An inquiry into the Pathribal incident stalled when it was found that DNA samples had been tampered with.

A new report indicated that some 10,000 people had been victims of enforced disappearance since 1989. The Association of the Parents of Disappeared People reported that the authorities failed to provide information to the families of the victims about their whereabouts. Outstanding concerns over the existing powers of the state Human Rights Commission were heightened in August when its chairperson resigned over the “non-serious” attitude of the state government towards human rights violations.

Impunity

Little progress was made in cases relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi which followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards and led to a massacre of nearly 3,000 Sikhs. In 2005 the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government promised to reopen the latest of many inquiries following the forced resignations of two leaders of the ruling Congress party, which heads the UPA. A judicial commission had concluded that there was credible evidence of involvement in the attacks against the two leaders who resigned.

In Punjab, a majority of police officers responsible for serious human rights violations during civil unrest between 1984 and 1994 continued to evade justice. In response to 2,097 reported cases of human rights violations during this period, the NHRC ordered Punjab state to provide compensation in 1,051 cases concerning people who died in police custody and appointed a commissioner to decide on compensation for 814 additional cases. CBI findings on these deaths in custody were not made public and the NHRC did not actively pursue with the judiciary the outstanding issues of impunity.

2002 Gujarat violence

Justice continued to evade most victims and survivors of the 2002 violence in Gujarat in which thousands of Muslims were attacked and more than 2,000 were killed. Rehabilitation continued to be slow. Members of the Muslim minority in Gujarat reportedly faced difficulties in accessing housing to rent and public resources. An official panel concluded that over 5,000 displaced families lived in “sub-human” conditions.

There continued to be few successful prosecutions relating to the violence. However, 1,594 cases closed by the state police were reopened on the orders of the Supreme Court and 41 police officials were being prosecuted for their alleged role.

New evidence on the riots emerged, in the form of details of mobile phone calls made between those leading the attacks and politicians belonging to the then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party. The judicial commission appointed in 2002 by Gujarat’s state government to investigate the attacks had not completed its work by the end of the year.

The Gujarat High Court set aside the Union government order appointing another commission to investigate the cause of the 2002 Godhra train fire which killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. The Court said there was no need for a second commission into the fire, which triggered attacks on Muslims and the subsequent violence.

Six key cases relating to killings and sexual assault of Muslim women in which complainants had sought transfer to courts outside Gujarat were still pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year.

• In March, a Mumbai court sentenced nine people to life imprisonment and acquitted eight others after a retrial in the Best Bakery case, relating to the massacre during the 2002 violence of 14 people in Vadodara city. In 2003, a local court had acquitted all the accused, but the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai. The Mumbai court later convicted Zahira Shaikh, and another female relative of the victims, of perjury after they “turned hostile” and retracted their statements, reportedly under pressure.

The UPA government’s draft bill to prevent communal violence was still pending before parliament. It had been introduced in 2005 following widespread criticism of the BJP-led government for failing to halt the Gujarat violence. Meanwhile, two other states ruled by the BJP – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – passed laws criminalizing religious conversion in certain circumstances, inviting criticism that they were acting against freedom of choice of religion.

Chhattisgarh

There was rising violence in the Dantewada area between Maoists and members of the anti-Maoist Salwa Judum, a militia widely believed to be sponsored by the Chhattisgarh state government. Civilians were routinely targeted by both sides and 45,000 adivasis were forced to live in special camps putting them at increased risk of violence. The Chhattisgarh authorities enacted legislation banning media coverage of certain human rights violations.

• On 28 February, suspected Maoists set off a landmine blowing up a truck; 26 people were killed and 30 injured.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Around 300 million people remained in poverty despite implementation of new legislation guaranteeing minimum annual employment for the rural poor. New legislation on the right to information, seen as a means to empower the poor, was not fully implemented; the Union government and state governments were reluctant to disclose crucial information about their decision-making processes.

Concerns grew over protection of economic, social and cultural rights of already-marginalized communities (including adivasis) amidst fears of unchecked exploitation of their resource base by the government and businesses. Several states witnessed periodic protests against acquisition of land and other resources for mining, irrigation, power and urban infrastructure purposes. Such developments were associated with forced evictions, harassment, arbitrary detentions, excessive police force and denial of access to justice.

• In January, 11 adivasis were killed when police fired into demonstrators protesting against the displacement that would be caused by the proposed Tata Steel project in Orissa.

• In April, police used excessive force against activists staging a protest fast in Delhi against displacement caused by the Narmada dam project; some protesters were detained.

• In July and September/October, activists protesting against the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to acquire farmland for the Reliance gas project faced police harassment and detention.

Bhopal

Twenty-two years after the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked toxic gases that devastated countless lives and the environment, survivors continued to struggle for adequate compensation, medical aid and rehabilitation. After a sustained campaign, including a survivors’ march from Bhopal to Delhi in April, the government agreed to clean up toxic waste, provide safe drinking water and set up a commission for rehabilitation of the victims. However, there was little progress on the ground on these initiatives by the end of 2006. In August, monsoon rains caused flooding in areas around the UCC plant, raising fears of contamination of groundwater. UCC and Dow Chemicals (which took over UCC in 2001) continued to reiterate that they had no responsibility for the gas leak or its consequences.

Violence against women

Legislation passed in 2005 to ensure comprehensive protection of women from all forms of domestic violence, including dowry deaths, sexual assault and acid attacks, came into effect in October. It was yet to be fully implemented by states.

Traditional preference for boys continued to lead to abortions of female foetuses, despite the ban on pre-natal sex determination since 1993. Only a few people were convicted of violating the ban, a fact criticized by the Supreme Court. Protests were staged in Punjab and Rajasthan over the slow pace of investigation into such cases.

Many of the abuses suffered by Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002 fell outside the definition of rape in national law. This continued to hamper victims’ quest for justice.

Two Supreme Court directives offered advances for victims of rape. The Court directed that lack of medical evidence would no longer be grounds for discounting testimony, and that the identity of victims should remain confidential in court judgments.

Death penalty

At least 40 people were sentenced to death in 2006; no executions took place. Comprehensive information on the number of people on death row was not available.

Anxiety rose over the fate of clemency petitions after the Supreme Court ruled that it could review executive decisions on such petitions. The ruling followed fierce debate triggered by the clemency petition submitted on behalf of Mohammed Afzal, who was sentenced to death on charges relating to the armed attack on India’s parliament in December 2001.

Other issues

There were concerns that amendments to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, would weaken the operating framework of the NHRC which already had no mandate to investigate abuses by armed forces and complaints more than a year old. The amendments also allow for transfer of cases from the NHRC to state-level commissions which continued to be starved of resources; 11 of the 28 states had yet to set up such commissions and five of those operating had no chairpersons.


REPUBLIC OF INDIA

Head of state: APJ Abdul Kalam
Head of government: Manmohan Singh
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not ratified


AI country reports/visitsStatements

• India: Amnesty International condemns multiple bomb attacks in Mumbai (AI Index: ASA 20/017/2006)

• India: Continuing concern over the safety of civilians, including adivasis, caught in escalating conflict in Chhattisgarh (AI Index: ASA 20/018/2006)

• India: Concerns with Protection of Human Rights Act (AI Index: ASA 20/019/2006)

• India: Amnesty International condemns multiple bomb attacks in Malegaon, Maharashtra (AI Index: ASA 20/025/2006)

• India: Continued detention two years after the repeal of POTA (AI Index: ASA 20/026/2006)

• India: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) Review Committee takes one step forward and two backwards (AI Index: ASA 20/031/2006)

Visits

AI’s Secretary General and other delegates visited India in February and met government officials and civil society organizations. AI delegates also met officials and activists in May, July and December.

http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Regions/Asia-Pacific/India