Washington: Abuses by police and security forces are the most significant human rights problem in India, the US said today while raising concerns by civil society over the “failure” of the Gujarat government to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 riots in the state.
“The most significant human rights problems involved police and security force abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and rape; corruption remained widespread and contributed to ineffective responses to crimes, including those against women, children and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe,” the US State Department said in its annual 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report was released by Secretary of State John Kerry at the headquarters of the State Department here. “The frequently grim examples detailed in this report strengthen our resolve to promote fundamental freedoms, to support human rights defenders and to document and promote accountability for violations of human rights,” Kerry wrote in the preface of the report. In its detailed Congressional-mandated report on India, the State Department continues to raise its concerns about the victims of Gujarat riots not receiving justice so far.
“Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim,” the report said. “On September 16, the Gujarat High Court’s acting Chief Justice assembled a new bench to hear the appeals from Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi, along with others who authorities had sentenced to imprisonment for their role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. This was the fifth bench to hear these petitions,” the State Department said.
In its report, the State Department alleged that “lack of accountability” for misconduct at all levels of government persi
sted, contributing to widespread impunity.Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers and an overburdened and under resourced court system contributed to infrequent convictions, it said.
“Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states and the Maoist belt committed serious abuses, including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials and civilians. Insurgents were responsible for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture, rape, extortion and the use of child soldiers,” the report said. Among other human rights problems the report stated included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention and lengthy pretrial detention.
The report said court backlogs delayed or denied justice, including through lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process.
“There were instances of infringement of privacy rights. The law in some states restricted religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws. Some limits on the freedom of movement continued,” the State Department said.
Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious societal problems, the report said, noting that child abuse and forced and early marriage were also prevalent.
Trafficking in persons, including widespread bonded and forced labour of children and adults and sex trafficking of children and adults for prostitution were serious problems, the report said.
“Societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous persons continued, as did discrimination and violence based on gender identity, sexual orientation and persons with HIV,” the report said.
The State Department noted that tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Islamic separatists.
Societal violence based on religion and by religiously associated groups continued to be a concern, the State Department said while citing Ministry of Home Affairs’ estimation that between January and October, 561 incidents of communal violence took place, which killed 90 persons and injured 1,688.
Civil society representatives estimated 139 acts of communal violence occurred in Mangalore, Karnataka from January through August.