Human Rights Violations And Protection In India
India, the world’s most populous democracy, continues to have significant human rights problems despite making commitments to tackle some of the most prevalent abuses. The country has a thriving civil society, free media, and an independent judiciary. But longstanding abusive practices, corruption, and lack of accountability for perpetrators foster human rights violations.
Government initiatives, including police reform and improved access to health care and education, languish due to poor implementation. Many women, children, Dalits (so-called untouchables), tribal communities, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and sexual and gender minorities remain marginalized and continue to suffer discrimination because of government failure to train public officials in stopping discriminatory behavior.
Impunity remains a serious problem, particularly for abuses committed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and areas in central and eastern India facing a Maoist insurgency. Resource extraction and infrastructure projects often have deleterious environmental and economic impacts, and may infringe upon the rights of affected communities.
The central government tightened restrictions on internet content, insisting the measures are to contain threats to public order. It used a colonial-era sedition law to stifle peaceful dissent in 2012 on issues ranging from the government’s handling of the Maoist insurgency and corruption, to protests against a nuclear power plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The protection of religious minorities received a boost from the prosecutions of several suspects in the 2002 Gujarat riots, resulting in over 75 convictions in 2012.
Members of security forces implicated in serious rights abuses continued to enjoy impunity, in large measure due to India’s laws and policies. The Indian defence establishment resisted attempts in 2012 to revoke or revise the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which permits soldiers to commit serious human rights violations with effective immunity.
Maoists operations extend to nine states in central and eastern India, finding support in regions with weak governance, infrastructure and basic public services, such as health care and education.
Maoist insurgents known as Naxalites continued to target government schools and hospitals. Paramilitary forces continued to occupy and use schools as bases, despite a Supreme Court order to vacate all schools by May 2011. In September, government officials in Chhattisgarh, central India, stated they would remove forces from 36 schools and hostels because of their impact on children’s education.
At this writing, Maoist-related violence in 2012 had resulted in 257 deaths, including 98 civilians. In June, security forces killed 19 villagers in Chhattisgarh state in a night operation, prompting widespread condemnation.
Civil society activists in Maoist areas remain increasingly at risk from both Maoists and state security forces. Many activists have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and charged with politically motivated offenses that include murder, conspiracy, and sedition. The Maoists have threatened or attacked activists they believe are linked to the government.