India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament. The president, elected by an electoral college, is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. Under the constitution, the 29 states and seven union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. Voters elected President Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 to a five-year term, and Narendra Modi became prime minister following the victory of the National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the May 2014 general elections. Observers considered these elections, which included more than 551 million participants, free and fair, despite isolated instances of violence.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights problems involved instances of police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; corruption, which remained widespread and contributed to ineffective responses to crimes, including those against women, children, and members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (STs); and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe.
Other human rights problems included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention. Court backlogs delayed or denied justice, including through lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process. The government placed restrictions on foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including some whose views the government believed were not in the “national or public interest,” curtailing the work of civil society. There were instances of infringement of privacy rights. The law in six 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. Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women and girls remained serious societal problems. Child abuse, female genital mutilation and cutting, and forced and early marriage were problems. Trafficking in persons, including widespread bonded and forced labor of children and adults, and sex trafficking of children and adults for prostitution, were serious problems. 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.
A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, 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.
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.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents. During the year the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), run by the nonprofit Institute for Conflict Management, reported fatalities due to terrorism and insurgency (other than Maoist extremism), to include 145 civilians, 114 security force members, and 324 terrorists or insurgents. According to the SATP, fatalities due to terrorist violence in the northeastern states decreased from 273 deaths in 2015 to 119 during the year. Data compiled by the Institute of Conflict Management showed fatalities from terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir increased to 223 between January and October 2016 compared with 174 in 2015. Furthermore, the 2016 figure does not include 90 persons, including violent protesters, reportedly killed by security forces during a four-month period of unrest in the summer.
There were 104 reported police “encounter deaths”–a term used to describe any encounter between the security or police forces and alleged criminals or insurgents that results in a death–registered countrywide by the Investigation Division of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to Ministry of Home Affairs 2015 data. The Telangana government established a special investigation team to investigate the April 2015 deaths of five prisoners killed by police in Nalgonda District, Telangana, while being transported to a court in Hyderabad for trial. At the year’s end, the special investigation team had yet to submit its report to the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad.
In August 2015 the NHRC ordered the central government to pay 500,000 rupees ($7,500) as compensation for the 2011 Border Security Force killing of Felani Khatun. During the year the central government rejected the NHRC recommendation and did not pay the compensation. Felani’s family and Kolkata-based rights group MASUM petitioned the Supreme Court against the government’s refusal to pay compensation.
On August 8, Telangana security personnel fatally shot an individual, described by police as a former Maoist insurgent, who was a witness in an alleged 2005 “encounter” case involving a joint Rajasthan and Gujarat antiterrorism squad. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court trial in Mumbai continued its deliberations on the 2005 case.
On October 31, Madhya Pradesh police reportedly killed eight suspected members of the outlawed Students’ Islamic Movement of India, after they allegedly murdered a prison guard and escaped from the high-security Central Jail of Bhopal. On November 1, the NHRC issued a formal complaint against the state government, police, and prison authorities, expressing concern about deaths. The Madhya Pradesh police appointed a special investigation team to investigate the killings.
There continued to be reports of custodial death cases, in which prisoners or detainees were killed or died in police custody. Decisions by central and state authorities not to prosecute police or security officials despite reports of evidence in certain cases remained a problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 97 cases of custodial deaths in 2015 with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases at 19. Uttar Pradesh reported nine cases and Punjab three cases.
On March 14, the Tamil Nadu government awarded 500,000 rupees ($7,500) compensation to relatives of an auto-rickshaw driver after determining a Nagapattinam District police inspector used excessive force, which led to the driver’s death in 2014. The Madras High Court oversaw the departmental inquiry after the NGO Campaign for Custodial Justice and Abolition of Torture filed a public interest petition in April 2014. Criminal and departmental proceedings against the inspector were pending.
On April 9, 20-year-old Sunil Yadav was found dead in Umri police station in Madhya Pradesh, four days after his arrest on charges of theft. Madhya Pradesh police suspended four police personnel and ordered a judicial inquiry.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in effect in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and parts of Mizoram, and a version of the law was in effect in Jammu and Kashmir. Under the AFSPA, a central government designation of state or union territory as a “disturbed area,” authorizes security forces in the state to use deadly force to “maintain law and order” and arrest any person “against whom reasonable suspicion exists” without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest. The law also provides security forces immunity from civilian prosecution for acts committed in regions under the AFSPA. There were no official records available of enforcement actions or human rights abuses by security forces under the AFSPA during the year. In September the central government denied a request to visit Jammu and Kashmir by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the NHRC. The government also denied NHRC access to Manipur.
There was considerable public support for repeal of the AFSPA, particularly in areas that experienced a significant decrease in insurgent attacks. On July 8, the Supreme Court ruled 1,528 alleged “encounter” cases in Manipur during the last 20 years must be investigated and armed forces personnel should not be immune from prosecution if the investigations disclosed criminal conduct. The ruling stated the indefinite deployment of armed forces under AFSPA “mocks India’s democratic process.”
On August 9, human rights activist Irom Sharmila ended her 16-year hunger strike to protest of the imposition of AFSPA in Manipur. Sharmila remained in police custody for 16 years for violating a law that criminalizes attempted suicide. She initiated her strike after federal paramilitary forces killed 10 civilians in 2000.
On June 17, a Gujarat special court convicted 24 individuals (11 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment), and acquitted 36 others for their role in the Gulberg Society killings in 2002, when a rioting mob killed 69 individuals during communal unrest. A separate case filed by Zakia Jafri one of the Gulberg Society survivors, remained pending in the Gujarat High Court. The High Court also affirmed a 2013 lower court verdict exonerating senior Gujarat government officials from culpability in the communal violence that engulfed the state from February to May 2002.
Nongovernmental forces, including organized insurgents and terrorists, committed numerous killings and bombings in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and the Maoist belt (see section 1.g.). Maoists in Jharkhand and Bihar continued to attack security forces and key infrastructure facilities such as railways and communication towers. On July 19, Maoist rebels conducted improvised explosive device attacks, killing 10 paramilitary soldiers on the border of Gaya and Aurangabad districts in Bihar.
There were allegations police failed to file required arrest reports for detained persons, resulting in hundreds of unresolved disappearances. Police and government officials denied these claims. The central government reported that state government screening committees informed families about the status of detainees. There were reports, however, that prison guards sometimes required bribes from families to confirm the detention of their relatives.
Disappearances attributed to government forces, paramilitary forces, and insurgents occurred in areas of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).
The law prohibits torture, but NGOs reported torture occurred during the year.
Police beatings of prisoners resulted in custodial deaths (see section 1.a.).
The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but NGOs and citizens alleged authorities used torture to coerce confessions. In some instances authorities submitted these confessions as evidence in capital cases. Authorities allegedly also used torture as a means to extort money or as summary punishment. According to human rights experts, the government continued to try individuals arrested and charged under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Under the repealed law, authorities treated a confession made to a police officer as admissible as evidence in court.
According to a National Law University, Delhi study released in May, a significant percentage of prisoners on death row reported that they lived in inhumane conditions, were denied due process, and were subjected to torture. The university’s Death Penalty Research Project interviewed 373 of 385 current death row inmates between July 2013 and January 2015. Of the 270 prisoners who spoke about their experience in police custody, 216 said they had been tortured. Among states with 10 or more death row prisoners, Haryana had the highest proportion of those that reported being tortured in custody. The study categorized three out of four death row inmates as “economically vulnerable” and indicated social and economic factors often determined how authorities treated a person in jail.
On July 8, police arrested environmental and human rights activist Piyush Manush and his associates, Esan Karthik and Muthu, for protesting the construction of a railway overpass in Salem, Tamil Nadu. The court granted bail to Karthik and Muthu on July 15. Manush did not receive bail and NGOs alleged that while in Salem Central Prison police bound his hands, beat him, and placed him in solitary confinement. On July 24, the NHRC issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government requesting a response to the allegations.
On April 5, the Supreme Court granted bail to disabled Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba on medical grounds after Maharashtra police arrested him in 2014 for alleged links with Maoist insurgents and for violating the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In 2014 Amnesty International and civil rights activists campaigned for Saibaba’s release and alleged jail authorities denied him medical and sanitary facilities.
In January the CBI charged two police officials in Dharavi, Maharashtra with culpable homicide after a detainee died, allegedly from multiple injuries inflicted by the officers. Police initially claimed his death was due to meningitis. In June 2014 the Bombay High Court instructed CBI to takeover the investigation from the Mumbai Crime Branch.
There were continued reports that police raped male and female detainees. The government authorized the NHRC to investigate rape cases involving police officers. By law the NHRC can also request information about cases involving the army and paramilitary forces, but it has no mandate to investigate those cases. NGOs claimed the NHRC underestimated the number of rapes committed in police custody. Some rape victims were unwilling to report crimes due to social stigma and the possibility of retribution, compounded by a perception of a lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official. There were reports police officials refused to register rape cases.
In April Kanyakumari District police arrested and detained 17 persons from the Kurava tribal community for alleged theft. According to local NGOs, police allegedly beat, tortured, and sexually assaulted the detainees over a period of 63 days. On July 8, the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission initiated a probe into the conduct of the Kanyakumari Police.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were frequently life threatening and did not meet international standards.
Physical Conditions: Prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was only occasionally available. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.
According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, there were 1,401 prisons in the country with an authorized capacity of 366,781 persons. The actual incarcerated population was 419,623. Persons awaiting trial accounted for more than two-thirds of the prison population. Authorities held men and women separately. The law requires the detention of juveniles in rehabilitative facilities, although at times authorities detained them in adult prisons, especially in rural areas. Authorities often detained pretrial detainees along with convicted prisoners. In Uttar Pradesh, occupancy at most prisons was two and sometimes three times the permitted capacity, according to an advisor appointed by the Supreme Court.
According to NCRB, authorities convicted three out of an estimated 600 inmates in a prison in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. The remainder of prisoners awaited trial in a jail built for a capacity of 150. According to the NCRB 2015 report, overcrowding was most severe in Dadra and Nagar Haveli at 277 percent of capacity, while Chhattisgarh prisons were at 234 percent of capacity; and Delhi prisons at 227 percent of capacity. A 2016 study on Indian prison monitoring by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative cited little oversight of prisons, neglect of facilities, and breaches of prisoner rights.
Administration: Authorities permitted visitors some access to prisoners, although some family members claimed authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas, including Jammu and Kashmir. There was no ombudsman for detention facilities, but authorities allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities.
Independent Monitoring: The NHRC received and investigated prisoner complaints of human rights violations throughout the year, but civil society representatives believed few prisoners filed complaints due to fear of retribution from prison guards or officials.
Authorities permitted prisoners to register complaints with state and national human rights commissions, but the authority of the commissions extended only to recommending that authorities redress grievances. Government officials reportedly often failed to comply with a 2012 Supreme Court order instructing the central government and local authorities to conduct regular checks on police stations to monitor custodial violence.
In many states the NHRC made unannounced visits to state prisons, but NHRC jurisdiction does not extend to military detention centers. An NHRC special rapporteur visited state prisons to verify that authorities provided medical care to all inmates. The rapporteur visited prisons on a regular basis throughout the year but did not release a report to the public or the press.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both occurred during the year. Police also used special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.
According to human rights NGOs, some police used torture, mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions. In some cases police reportedly held suspects without registering their arrests and denied detainees sufficient food and water.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The 29 states and seven union territories have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, with policy oversight from the central government. Police are under state jurisdiction. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls most paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and national law enforcement agencies, and provides training for senior officials from state police forces. According to Human Rights Watch, cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced confessions by security forces remained common. Police forces continued to be overworked, underpaid, and subjected to political pressure, in some cases contributing to corruption.
The effectiveness of law enforcement and security forces varied widely throughout the country. According to the code of criminal procedure, Section 197, courts may not hear a case against a police officer unless the central or state government first authorizes prosecution. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that in many instances police refused to register victim’s complaints, termed “first information reports” (FIR), on crimes reported against officers, effectively preventing victims from pursuing justice. In addition, NGOs reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes committed by police due to fear of retribution. There were cases of officers at all levels acting with impunity, but there were also cases of security officials held accountable for illegal actions. Military courts investigated cases of abuse by the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Authorities tried cases against law enforcement officers in public courts. Authorities sometimes transferred officers after convicting them of a crime.
The NHRC recommended the Criminal Investigations Department investigate all deaths taking place during police pursuits, arrests, or escape attempts. Many states did not follow this nonbinding recommendation and continued to conduct internal reviews at the discretion of senior officers.
While NHRC guidelines call for state governments to report all cases of deaths from police actions to the NHRC within 48 hours, state governments did not consistently adhere to those guidelines. The NHRC also called for state governments to provide monetary compensation to families of victims, but the state governments did not consistently adhere to this practice. Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.
On January 30, a video released by the Aam Aadmi Party allegedly showed three policemen in New Delhi beating students protesting the death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula. The protesters claimed their protest was peaceful and did not justify the treatment by the police or the subsequent charges.
On October 1, four persons died and nearly 30 were injured after police reportedly fired on protesting villagers in Hazaribagh District, Jharkhand. According to media reports, the villagers were protesting acquisition of land for the development of coal mines by the central government-owned National Thermal Power Corporation.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Arbitrary Arrest: The code of criminal procedure prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but in some cases police reportedly continued to arrest citizens arbitrarily. There were reports of police detaining individuals for custodial interrogation without identifying themselves or providing arrest warrants.
Pretrial Detention: Authorities must promptly inform persons detained on criminal charges of the charges against them and of their right to legal counsel. Under the criminal code, a magistrate may authorize the detention of an accused person for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. Under standard criminal procedure, authorities must release the accused on bail after 90 days. The code also allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police prearrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits.
There were reported cases in which police denied suspects the right to meet with legal counsel as well as cases in which police unlawfully monitored suspects’ conversations and violated confidentiality rights. The constitution mandates that authorities provide defendants with “economic or other disabilities” free legal counsel, but authorities do not assess this need systematically. By law authorities must allow family members access to detainees, but this was not always observed. Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law. State authorities invoked preventive detention laws, most frequently in Delhi but also in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Kashmir.
Police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days. The law also permits authorities to hold a detainee in judicial custody without charge for up to 180 days (including the 30 days in police custody). The UAPA, which gives authorities the ability to detain persons without charge in cases related to insurgency or terrorism, makes no bail provisions for foreign nationals, and allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens. It presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce evidence of the possession of arms or explosives, or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether authorities demonstrate criminal intent. State governments also reportedly held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA.
The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.
The Public Safety Act, which applies only in Jammu and Kashmir, permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention. According to media reports, approximately 440 individuals in Jammu and Kashmir have been detained without trial since the beginning of large-scale protests in July. Human rights activist Khurram Pervez was arrested and detained by security forces in September prior to his departure to address the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 19, UN experts called on the government to release Pervez immediately. On November 30, authorities released Pervez after a court ruled his detention illegal.
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in Kochi, Kerala, reported certain prisoners with mental disabilities in the Kerala central prison considered “not fit for trial” had awaited trial for 10 to 26 years. According to the NGO, the prisoners in some cases were in detention far longer than their potential sentences. In 2013 the HRLN filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court for the release of those prisoners. The court responded by issuing an order directing the state government to provide adequate medical treatment to the accused to render them fit for trial. The case was pending in the Kerala High Court at year’s end.
Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards. The government continued efforts to reduce lengthy detentions and alleviate prison overcrowding by using “fast track” courts, which specified trial deadlines, provided directions for case management, and encouraged the use of bail. Some NGOs criticized these courts for failing to uphold due process and requiring detainees unable to afford bail remain in detention.
NCRB data showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months to five years before being released on bail.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judicial corruption was widespread.
The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. According to 2015-16 data released by the Supreme Court, there was a 43 percent vacancy of judges in the country’s 24 high courts as of October 1.
On April 25, after a 10-year investigation, the special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act court in Mumbai acquitted nine Muslim defendants accused of bomb attacks in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in 2006 and 2008, which killed 31 and injured 312,The National Investigation Agency also filed charges against Hindu nationalists for perpetrating the same attacks. After investigations by three agencies–the Maharashtra Antiterrorism Squad, the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the National Investigation Agency–the court dismissed all terror charges due to lack of evidence.
The criminal procedure code provides for public trials, except in proceedings that involve official secrets or state security. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except as described under UAPA conditions, and may choose their counsel. The state provides free legal counsel to defendants who cannot afford it, but circumstances often limited access to competent counsel, and an overburdened justice system resulted in lengthy delays in court cases, with disposition sometimes taking more than a decade.
The law allows defendants access to relevant government evidence in most civil and criminal cases, but the government reserved the right to withhold information and did so in cases it considered sensitive. While defendants have the right to confront accusers and present their own witnesses and evidence, defendants sometimes did not exercise this right due to lack of proper legal representation. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Courts must announce sentences publicly, and there are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. NGOs reported the Jammu and Kashmir government held political prisoners and between 2005 and 2014 temporarily detained more than 690 persons characterized as terrorists, insurgents, and separatists under the Public Safety Act. On July 20, a Kolkata court acquitted veteran Communist Party India (Maoist) spokesperson Gour Chakraborty, who was arrested in 2009 and charged with several offenses, including sedition. The court released Chakraborty after the prosecution failed to substantiate the charges.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals, or NGOs on behalf of individuals or groups, may file public interest litigation petitions in any high court or directly to the Supreme Court to seek judicial redress of public injury. Grievances can include a breach of public duty by a government agent or a violation of a provision of the constitution. NGOs credited public-interest litigation petitions with making government officials accountable to civil society organizations in cases involving allegations of corruption and partiality.
On January 13, the Bombay High Court addressed a two-fold rise in reported custodial death and police torture cases from 2014 to 2015 and directed the Maharashtra government to submit a report to the court. The court criticized the government for its failure to install closed-circuit television cameras in police stations, despite a court order.
While the constitution does not contain an explicit right to privacy, the Supreme Court has found such a right implicit in other constitutional provisions, most notably Article 21. The law, with some exceptions, prohibits arbitrary interference. The government generally respected this provision, although at times authorities infringed upon the privacy rights of citizens. The law requires police to obtain warrants to conduct searches and seizures, except in cases in which such actions would cause undue delay. Police must justify warrantless searches in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense.
The Official Secrets Act hindered transparency and accountability with regard to electronic surveillance. Responding to a query in the lower house of parliament in August, the Union Home Ministry stated the government set up an interministerial committee to examine the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and that the matter was under consideration.
Both the central and state governments intercepted communications under the authority of the Telegraph Act 1885, section 5(2), and under section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000, as amended. The Group of Experts on Privacy convened in 2012 by the Government of India Planning Commission, the most recent review available, noted that the differences between these two statutes had created an unclear regulatory regime that was, according to the report, “inconsistent, nontransparent, prone to misuse, and does not provide remedy or compensation to aggrieved individuals.”
The UAPA provides an additional legal basis for warrantless searches. The UAPA also allows use of evidence obtained from intercepted communications in terrorist cases. In Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Manipur, security officials have special authorities to search and arrest without a warrant.
The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) of 2005 allows police to detain a person without charge for as long as 90 days. Opponents argued the law, which authorizes detention of individuals with a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law,” infringed upon privacy and free speech. The government detained two journalists under the CSPSA, accusing them of complicity in a deadly attack on police by Naxalite insurgents; some media reports indicated authorities imprisoned the journalists because of their reporting. A local court acquitted one of the two journalists on July 21.
The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged in armed conflict with insurgent groups in several northeastern states, and with Maoist insurgents in the north, central, and eastern parts of the country–although the intensity of these conflicts continued to decrease significantly. Army and central security forces remained stationed at conflict areas in the northeast.
The use of force by all parties to the conflicts resulted in deaths and injuries to both conflict participants and civilians. There were reports government security forces committed extrajudicial killings, including staging encounter killings to conceal the deaths of captured militants. Human rights groups claimed police refused to release bodies in cases of alleged “encounters.” Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.
The July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahidden commander Burhan Wani led to continuing civilian protests in the Kashmir Valley and resulted in 90 deaths, including 88 civilians and two police officers. According to media reports, more than 4,500 civilians and more than 4,000 security personnel were injured. Schools, markets, offices, and businesses remained closed for extended periods.
The central and state governments and the armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces. Authorities arrested and tried insurgents under terrorism-related legislation.
There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.
Insurgents and terrorists reportedly committed attacks on roads and railways.
Killings: According to NGO and media reports, the apparently indiscriminate use of shotguns loaded with birdshot by security forces to control crowds, including violent protests, in Jammu and Kashmir resulted in 87 civilian deaths and blinded hundreds more, including children.
In Maoist-affected districts, there were reports of abuses by security forces and insurgents. On February 27, security forces killed Manda Kadraka, a member of an Odisha tribal community, during an exchange of gunfire with Maoists in Rayagada District. Police claimed Kadraka was a Maoist and died after exchanging fire with security forces. The Niyamgiri Surakhya Samithi, an organization that works for the welfare of the Dongria Kondh tribal group, maintained Kadraka was not a combatant and that the police killed him to suppress protests against mining in the surrounding area. In July, 10 soldiers were killed in an attack by Maoist insurgents in the Dumrinala area, 100 miles outside Patna, the capital of Bihar. According to state police officials, the insurgents employed improvised explosive devices and small arms in the attack on soldiers.
Abductions: Human rights groups maintained military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Manipur, Jharkhand, and the Maoist belt. Human rights activists alleged cases of prisoners tortured or killed during detention. During the year media outlets reported cases of abduction by insurgent groups in Manipur. On June 28, the Assam Rifles disrupted a plot by the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak insurgent group to abduct and extort petroleum truck drivers. Contractors working on a railway project connecting Manipur’s capital Imphal to Jiribam also reported abduction and extortion threats by militant groups. In April police recovered the body of a driver from Lhangnom village in Manipur’s Senapati District. The driver was allegedly abducted by insurgents on March 3.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports government security forces tortured, raped, and mistreated insurgents and alleged terrorists in custody and injured demonstrators. All parties to the conflicts injured civilians.
Child Soldiers: Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities in roles such as bomb couriers. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported Maoist groups conscripted boys and girls ages six to 12 into specific children’s units (Bal Dasta and Bal Sangham) in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha States. The Maoist groups used the children in combat and intelligence-gathering roles. Insurgents trained children as spies and couriers, as well as in the use of arms, planting explosives, and intelligence gathering. NGOs in Manipur reported the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) recruited nearly 3,000 personnel, a large percentage of whom were minors, between January and April. Security officials in Manipur corroborated the trend.
Although the United Nations was not able to verify all allegations, reports submitted to parliament contained similar allegations. Recruitment of children by Maoist armed groups allegedly continued. Observers reported children as young as 12 were members of Maoist youth groups and allied militia. They reportedly handled weapons and improvised explosive devices. Maoists reportedly held children against their will and threatened severe reprisals, including the killing of family members, if the children attempted to escape. There were reports of girls serving in Maoist groups. The government claimed, based on statements of several women formerly associated with Maoist groups, that sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, was a practice in some Maoist camps.
According to government sources, Maoist armed groups used children as human shields in confrontations with security forces. Attacks on schools by Maoists continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas. There were continued reports on the use of schools as military barracks and bases. The deployment of government security forces near schools remained a concern. There were reports armed groups recruited children from schools in Chhattisgarh.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: As of July the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated conflicts and instability in the country displaced 3.7 million persons.
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 Kashmiri separatists. The Kashmiri Pandits began to leave Kashmir after the 1990 onset of insurgency against the Indian state. In Jammu and Kashmir, central government assistance to displaced Kashmiri Pandits consisted of monthly cash allowances and food rations, but some members of the group claimed the assistance failed to address their livelihood needs. In May 2015 thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and members of the National Conference protested against state government plans to resettle the group in secluded enclaves in Kashmir without consultation.
In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued, affecting 182 of the country’s 626 districts in 20 of its 29 states. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal persons off their land, allowing for commercial exploitation.
Internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum.
Throughout the year there were reports by media organizations and academic institutions of corporations’ human rights abuses against tea workers, including violations of the Plantation Labor Act. In some cases violent strikes resulted from companies withholding medical care required by law. Other reports indicated workers had difficulty accessing clean water, with open sewage flowing through company housing areas. The tea industry is among the largest private-sector employers in the country, providing work for more than one million permanent workers and up to two million seasonal laborers.
Between January 11 and 14, tribal women alleged rape and sexual assault by security forces during search operations in Nendra, Chhattisgarh. Six tribal women from the village of Kunna alleged security forces assaulted them on January 12. On January 25, Amnesty International called for an investigation of police inaction in 13 sexual assault cases of tribal women in Nendra village. In April the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) claimed mass sexual abuse by security forces during counterinsurgency operations. The NCST recommended that investigation of three specific cases be transferred from district police authorities to the state’s Criminal Investigation Department.