India saw a rise and intensification of human rights abuses by state institutions and armed groups, but with growing popular mobilisations against such violations, sites the annual State of the World Human Rights Report by Amnesty International. Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, released the report in London on Wednesday.
The report says these resulted in some cases to small but significant advances in winning back some of these rights either through administrative fiat or court interventions.
According to Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty India, the country saw several backslides on human rights in 2015. The government intensified restrictions on civil society organizations, even as attacks on freedom of expression grew, and impunity for abuses by soldiers, police and businesses continued.
“What is heartening is that there has been opposition to the erosion of rights. The widespread outrage around incidents of religious intolerance, a Supreme Court ruling striking down an oppressive law on free speech online, the many public protests against ill-conceived reforms to land acquisition laws – these offer hope that 2016 can be a better year for human rights in India.”
The report also sheds light on those held without charge or trial in India. In July 2015, 3,200 people were held under administrative detention on executive order in India without charge or trial. Over 47,000 crimes against persons belonging to the Schedule Castes and 11,000 against members of Schedule Tribes were recorded in 2014. Overcrowding of jails continues, with 68 per cent of the 282,000 prisoners still pre-trial detainees.
Crimes against women and violations of the rights of children continue to be rampant. In 2014, 322,000 crimes against women were reported, 37,000 of them of rape. In the latter category, 86 per cent of women knew who their rapist was. The report notes that most states still lacked standard operating procedures for the police to pursue such cases.
The legal requirement that private schools reserve 25 percent of seats at the entry level to children from disadvantaged families is poorly enforced.
The main international finding of this year’s report is the “insidious and creeping trend” of governments undermining the very institutions that defend human rights. “Millions of people are suffering enormously at the hands of states and armed groups, while governments are shamelessly painting the protection of human rights as a threat to security, law and order or national ‘values’,” said Salil Shetty.