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  • Gujarat

    I. Overview. 1

    II. Human rights violations by the security forces 2

    III. Judiciary and administration of justice. 3

    IV. Violations of the rights of Dalits 3

    V. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples 4

    VI. Violence against women and children. 5

    VII. Status of internally displaced persons 6

    VIII. Violations of the prisoners’ rights 6

    IX. Violations of the rights of minorities 7

    X. Special focus: Farmers suicide. 7  

     


    I. Overview

     

    Ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party, Gujarat witnessed serious human rights violations. As many as seven cases of deaths in police custody have been registered with the NHRC during 1 April 2006 - 31 March 2007.[1] The admission of the state government to the extrajudicial killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi in fake encounters brought to the fore the role of police in killing innocent people in the name of killing the “terrorists”.

     

    The NHRC received 54 cases of deaths in judicial custody in the state during 1 April 2006 - 31 March 2007. Judicial delay continued to plague the system with 1,10,639 cases pending with the Gujarat High Court and 2,54,4360 cases pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2007. Yet, there were 11 vacancies of judges in the Gujarat High Court as of 1 January 2008 and 161 vacancies of judges in the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2007.[2]

     

    The conditions of the Dalits, indigenous peoples, women, children and religious minorities continued to remain grim during 2007. The incentives provided by Chief Minister Narendra Modi to the tribals including Rs 15,000-crore “Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana” for upliftment of the tribals and providing of land ownership rights to the tribals were seen as attempts to woo them prior to the December 2007 Assembly Elections.

     

    The plights of the displaced continued to be miserable. In June 2007, a Supreme Court-appointed committee headed by N.C. Saxena found that 4,545 Muslim families comprising around 30,000 persons who were displaced by the post-Godhra communal riots were still living in miserable conditions in 81 relief colonies in Gujarat.[3]

     

    As many as 489 farmers have committed suicide in the state since 2003. Junagadh district topped the list with 85 suicides, followed by Rajkot (62), Jamnagar (50) and Mehsana (48).[4] Yet, both the state government and the Central government have paid little attention to the farmers’ plight. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its 23rd report for 2006-07 criticised the Central government for not providing relief packages to the farmers of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Orissa who needed urgent assistance.[5]

     

    II. Human rights violations by the security forces

     

    According to the 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, a total of 893 complaints were received against the police in Gujarat during 2006. Of them, a departmental inquiry was ordered into 639 cases and magisterial inquiry was ordered into one case. 232 police personnel were sent up for trial during 2006. Of the seven police personnel whose cases/trials completed, three were convicted and four acquitted.[6]

     

    According to the figures received by Asian Centre for Human Rights through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the NHRC received four cases of illegal arrest, six cases of unlawful detention, 142 cases where police failed to take action, two cases of disappearance and 79 other police excesses in Gujarat during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    The security forces continued to responsible for human rights violations including custodial killings.

     

    The NCRB recorded eight deaths in police custody in 2006. The police claimed that three died during hospitalization/ treatment, three while escaping from custody, one due to illness/natural death and one committed suicide. A Magisterial inquiry was ordered into five deaths and a judicial inquiry was ordered into three others.[7]

     

    According to information obtained by Asian Centre for Human Rights the NHRC received seven cases of deaths in police custody in Gujarat during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    In 2007, ACHR documented a number of cases of deaths in police custody. In the majority cases, the police claimed that the deceased had committed suicide.

     

    On 16 April 2007, one Kannu Swain allegedly committed suicide by tying his shirt to iron rods at Pandesara police station in Surat district after he was arrested on a theft charge. Similarly, on the same day, one Meghraj Patil allegedly committed suicide outside the police lock-up in Kadodara police chowky of Palsana police station in Surat district after he surrendered to the police. However, Kadodara police did not show his arrest on record.[8]

     

    The extrajudicial killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi in fake encounters brought to the fore the role of police in killing innocent people in the name of killing “terrorists”. On 23 March 2007, the Gujarat Government admitted in the Supreme Court that the state police had killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a “false encounter” in Ahmedabad in 2005 for wrongly accusing him of plotting to kill chief minister Narendra Modi.[9] On 24 April 2007, three senior Indian Police Service officials – Inspector General (border range) D G Vanzara, Superintendent of Police Rajkumar Pandayan of the state intelligence wing of Gujarat and M N Dinesh, Superintendent of Police of Alwar district of Rajasthan were arrested by Gujarat Police on a charge of murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.[10]

     

    On 30 April 2007, the Gujarat government also admitted before the Supreme Court that Kausar Bi, wife of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was also killed by the state police and her body was burnt.[11]

     

    III. Judiciary and administration of justice

     

    Judicial delay remained a major problem. A total of 1,10,639 cases were pending with the Gujarat High Court and a total of 2,54,4360 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007.[12]

     

    As on 1 January 2008, there were 11 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 42 in the Gujarat High Court. There were 161 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 952 in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007.

     

    IV. Violations of the rights of Dalits

     

    The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded 995 cases of crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs) including 20 cases of murder, 19 cases of rape and 359 cases under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 in Gujarat during 2006.[13] The charge-sheeting rate for the crimes against the dalits in Gujarat during 2006 was 97.7% but the conviction rate was only 5.2% which was one of the lowest in India. Out of total 813 cases in which trials were completed during 2006 only in 42 cases the accused were convicted [14]

     

    According to Navsarjan, a Dalit organization, at least 225 cases of atrocities against Dalits were reported in Gujarat during April - December 2007, including six rape cases, four murders and four cases of social boycott.[15]

     

    V. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples

     

    The National Crime Records Bureau recorded a total of 164 cases of crime against the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Gujarat which included six cases of murder, 23 cases of rape, eight cases of abduction, 53 cases registered under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, among others during 2006. While the charge-sheeting rate for crimes against the STs in Gujarat was 99.4%, the conviction rate was only 3.3% which was one of the lowest in India during 2006. Out of total 152 cases in which trials were completed during 2006 only in five cases the accused were convicted.[16]   

     

    On 26 March 2007, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi launched “Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana” project for the development of the tribals. The Rs 15,0000 million scheme to be implemented in five years would provide houses to all homeless tribal families, safe drinking water and tap water, job-oriented programmes in agriculture, animal husbandry and dairying, quality education. Tribal habitations having up to 250 population would be linked with better roads and a village development action plan would be planned for each tribal village, among others.[17]

     

    However, basic facilities such as medical continued to elude the tribals. In July 2007, a tribal woman was forced to give birth in the open after she was denied health care as the Government-run Community Health Centre was locked while a trust-run private hospital, specially designated to treat pregnant women who belong to the Below Poverty Line families under the Government’s much hyped Chiranjivi scheme, refused to admit her at Nakhatrana town in Kutch district. Earlier in March 2007, Chief Minister Narendra Modi had made a fervent appeal to poor expectant mothers “to drop a postcard to him case they had any problem” at a Mahila Sammelan in Kutch district.[18]

     

    On 2 October 2007, Chief Minister Narendra Modi handed over land ownership rights to 30 tribals and declared that such land titles would be given to another 2,204 tribals in the state. Gujarat did not obtain the approval of the Central government ruled by rival Congress-led United Progressive Alliance under the 1980 Forest Act.[19]  Mr Modi’s pro-tribal actions were seen as an attempt to woo the tribals ahead of the Assembly Elections which was held in December 2007 in which the BJP secured near two-third majority. On 5 October 207, the Supreme Court of India restrained the Gujarat government from issuing new land titles to tribals. A “Forest Bench” of the apex court comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia passed the order after amicus curiae Harish Salve filed an application that ownership rights over forest land were handed over to 30 tribals by Chief Minister Narendra Modi on 2 October 2007. The Bench issued notice to the Gujarat government seeking its response to the application.[20]

     

    Ironically, the state government failed to check alienation of tribal lands. According to the Annual Report 2007-08 of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, a total of 20,704 cases alleging alienation of 75,966 acres of land have been filed in the court in Gujarat. 19,819 cases have been disposed of by the court, of which 19,322 cases have been disposed of in favor of tribals but it was only in 376 cases (involving 1942 acres of land) in which alienated land was restored to tribals. 885 cases were pending in the court.[21]

     

    VI. Violence against women and children

     

    According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 7,279 cases of violations against women were reported in Gujarat during 2006. These included 354 cases of rape, 50 cases of dowry deaths, 945 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 4,977 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 736 cases of molestation, 78 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others.[22] The NCRB also recorded a total of 977 cases of crimes against children in 2006. These included 87 cases of murder, 112 cases of rape, 360 cases of kidnapping, 12 cases under Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1978, among others.[23]

     

    According to Navsarjan, an NGO, 53,395 cases of violence against women were reported from 12 districts of Gujarat from 1995 to 31 October 2007. These included 640 dowry death cases, 1,443 rape cases, 14,998 cases of cruelty by husband and in laws, 4,030 cases of attempted rapes, 3,006 cases of abduction of women, among others. The data was obtained through filing applications under the RTI Act. However, the data collected were from just 12 districts of Gujarat. Most of the cases of violence against women go unreported.[24]

     

    Minors were continued to be targeted for sexual violence. In May 2007, two minor girls were raped by two persons during a religious trip to Datar Hills in Saurashtra. Later, one of the girls was killed. The police failed to arrest the accused by the end of 2007.[25]

     

    Child labour is rampant in Gujarat. A study conducted by the Rajathan Mazdoor Union (RMU), which was released in November 2007, revealed that 33 per cent of the about two lakh workers employed in the Bt cotton fields were children below 14 years of age. They faced sexual harassment and physical abuse. According to the study, 36 per cent of the children working in the farmlands complained of verbal abuse while 12 per cent faced physical abuse. There was no protective clothing. Many of the children have health problems related to pesticide exposure.[26]

     

    There were also reports of death of children in factories. In December 2007, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Gujarat Government to submit a detailed report on the death of two children, aged 10 and 16, at a plastic factory in Gujarat.[27]

     

    VII. Status of internally displaced persons

     

    The plights of the displaced continued to be miserable.

     

    In June 2007, a Supreme Court-appointed committee headed by N.C. Saxena found that 4,545 Muslim families comprising around 30,000 persons who were displaced by the post-Godhra communal riots were still living in miserable conditions in 81 relief colonies in Gujarat. They faced acute scarcity of food and security. None of the 81 relief colonies were set up or assisted by the state government. Only five of the 81 colonies had government or government recognised schools, and only four served mid-day meals to children. Only three colonies had fare price shops, and only 725 out of the 4,545 families were recognised as below poverty line.[28]

     

    VIII. Violations of the prisoners’ rights

     

    Frustrated over delay in trials, two under-trial prisoners reportedly threw their footwear on judges in a court in Surat in January[29] and February 2007.[30]

     

    According to the information received by Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the NHRC received 54 cases of deaths in judicial custody in Gujarat during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    IX. Violations of the rights of minorities

     

    Justice continued to elude the victims of the communal riots of 2002 while Christian religious minorities came under attacks from Hindu fundamentalists.

     

    On 30 October 2007, a local court in Godhra awarded life imprisonment to eight accused, including a taluk-level BJP chief, and rigorous imprisonment to three others in the Eral massacre and gang rape case which took place during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.[31]

     

    In September 2007, the Union Home Ministry released Rs 705 million as additional compensation to the victims of 2002 Gujarat riots. The funds were released by the Union Home Ministry in accordance with a decision taken by the Union Cabinet in March 2007.[32]

     

    Earlier, in 22 March 2007, the Central Government announced a relief package for the victims of the communal riots. The package included Rs 3.5 lakhs each for the kin of the 1,169 persons killed and Rs 1.25 lakhs for each of the 2,548 injured. According to Union Minister for Information and broadcasting P.R. Das Munshi, 1,169 deaths were reported during the riot. The Government also approved a proposal to give preference to children/family members of those who died in the riots of 2002 in paramilitary forces, Indian Reserve Battalions, state police forces, public sector undertakings and other state and Central government departments by giving the benefit of increasing the age requirement.[33]

     

    On 19 December 2007, four Christian missionaries from the Don Bosco High School were attacked allegedly by activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) while they were conducting “a social awareness programme” in Badia village of Kwant taluka in Vadodara district. Four of the injured had to be admitted to a hospital and one of them identified as Brother Ramesh had to amputate two fingers.[34]

     

    X. Special focus: Farmers suicide

     

    Farmers have been dying in Gujarat too due to agrarian crisis. Yet, both the state government and the Central government have paid little attention to the farmers’ plight.

     

    According to the data of Gujarat Government obtained by social activist Bharat Jhala under the Right to Information Act, as many as 489 farmers have committed suicide in the state since 2003. Junagadh district topped the list with 85 suicides, followed by Rajkot (62), Jamnagar (50) and Mehsana (48). The apathy of the state government was clear as instead of providing relief to the families of the farmers, it had tried to suppress information on their deaths. The figure could be higher as the state government failed to provide information on six districts.[35]

     

    On 29 March 2007, the Gujarat government admitted in the State Assembly that at least 148 farmers had committed suicide in the state during January 2005- January 2007. Of these, 28 victims were tribal farmers. The government did not pay any compensation to the families of the farmers who had committed suicide.[36] However, according to Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), the farmers’ wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party stated that farmers’ suicides were either unreported or wrongly reported.  According to BKS, around 300 farmers committed suicide in 2006 alone but the police have been refusing to register FIRs.[37]

     

    The farmers’ conditions failed to draw the attention of Central Government. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its 23rd report for 2006-07 presented to the 14th Lok Sabha on 20 March 2007 rightly pointed out that “The Committee note that the Government has announced a package for 30 districts in 4 States namely Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh which will address the farmers’ credit, insurance, irrigation, subsidy and income needs through Dairy, poultry and horticulture. The Committee are informed that the criteria for selection of the districts has been the severity of suicides and the State Governments have conducted some studies in this regard. The Committee opine that one of the main reasons for crop failures, which in turn compel farmers to commit suicides, is adverse climatic conditions and droughts in many parts of the country. Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa are mainly drought-affected States but why none of their districts is included in the list of 30 districts. In Punjab and other States also a number of farmers have committed suicide. The Committee wonder whether the Government is waiting for farmers of these States to commit suicide in large numbers before announcing any package for them. The Committee, therefore, recommend that while identifying the districts for suicide affected areas, ground realities should be taken into consideration and the rehabilitation package for these States should also be drawn in order to save the farmers and their families well before they commit suicide. The Committee further recommend that instead of severity of suicide by the farmers of a particular district of the State, their economic condition to repay the loans, crop failure, drought conditions and natural calamity should be the criteria for giving special package for their rehabilitation.[38]



    [1]. Information obtained by ACHR through the RTI Act

    [2] . Supreme Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007, available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf

    [3]. Life miserable in Gujarat relief colonies: court panel, The Hindu, 5 June 2007

    [4]. 489 Gujarat farmers have committed suicide since 2003, The Hindu, 14 October 2007

    [5]. Twenty Third Report of The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2006-07) submitted to Fourteenth Lok Sabha 

    [6]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [7]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [8]. Surat custodial deaths: Lock-up check ordered, The Times of India, 19 April 2007

    [9]. Gujarat admits fake killing, The Telegraph, 24 March 2007

    [10]. 3 IPS officials arrested for fake encounter, Rediff News, 24 April 2007, available at:

    http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/apr/24ips.htm

    [11]. Gujarat finally admits to SC: Yes, Kausar Bi has been killed, burnt, The Indian Express, 1 May 2007

    [12] . Supreme Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007, available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf

    [13]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [14]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [15]. Violence against women in Gujarat belies state’s projection as safe haven for women, The Express India, 29 March 2008, available at: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Violence-against-women-in-Gujarat-belies-states-projection-as-safe-haven-for-women/289869/

    [16]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [17]. Modi launches Rs 15,000-cr tribal development plan, The Hindu Business Line, 27 March 2007, available at:

    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2007/03/27/stories/2007032702881100.htm

    [18]. Woman delivers in the open after Gujarat hospital turns her away, The Indian Express, 10 July 2007

    [19]. Modi gives forest land to tribals, The Hindu, 3 October 2007  

    [20]. Land for tribals: court restrains Gujarat, The Hindu, 6 October 2007 

    [22]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [23]. 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    [24]. Violence against women in Gujarat belies state’s projection as safe haven for women, The Express India, 29 March 2008, available at: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Violence-against-women-in-Gujarat-belies-states-projection-as-safe-haven-for-women/289869/

    [25]. Stats say many rape, murder cases still unsolved, The Express India, 9 February 2008, available at: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Stats-say-many-rape-murder-cases-still-unsolved/270845/

    [26]. ‘Child labour rampant in Gujarat cotton fields’, The Indian Express, 7 November 2007

    [27]. Panel asks Gujarat for report on child labour deaths, The Indian Express, 20 December 2007

    [28]. Life miserable in Gujarat relief colonies: court panel, The Hindu, 5 June 2007

    [29]. Undertrial throws shoe at Surat judge, The Times of India, 5 January 2007

    [30]. Undertrial hurls chappals at judge, The Pioneer, 1 February 2007

    [31]. 8 get life sentence for post-Godhra massacre, The Times of India, 31 October 2007

    [32]. Eye on polls, Centre releases Rs 70-cr relief package for Gujarat riot victims, The Indian Express, 21 September 2007

    [33]. Relief package for ’02 riot victims, The Asian Age, 23 March 2007

    [34]. Missionaries attacked in tribal Gujarat, FIR says it was VHP mob, The Indian Express, 21 December 2007

    [35]. 489 Gujarat farmers have committed suicide since 2003, The Hindu, 14 October 2007

    [37]. Farmers are dying in Gujarat too, Frontline, Volume 24 - Issue 11 :: Jun. 02-15, 2007, available at: http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2411/stories/20070615001604100.htm  

    [38]. Twenty Third Report of The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2006-07) submitted to Fourteenth Lok Sabha 

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