Kerala is governed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). While Kerala is one of a diminishing number of States without armed insurgency, the State police have an appalling record on human rights violations including custodial deaths.
On 26 July 2007, the State government announced it would re-investigate four 2006 custodial deaths cases after the report of the Justice Rajendra Babu Commission, which examined 15 custodial deaths, was brought before the State Assembly.
The Kerala High Court has jurisdiction over Kerala and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. It continued to be hampered by delay. There were vacancies of 12 judges against the sanctioned strength of 38 in the Kerala High Court as on 1st January 2008. In the district and subordinate courts, there were vacancies of 18 judges as on 30th September 2007. The failure to appoint adequate judges further contributed to the failure of the High Court and the lower courts to dispose of all the cases. As of 30th September 2007, there were 1,15,750 cases pending in Kerala High Court and 9,37,789 cases pending in the district and subordinate courts of Kerala.
Political party activists continued to use violence to attain political ends. On 12 December 2007, activists belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) attacked journalists at the Malappuram Press Club covering the party conference in Malappuram district.
On 14 October 2007 at 2.30 am, Pastor TC Joseph (57) and his wife Ammini (50) were attacked by alleged Hindu fundamentalists at their residence at Mananthavady under Thiruvalli police station in Wayanad district. The couple had to be admitted in hospital with severe injuries. The pastor was associated with New India Bible Church and has been working among tribal people for the last 15 years.
Tribals were subjected to violations by the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists. The State government failed to regularise ‘pattayams’ (land deeds) issued to 500 tribal families by the then Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar in 1999 in lieu of 10,000 acres that was alienated from them in Attappady. Cadres of the ruling CPI(M) cadres forcibly took over lands earmarked for distribution to Adivasis who were displaced following the killings of the Adivasi protestors at Muthanga in 2003. On 26 November 2007, the CPI-M cadres forced 200 Adivasi families to flee in Munnar, destroyed their huts and put up CPI(M) party flags to symbolise their victory.
On 26 July 2007, the State government announced it would re-investigate four 2006 custodial deaths cases after the report of Justice Rajendra Babu Commission was placed in the State Assembly. Justice Babu inquired into 15 cases of custodial deaths reported since the Left Democratic Front government had come to power.
The NHRC stated that it recorded three cases of deaths in police custody in Kerala during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
The reports of custodial death continue to rise:
On 11 July 2007, one Manoj of Kadmankuzhy near Theodickal died in the custody of Perumpetty Police Station in Malappally taluk in Pathanamthitta district due to alleged torture. The deceased was illegally picked up by the police on the morning of 11 July 2007 after he was found in suspicious circumstances at a waiting shed near Kottanad. According to the police, Manoj complained of stomach ache and was taken to the Kottanad Primary Health Centre. He was referred to District Hospital in Kozhencherry when he complained of chest pain. He died at the District Hospital at 10.40 a.m. on 11 July 2007.
In September 2007, the Kerala High Court ordered further investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the custodial death of Udayakumar at the Fort Police station, Thiruvananthapuram.
According to the Kerala Police, there were 856 officers in the police department with criminal cases against them as of 10 February 2007. The majority of these officers were reportedly facing departmental-level inquiries.
The National Crime Records Bureau of the government of India reported 75 cases of crime against tribals during 2006. These included 23 cases of rape and 2 cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
In Kadapa district of Kerala, 21 villages have been declared as prone for atrocities against SCs/STs. For example, 128 cases were registered under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 in Kadapa district of Kerala alone from January to 27 September 2007. Of these, 44 were pending disposal, charge sheets were filed in six cases, three were found to be false and two cases were pending in court. In the remaining 33 cases, 20 cases were disposed off and 13 were pending for want of land records and caste certificates.
Many tribals groups struggle to survive because of a denial of medical facilities. On 10 August 2007, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notice to the Kerala Government on allegations that Korga tribals in Kasaragod district were facing a serious threat to their survival due to malnourishment, poverty and disease.
The aboriginal tribes of Attappady were on verge of extinction due to major health problems like infertility, sickle cell anaemia, tuberculosis and thrombo angiitis obliterans. According to a survey conducted by the Health Department in January-February 2007, 30 to 40 per cent of tribal couples of reproductive age were facing infertility problems.
The State government failed to act on alienation of the lands of tribal peoples or to compensate those who have been forcibly displaced. About 500 tribal families were given ‘pattayams’ (land deeds) by the then Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar in 1999 in lieu of 10,000 acres that was alienated from them in Attappady. The state government of Kerala had failed to allot any land to landless tribals of Attappaddy by December 2007.
In November 2007, Communist Party of India (Marxists) cadres forcibly took over lands earmarked for distribution to Adivasis, indigenous peoples in Munnar. In 2003, following killings of the Adivasi protestors at Muthanga, the State government allotted an acre of land each in Chinnakanal to more than 700 tribal families. However after four years, only 540 families have received land. Some 200 tribal families have built makeshift huts on government land in Munnar in protest. But on 26 November 2007, they were attacked by CPI-M cadres. Over 2,000 CPI-M cadres captured a 1,500-acre stretch of government land in Munnar’s Chinnakkanal area and forced the 200 Adivasi families to flee. The CPI-M cadres destroyed the huts of the Adivasis and put up party flags to symbolize their victory. They fenced off the area and began constructing their own huts there.
On 20 February 2007, K.P. Rajendran, Minister for Revenue of Kerala Government stated that there were 22,000 tribal families in the State without land.
The NCRB recorded 264 cases of crimes against the Dalits during 2006. These included 3 cases of killing, 62 cases of rape and 70 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act of 1989.
Dalit converts to Christianity were targeted. On 19 October 2007, a Dalit Christian woman identified as Chellarian Rita (36), the wife of Jose Madakkudiyan of Ezhomkavumchal, was killed after being raped. Christian groups have alleged that it was a case of persecution of Dalit Christians.
The NCRB recrded 7,554 cases of violence against women in 2006. Of these, 601 were rapes, 25 dowry deaths, 202 kidnappings and abduction, and 189 cases under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956.
The NCRB also recorded 553 cases of violence against children during 2006. These included 50 cases of killing, 219 cases of rape, 73 cases of kidnapping and abduction and 6 cases under Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1978, among others.
On 7 October 2007, a mob of about 100 persons attacked a 40-year-old pregnant Tamil woman and her two children on the alleged charge of theft from a textile showroom at Edappal in the district. She was forcefully disrobed, dragged down the asphalted road and beaten, punched and kicked all over her body for about 45 minutes.
VI. Violations of the prisoners’ rights
The NHRC recorded 37 cases of deaths in judicial custody were registered in Kerala during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
Several under-trial prisoners were detained in jail for periods exceeding the sentence they would have faced had they been convicted of the charges under which they had been detained. On 4 September 2007, the state government of Kerala informed the Kerala High Court that it had paid compensation to 74 under-trial prisoners who had been detained in jails for the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the offences with which they were charged. These under-trial prisoners were released on the order of the High Court.
On 22 January 2007, one Shaji (aged above 35 years), son of Keshavan, a resident of Koyikal Nikarthil house in Cherthala, Alapuzha district of Kerala died due to alleged torture at Viyoor Central Jail in Thrissur district.
He was initially detained at Kombara Sub Jail in Ernakulam district but on 20 January 2007, he was transferred from Kombara Sub Jail to Viyoor Central Jail along with 17 other prisoners citing lack of space in Kombara jail. On arrival at the Viyoor Central Prison, the detainees were allegedly assaulted by Yohannan, an officer in the prison. Shaji was assaulted when he said he would complain to the court about the assault. On 22 January 2007, when Shaji was produced before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Ernakulam, he lodged a formal complaint with the magistrate court and the court ordered that he be medically examined. But the doctor on duty at the District Hospital in Ernakulam did not examine Shaji properly. After Shaji was brought back to Viyoor jail, he was allegedly tortured again. He had to be taken to the Medical College Hospital at night in a prison ambulance and the victim died in the hospital at around 10:00 pm.
1. 4 deaths to be re-investigated, The Hindu, 27 July 2007
2. Supreme Court of India, Court News, October-December 2007, Vol.II Issue No.4, available at http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf
3. CPI(M) activists attack journalists, The Hindu, 13 December 2007
4. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1646/45/
5. Landless tribals in the lurch, The Hindu, 9 December 2007
6. After CPM men attack activist, tribals refuse to vacate Munnar land, The Indian Express, 29 November 2007
7. After Nandigram, red terror in Munnar, The Indian Express, 28 November 2007
8. 4 deaths to be re-investigated, The Hindu, 27 July 2007
9. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
10. Man dies in custody, The Hindu, 12 July 2007
11. CBI probe into custodial death, The Hindu, 21 September 2007
12. Criminal charges against 850 cops, The Asian Age, 12 February 2007
13. Atrocities on SC/STs: 128 cases registered in Kadapa district, The Hindu, 28 September 2007
14. NHRC notice to Kerala, The Hindu, 11 August 2007
15. Attappady tribals face threat of extinction, The Hindu, 8 December 2007
16. Landless tribals in the lurch, The Hindu, 9 December 2007
17. After CPM men attack activist, tribals refuse to vacate Munnar land, The Indian Express, 29 November 2007
18. After Nandigram, red terror in Munnar, The Indian Express, 28 November 2007
19. Distribution of land to tribal people to be completed soon: Rajendran, The Hindu, 21 February 2007
20. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1654/45/
21. Mob attacks pregnant woman in literate Kerala, The Pioneer, 9 October 2007
22. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
23. Under-trial prisoners paid compensation High Court round-up, The Hindu, 5 September 2007
24. Asian Human Rights Commission, Urgent Appeal (UA-080-2007: INDIA: Custodial death of an under trial prisoner after brutal torture in prison) dated 14 March 2007