Ruled by the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK), Tamil Nadu was virtually free from violence by armed opposition groups but a number of such groups including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT), Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA), Tamilar Viduthalai Iyakkam, and Communist Party of India (Maoists) remained banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The Tamil Nadu government allotted Rs. 7 crore for the socio-economic Development of 35 Naxal-prone villages in Dharmapuri district for the year 2007. There were no reports of Naxal related violence during the year. However, the police arrested 17 CPI (Maoist) cadres in 2007. Of these, four were detained under NSA.
The Tamil Nadu Police were responsible for gross human rights violations which included violation of the right to life and the use of excessive force including indiscriminate use of weapons. At least five persons were killed in custody including four in police custody and one in judicial custody.
In July 2007, 11 evening courts - four in Chennai, two each in Coimbatore and Tirunelveli and one each in Salem, Madurai and Tirucharapalli on experimental basis, were launched to address the judicial delay. As on 1 January 2008, there were four vacancies for judges in the Madras High Court. There were 93 vacancies of judges in the District and Subordinate Courts in the state as on 30 September 2007. A total of 4,26,347 cases were pending with the Madras High Court and another 9,16,470 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007.
The Tamil Nadu Police were responsible for gross human rights violations including violation of the right to life and in indiscriminate firing. The National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that 12 complaints were registered against police personnel in Tamil Nadu during 2006. Departmental inquiries were ordered into 44 cases, magisterial inquiries were ordered into 22 cases and judicial inquiries were ordered into 54 cases. As many as 65 police personnel were sent to trial during the year. Of the six police personnel whose trials were completed, two were convicted and four acquitted.
According to the Tamil Nadu Police, there were four deaths in police custody and four civilians were killed when police used fire-arms during 2007. The National Crime Records Bureau recorded six deaths in police custody in the state during 2006. The police claimed that out of the six cases, three committed suicide and three died during hospitalisation/treatment. The NCRB also recorded killing of seven civilians killed by police weapons fire during 2006.
The National Human Rights Commission recorded 15 cases of death in police custody, 103 cases of death in judicial custody and 4 cases of encounter death from Tamil Nadu during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.
Asian Centre for Human Rights recorded a number of custodial deaths in 2007.
On 20 November 2007, Ramalingam, a Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) member, allegedly died following torture in police custody at Kullanchavady in Cuddalore district. He was taken to the police station following an altercation with a bus crew on the night of 19 November 2007. Ramalingam's body was found outside the police station. On 23 November 2007, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi announced immediate assistance of Rs one lakh to the family of the deceased. The state government also ordered a judicial inquiry into the custodial death.
In December 2007, Syed Ali, a tea shop owner and a resident of Kerala, was allegedly tortured to death at the Vadapalani police station in Chennai. He was arrested following complaints that he was selling illegal lottery tickets. The police claimed that he suddenly fainted and was then taken to a hospital. He was declared dead on arrival. However, the relatives of the deceased alleged the he died due to torture during interrogation. Following protests, Inspector Aathimoolam and constables Thiruvengadam and Subhash attached to the Vadapalani station were suspended.
Illegal arrest, torture, false allegations by the police etc were also reported. In the year 2006-2007, the NHRC registered 18 cases of illegal arrest, 10 cases of unlawful detention, 47 cases of false implication of innocent persons and 167 cases of “other police excesses” in Tamil Nadu.
On 15 January 2007, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) announced interim relief of Rs 2.8 crore to 89 victims of atrocities, including women, by the joint Special Task Force during operations against forest brigand Veerappan. In 1999, the Commission had ordered setting up of a two-member inquiry panel, headed by Justice A Sadasiva (Retd) to look into the allegations of human rights violations by the STF.
There are 36 Scheduled Tribe communities in Tamil Nadu. As per the 2001 census, the Scheduled Tribe population in Tamil Nadu was 6.51 lakhs. Out of the 36 Scheduled Tribe communities, 6 Tribal Communities namely Toda, Kota, Kurumbas, Irular, Paniyan and Kattunayakan have been identified as so called ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’. The other Tribals living in scattered areas were classified as Dispersed Tribes. The area where the population of Scheduled Tribes exceeds 50% of the total population was declared as Integrated Tribal Development programme area. A separate Directorate, Directorate of Tribal Welfare, has been functioning for the Welfare of the Tribals since 1 April 2000.
In some of the tribal villages in the State, the closest Public Health Centre is nine Km away and tribal schools have no teachers. Sickle cell anaemia and malnutrition were the most common health problems among tribals.
There were also pending backlog vacancies in the state. There were an estimated 595 vacancies for SCs/STs in 1998. 100 of them were filled by December 1998. The rest of the posts were still vacant as of July 2007.
The Tamil Nadu Government sanctioned Rs. 61.96 lakh, including Rs. 34.4 lakh allotted on 3 November 2007, to compensate victims of ‘Vachathi violence’ The violence relates to an event in which forest officials, police and revenue department officials attacked the tribal hamlet of Vachathi in June 1992. However, out of 475 persons, the government had identified only 349 persons as eligible to claim compensation.
The provisions of the Scheduled Tribe and Forest Dwellers Act (Recognition of Forest Rights), 2006, stipulate that nobody who has been living on forest lands prior to December 13, 2005, can be evicted. Yet, in October 2007, forest officials harassed and evicted the dwellers of Suriyur village in Salem district on the pretext that the village was in the jurisdiction of the reserve forests. The National Human Rights Commission also sent its senior member Tsering Samphal to the village on 17 October 2007. The officials had even allegedly filed legal cases against villagers. The villagers had been living in the village for generations, tilling lands and raising crops.
The NCRB recorded 991 crimes during 2006. These included 26 murders, 21 rapes, 84 cases under the Protection of the Civil Rights Act, 1955 and 468 cases under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The Tamil Nadu Police stated that 1,359 cases for violence against the Dalits under the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and 10 cases under the PCR Act were registered during 2007. In 72 cases, conviction was realized under the SCs/STs (POA) Act. Of these, in 6 cases, the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment. Rs.16.9 million was sanctioned to 1,160 SC/ST victims of atrocities in 656 cases as compensation under the SCs/STs (POA) Act.
The Dalits remained vulnerable to atrocities.
On 29 April 2007, one Dalit was killed and 52 others, including women and children, were injured, when police fired in the air and lathi charges during a clash between two castes in Amachiarpuram colony near Srivilliputtur.
On 19 October 2007, a Dalit woman identified as A. Ponnammal (34) was injured after being hit on the head with a crowbar by the tahsildar , officer of the lowest administrative unit, identified as Motilal when she tried to prevent officials from demolishing a toilet built on her premises at Prumalmalai near Kodaikanal in Dindigul district. She was also stripped naked by the village panchayat president Selvaraj. The police rejected Ms. Ponnammal’s complaint and forced her to sign a written statement in the hospital.
Acts of caste discrimination were widespread. According to one study, the practice of keeping two tumblers - one for Dalits and another for other castes in tea shops – continued in 33 reserved village panchayats in Salem and Erode districts. While in 40 reserved panchayats, Dalits are banned from entering temples. In 48 panchayats, they are being forced to beat drums to announce the death of caste Hindus and remove the carcasses of dead animals. Discrimination was noted in Primary and Sub Health Centres, fair price shops and schools. Women are prevented from using sanitary complexes in 11 panchayats and in few other panchayats hair dressers refuse to allow Dalit customers.
Dalit women were not allowed to work as cooks in schools. In October 2007, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court directed the secretary of a government-aided private primary school at Muthusamiapuram in Tiruneleveli district to allow a Dalit woman to work as an assistant in a noon-meal centre.
Violence against women continued to be reported. According to police records, a total of 523 rape cases, 208 dowry deaths cases, 1,558 molestation cases, 875 sexual harassment cases, 1,976 cruelty by husband/relatives cases, and 1,097 cases of kidnapping and abduction were reported in 2007.
The National Crime Records Bureau recorded a total of 6,489 incidents of crime against women in 2006. These included 457 cases of rape, 718 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 187 cases of dowry death, 1,248 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 1,732 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others. The NCRB also recorded a total of 353 crimes against the children including 59 murders, 125 rapes and 118 kidnapping and abduction during 2006.
There were reports of girls being allegedly exploited by textile units who force them to work as bonded labour under the `Sumangali' or `Subhamangala' scheme. An adolescent girl was paid about Rs. 30,000 after working in a cotton mill for three years. During the period, she was provided with food, clothing and shelter. The worker forfeited the amount in the event of leaving the job in between. The girls were made to work over time and night shifts were compulsory. These conditions often led to mental and physical fatigue, health problems and malnutrition.
The National Human Rights Commission registered 103 cases of deaths in judicial custody in Tamil Nadu during the period of 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
Allegations of torture of prisoners were reported. On 31 March 2007, remand prisoner K. Chandrabalan of Sirkazhi allegedly died in circumstances of concern in Cuddalore Central Prison. According to some prisoners, Chandrabalan’s followed a beating from a warder.
There are 135 prisons in Tamil Nadu. Of these, 9 are central prisons, 3 special prisons for women and 103 sub jails for men, 10 sub jails for women, 4 special sub jails for men, and 3 special sub jails for women apart from a borstal school, an open air prison and a farm jail.
On 24 September 2007, the jail authorities submitted to the Madras High Court that as many as 662 under-trial prisoners were detained and had not been produced in court for remand extension. The court was informed that the Central Prison at Puzhal housed 123 people whose detention had been extended without a court order; Vellore had 158 cases, Cuddalore 90, Tiruchi 33, Coimbatore 68, Madurai 152; Palayamkottai 21; and the Special Prisons for Women in Vellore, Tiruchi and Puzhal had two, one and 14 such cases respectively. The jail authorities further told the Court that under-trial prisoners could not be produce in the Courts due to various reasons such as non-availability of escort police and the prisoner having more than one case coming up simultaneously in different Courts. The High Court ordered the Home Secretary, judicial authorities and the Additional Director-General for Prisons to regularise the remand of under-trial prisoners within two days.
1. Rs. 7 crore for villages prone to Naxalism, The Hindu, 1 August 2007
2. Tamil Nadu Police, Policy Note for the year 2008-2009, available at: http://www.tnpolice.gov.in/homepolice2008english.pdf
3. Evening courts launched, The Hindu, 6 July 2007
4. Supreme Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007, available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf
5. 2006 Annual Report of the NCRB
6. Tamil Nadu Police, Policy Note for the year 2008-2009, available at: http://www.tnpolice.gov.in/homepolice2008english.pdf
7. 2006 Annual Report of the NCRB
8. Information received by ACHR from NHRC through RTI Application
9. Govt aid to 'custodial' death victim's family, http://news.oneindia.in/2007/11/23/govt-aid-to-custodial-death-victims-family-1195808968.html
10. Three policemen suspended in alleged custodial death case, http://news.oneindia.mobi/2007/12/14/505844.html
11. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
12. NHRC give Rs 2.8 cr aid to 89 STF torture victims, The Kashmir Times, 16 January 2007
13. Policy Note, 2006-07, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, available at: http://www.tn.gov.in/policynotes/adidravidar_tribal_welfare-1.htm
14. NGOs join hands to help tribals, The Hindu, 26 July 2007
15. “Fill backlog of SC-ST vacancies before recruiting lecturers”, The Hindu, 27 July 2007
16. Rs. 61.96 lakh sanctioned as compensation for Vachathi victims, The Hindu, 7 November 2007
17. Scheduled Tribes panel member holds inquiry, The Hindu, 18 October 2007
18. 2006 Annual Report of the NCRB
19. Tamil Nadu Police, Policy Note for the year 2008-2009, available at: http://www.tnpolice.gov.in/homepolice2008english.pdf
20. Krishnasamy wants action against police, The Hindu, 9 May 2007
21. Tahsildar, panchayat chief accused of attacking Dalit woman, The Hindu, 30 October 2007
22. Two-tumbler system prevailing in 33 panchayats in Salem, Erode districts: study, The Hindu, 25 June 2007
23. Allow Dalit woman to work in noon meal centre: Bench, The Hindu, 19 October 2007
24. Tamil Nadu Police, Crime against women, available at: http://www.tnpolice.gov.in/CAWChart.html
25. 2006 Annual Report of the NCRB
26. NHRC asks Chief Secretary to inquire into exploitation of girls, The Hindu, 9 May 2007
27. Forum demands abolition of `camp labour' scheme, The Hindu, 8 June 2007
28. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing RTI Application
29. Prisoner's death sparks tension, The Hindu, 1 April 2007
30. Tamil Nadu Prison Department, Policy Note 2007-2008, available at: http://www.tn.gov.in/policynotes/archives/policy2007-08/pdf/prisons.pdf.
31. Regularise remand of 662 undertrial prisoners: court, The Hindu, 25 September 2007