Human Rights Watch has called for an institutional overhaul of the Indian justice and policing systems in the fight against terrorism as prevalent abusive counter terrorism tactics are only serving to add to militancy’s strengths, the rights body said in its 106-page report.
In the report titled ‘The Anti-Nationals: Arbitrary Detention and Torture of Terrorism Suspects in India’, the rights organization said torture and forced confessions—much-practised counter terror tactics by security forces—only serve to alienate populations and bolster militant groups.
Admitting the peculiar and difficult circumstances prevalent in India, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, HRW, said: “Indian police are under tremendous pressure to identify the perpetrators of horrific attacks, but they need to do so without resorting to the use of arbitrary arrests and torture to coerce confessions.”
The rights body has also castigated the National Human Rights Commission for its “tepid response” to complaints involving terrorism suspects. NHRC is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
The report—based on interviews of more than 160 people—also called for repeal of unlawful provisions of counter terrorism laws, including sweeping definitions of terrorism, expanded police powers of search and seizure, the presumption of guilt under certain circumstances, and draconian pre-charge detention periods.
“Such incidents cannot be put down as mere isolated ones. How and when the police can resort to violence has to be clearly defined,” said security expert K Subramanium speaking at the report launch.
Focusing on extra-judicial killings in the conflict zones, Subramanium said: “In the first six months of 2009, at least 260 people were killed in Manipur. In Andhra Pradesh, from 1996-2001, 200 people were killed every year and yet we live in denial.”
India faces numerous internal security challenges varying from demands for secession to complete autonomy to jihadi terrorism. One-third of India’s districts are reported to be Maoist-affected. Full report