Ruled by the Congress Party,
Kerala despite having no internal armed conflict continues
to witness serious human rights violations by the law
enforcement personnel. The use of electric shock batons
against students of Pariyaram Medical College campus during
a lathi-charge on 18 October 2004 indicates the use of
illegal and disproportionate force. The police have also
been responsible for custodial death, arbitrary arrest,
detention and torture.
Land alienation of the Adivasis,
indigenous peoples is a serious problem. There have also
been reports of sexual exploitation of tribal girls and
killing of children by unwed tribal mothers.
Extreme poverty and burden
of debt forced many farmers to commit suicide by consuming
pesticides. As many as 17 farmers committed suicide in
March and April 2004 with 11 farmers in Wayanad district,
2 in Kannur district, and one each in Kasargod, Palakkad,
Kottayam and Idukki districts.
The weak functioning of
the State Human Rights Commission remained a serious concern.
On 11 March 2004, the Kerala High Court temporarily stayed
the functioning of the State Human Rights Commission until
a full Commission was constituted as provided under Section
21 of the Human Rights Protection Act of 1993. The court
held that the appointment of the two members without constituting
a five-member full Commission was not in accordance with
The law enforcement personnel
continued to be responsible for serious human rights violations
including arbitrary deprivation of the right to life.
The custodial deaths have been consistently rising in
Kerala. The National Human Rights Commission registered
20 custodial deaths in 1999-2000 in Kerala, 27 in 2000-2001,
37 in 2001-2002 and 54 in 2002-2003.
On 16 May 2004, A.P. Sajeev
of Kodannur NSS Nagar, Thrissur, died in police custody
after being taken into custody by a traffic police team
along with his pillion rider, V.J. Manoj of Kodannur,
on charges of drunken driving from Kizhakkumpattukara
in the city. Sajeev
allegedly refused to accompany the police to the station
for breath analysis but he was taken to the police station
in the jeep of the Flying Squad. The police stated that
he was taken to the Thrissur Medical College Hospital
when he complained of chest pain, but died before reaching
the hospital. Manoj alleged that the police had tortured
Sajeev in the jeep.
On 12 October 2004, a 30-year-old
man, Shibu, a driver reportedly died in the police custody
of the Thrissur Town West Police Station in Kerala. Shibu
was found dead in the toilet of the police station after
he along with two other men was arrested and detained
at the Thrissur Town West Police Station on the charges
of possessing cannabis on 11 October 2004. The police
claimed to have seized 3 kilograms of cannabis at the
time of the arrest. The family members of the deceased,
however, alleged that Shibu had no criminal record and
had been in a good condition at the time of his arrest.
They alleged that he had died due to brutal torture while
the police claimed that the victim had committed suicide
out of shame. The victim’s family alleged that they saw
the victim’s body having cuts and bruises, indicating
that he had been brutally tortured prior to his death.
There were allegedly blood clots on many parts of his
body and cuts and bruises on his head, ear, chest and
abdomen. The post-mortem was reportedly carried out by
a police surgeon.
The Kerala Police resorted
to torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment.
The police also used electric shock batons during lathi
Three youth, two of them
identified as Iqbal and Bava, were allegedly illegally
detained and assaulted by the police at the Bantwal police
station in Mangalore district on 11 and 12 January 2004.
Bantwal police had registered a case against three on
a complaint from Rathnakar Shetty, the main accused in
the murder of Isubu, a petty trader at Kalladka. But all
the youth obtained anticipatory bail, under which they
needed to present themselves at the station every Sunday.
The police allegedly detained them for nearly five hours
on 11 January 2004 without obtaining their signatures
and directed them to come back the next day. On 12 January
2004 the youth were allegedly assaulted at the police
station for 12 hours. Bava had to be operated upon in
a private hospital. The PUCL Mangalore district unit claimed
that Iqbal was not even an accused.
On 15 January 2004, Mohammed
Siddique, a laboratory technician in Malappuram, was allegedly
picked up by the Malappuram police from his house in connection
with his marriage with Femina, daughter of a wealthy businessman,
without the consent of her family members in December
2003. He was kept in illegal detention till 21 January
2004 and was tortured during his detention. He allegedly
suffered from serious internal injuries, which were certified
by a doctor. The police told him that he would be released
only after the marriage was cancelled and he signed some
blank papers. On 15 January 2004, Mohammed’s mother lodged
a complaint before the District Collector as well as the
Superintendent of Police, but no action was initiated.
The next day i.e. on 16 January 2004, she filed a write
petition (Cr No.16 of 2004) before the High Court of Kerala
to have her son produced in court as the police had earlier
denied the arrest. The police finally produced the victim
before the court on 21 January 2004 and the court ordered
him to be released after executing a bond worth Rs. 25,000/-
and with a condition not to leave the State without sanction
from the court. The court directed the Manjeri District
Sessions judge to conduct an inquiry into the alleged
torture of the victim by the Malappuram police during
On 18 October 2004, police
allegedly used electric shock batons during lathi charge
on protesting student activists who were waving black
flags at a visiting minister at the Pariyaram Medical
College campus, Kannur. Some of the demonstrators were
stripped of their dhotis and the electric shock batons
were used at sensitive parts.
Impunity is one of the root
causes of continued violations by the State Police. On
4 February 2004, the Kerala Lok Ayukta recommended to
Director General of Police to order a departmental enquiry
into the actions of the head constable Sugathan of Ettumanoor
Police Station, Kottayam for torturing one P.K. Joy, a
small-scale merchant on 26 April 2003. But no action was
taken. With no other option, Joy had to file a petition
before the Kerala High Court on 3 May 2004.
While Kerala did not witness
any major violent incident like the killings at Muthanga
on February 2003, the Adivasis, indigenous and tribal
peoples, continued to be exploited by “non-tribals” who
have been gradually usurping their lands.
On 18 October 2004, the
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed three charge
sheets against 184 persons after its investigation into
the police's violent repression of landless adivasis'
occupation of land in the Muthanga Wildlife Reserve on
19 February 2005. The
Adivasis were protesting against the government's failure
to comply with an agreement made to provide 53,000 landless
Adivasi families with up to 5 acres of land and include
these areas under the Vth Schedule of the Constitution.
Under the first charge sheet, 21 persons have been charged
with murder. The second charge-sheet pertained to trespassing
in the reserve. The third is regarding the forest officials'
detention when they and others were caught red-handed
setting fire to the forests so that the blame could be
put on the agitating adivasis and this could then be used
as a pretext to forcibly evict them.
The CBI, however, absolved
the police, forest officials and the mafia of any crime
or human rights violations. The CBI has stated that the
agitation was initially peaceful. Later, erecting check-points
and not allowing forest officials entry into the forest
placed impediments on the normal functioning of forest
officials. The CBI stated that the use of force by the
police was after all legal formalities had been observed.
C.K Janu, the adivasi leader, has approached the Kerala
High Court to appoint a special investigative team to
unearth the truth.
The government of Kerala
however has taken little measures to provide the lands
to the Adivasis as land alienation continues.Over 500
hectares of tribal land spreading across 28 tribal settlements
in the Thiruvananthapuram forest territorial division
have been reportedly “alienated”.
In 1998, sixty-one Kani
families in the Vettikkavu settlement in the Peringamala
area of Thiruvananthapuram forest territorial division
were given assistance under a scheme of the Rubber Board
to grow rubber trees in their landholdings. When the rubber
trees became ripe for tapping, non-tribals gradually began
to usurp the lands of the tribals in exchange for a meager
sum of money. The land alienation at the Theviyarkunnu
settlement in the Chooliyamala area of the territorial
division is reportedly so complete that not a single tribal
family is found there now. A stretch of 118 hectares of
tribal land in this settlement is entirely with wealthy
There have also been reports
of sexual exploitation of the tribal women. According
to official estimates, there are about 300 unwed mothers
in Wayanad district. For the victims, the raising of these
children has not only been a challenge but also a psychological
trauma. Girls who become pregnant before marriage are
ex-communicated. Though the Kerala Women’s Commission’s
initiative by enforcing DNA tests has reportedly checked
the widespread sexual exploitation of the tribal women
to some extent, the victims continued to suffer in silence.
A Malayalam weekly magazine claimed that unwed tribal
mothers in remote Tirunelli forests in Wayanad district
had been killing their children “frequently”.
Extreme poverty and burden
of debt forced many farmers to commit suicide by consuming
On 3 April 2004, three farmers
reportedly committed suicide. One of them was identified
as Mathew Thomas, who consumed pesticide in front of the
public at Mundakkayam town in Kottayam district. The others
reportedly took the extreme step due to harassment by
the goondas, anti-social elements, employed by private
At least 17 farmers committed
suicide due to crop loss in drought in April and May 2004.
The farmers include 11 from Wayanad district, 2 from Kannur
district, and one each in Kasargod, Palakkad, Kottayam
and Idukki districts. The state government reportedly
paid Rs 50,000 each to the families of 11 farmers who
died in Wayanad district. Following the death of three more farmers
on 3 April 2004, the state government reportedly declared
a six-month moratorium on farm loans, and doubled the
relief package for drought-hit farmers depending on their
crop loss. On 31 May 2004, National Human Rights
Commission issued a suo motu notice to the state government.