Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia



I. Overview

Ruled by the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party coalition, Maharashtra continued to witness serious human rights violations. The State police have been responsible for custodial death, rape and torture. Although in a few cases, death in custody was established such as that of Khwaja Yunus, a prime suspect in Ghotkopar blast case of 2 December 2002, most custodial deaths went unpunished.

The Dalits continued to face physical violence as well as boycott by the upper caste Hindus for making attempts to access the public places including water wells.

The conditions of the Adivasis, indigenous peoples in Maharashtra remained deplorable. On 5 July 2004, state government acknowledged that more than 9,000 tribal children below the age of six years died of starvation/ malnutrition in 15 districts of Maharashtra between April 2003 and May 2004. As many as 1,041 children died of malnutrition during April- May 2004. [1] The Naxalites have reportedly strengthened their activities in tribal-dominated districts of Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur. [2]

In violation of the Supreme Court order of 2000, the Maharashtra government raised the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam without resettling the already affected families. On 13 March 2004, the Narmada Control Authority allowed raising of the Sadar Sarovar dam height from 100 metres to 110 metres though thousands of families were not resettled.

On 4 June 2004, the state government announced a three-member panel headed by former High Court judge Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari to review the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). [3] On different occasions, courts found misuse of the MCOCA and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. On 16 April 2004, Zaheer Ahmed Sheikh, the prime accused in the blast of a BEST bus at Ghatkopar on 2 December 2002 that left two persons dead and 34 injured, was reportedly granted bail for Rs 1 lakhs following the ruling of the Central POTA Review Committee that there was no prima-facie evidence against him. [4]

[1] . 9,000 kids starve to death in shining India, The Times of India, 6 July 2004

[2] . The Free Press Journal, 22 January 2005

[3] . Three-member panel to review MCOCA, The Indian Express, 5 June 2004

[4] . Cleared by POTA panel, blast accused gets bail, The Indian Express, 17 April 2004