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  • Preface

    Armed Opposition Groups are responsible for more violations: Government must ensure its accountability

    Preparing a state-wise Annual Report on India has been a challenging and sometimes controversial exercise. Often, many important issues cannot be addressed because of a range of factors.

    Yet, each state-wise chapter of India Human Rights Report 2007 whereever possible covers various human rights violations by the security forces including violations of the right to life, torture and arbitrary detention; violations of international humanitarian laws by the armed opposition groups (AOGs) including killing, torture, extortion, trial in Jana Adalats, Peoples' Court and destruction of economic infrastructure and public properties; violence against women by the security forcs, AOGs and the society such as killing on the charges of being witches; violations of the rights of the child including trafficking, juvenile justice and children in armed conflict situations; violations of the rights of the tribals including displacement and land alienation; violations of the rights of the Dalits, in particular, violence against the Dalit women; violations of the prisoners' rights; state of the judiciary and administration of justice; repression on the freedom of the press; violence against the religious minorities; the status of the State Human Rights Commissions; mis-use of the national security laws and the status of refugees and internally displaced persons. This year's report also covers the state of the human rights defenders.

    During the preparation of India Human Rights Report 2007, covering the events from 1 January to 31 December 2006, it was starkly clear to us that in 2006 the armed opposition groups (AOGs) were responsible for more violations.

    a. Violations of international humanitarian laws by the armed opposition groups

    The chilling massacres perpetrated by the Naxalites such as the Darbhaguda massacre of 28 February 2006 in which 27 persons were killed, Monikonta massacre of April 2006 in which 15 unarmed villagers were killed after abduction, Errabore massacre of 17 July 2006 in which 31 persons were massacred and Halewada massacre where the Naxalites killed at least 12 persons in a powerful bomb blast near Halewada village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on 16 May 2006 – clearly stood out as the worst cases of the violations of the right to life.[1] 

    Therefore, among the armed opposition groups, the Naxalites stood out as the worst violators of international humanitarian laws.

    But, the Naxalites were not the only ones. The armed opposition groups in Jammu and Kashmir also targeted the Hindus. On 30 April 2006, at least 35 Hindus were massacred allegedly by the AOGs – 22 persons at two remote villages of Zienthwana and Manglote in Kulhand areas of Doda district[2] and 13 persons from Lolan Gala and Kela Top villages of Basantgarh in Udhampur district.[3]

    The indiscriminate use of explosives targeting the civilians was rampant. In Manipur, five persons including a ten-year-old-boy and a 70-year-old woman were killed and 50 others including foreign nationals injured when unidentified assailants exploded a grenade in the complex of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness temple in Imphal  on 16 August 2006.[4]

    It is not only the killings but also the sheer brutality and barbaric methods of torture used by the armed groups which drew attention. The dead bodies of those killed after being kidnapped often bore multiple wounds showing brutal methods of torture. According to some of abductees from Monikonta camp who were released on 29 April 2006 and interviewed by Asian Centre for Human Rights, the Naxalites “selected” 13 hostages, tied their hands from behind and blindfolded them. Then, the Naxalites allegedly stabbed them repeatedly before slitting their throats in front of other hostages. The released abductees were also allegedly denied adequate food and were forced to drink urine when they demanded water.[5]

    On the intervening night of 14 June and 15 June 2006, members of the unidentified AOGs reportedly chopped off the limbs of 13 Muslim villagers, including a woman identified as Fatha Begum, at Donga hamlet in Mahore area of Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir to create chilling fears. One of the victims, Abdul Ahad whose tongue and nose had been chopped off died at the Sub-district hospital at Mahore.[6]

    There were also allegations of rape. In January 2006 it was alleged that armed cadres of United National Liberation Front of Manipur allegedly gang raped 21 minor Hmar tribal girls, aged between 13 and 17 years, at Lungthulien village in the Tipaimukh division of Churachandpur district of Manipur.[7] Ms. Malini Bhattacharya of the National Commission for Women stated that though there was no direct medical evidence of rape, secondary evidence in the form of trauma, depression, psychological disorder and various other signs associated with rape and molestation, had been enough for her to come to the conclusion that the girls had been raped.[8]

    b. Government's failure to establish its own accountability

    The violations by the armed opposition groups do not give the license to the security forces to violate human rights and fundamental freedoms. But, violations by the armed groups were often used as excuse to justify human rights violations by the securiy forces. The killing of 14 tribals in indiscriminate police firing at Kalinga Nagar, Orissa on 2 January 2006 was the worst case of violation of the right to life perpetrated by the security forces during the year 2006.[9]

    In the case of Kalinga Nagar massacre, the authorities used equally barbaric methods. Out of the 14 persons killed in total, the dead bodies of six persons were sent for autopsy. The five dead bodies handed over to the Adivasis after post mortem had their palms chopped off from their wrists without the consent of the relatives of the deceased on the pretext of taking fingerprints. In addition, the genital organs of all six, including a woman, were mutilated during post mortem.[10]

    The security forces too were responsible for rape. On the night of 9 February 2006, three tribal women including a pregnant woman were allegedly gang raped and at least two girls were molested by the personnel of the 36th Battalion of the Assam Rifles at Sachindraroazapara in Dhalai district of Tripura during a search operation. The pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage and had to be admitted to north district hospital.[11] On 15 February 2006, two of the three rape victims recorded their statements before the Chief Judicial Magistrate confirming the assault by the soldiers.[12]

    In the 1990s, the authorities dismissed all human rights violations by the security forces as baseless allegations. Of late, the authorities started taking cognizance of some allegations of human rights violations. In the case of extra-judicial killing of Ajit Mahanta of Kakopathar under Tinsukia district of Assam, a military court in July 2006 found two soldiers - Nishant Sharma and Sudip Gurung - guilty of killing Ajit Mahanta. But the sentence was too lenient and was not commensurate with the crime of violation of the right to life. While Nishant Sharma was suspended from his service for one year, Sudip Gurung was merely sentenced to two months' rigorous military imprisonment. The award of  compensation of Rs 100,000 ($2,130) to the family of Mr Mahanta cannot simply condone the murder.

    Unless the government of India ensures accountability for human rights violations by the security forces, common citizenry is unlikely to see any distinction between the armed opposition groups and the security forces. This poses more serious threat to human rights and democracy.

    Suhas Chakma
    Director



    [1]. Naxal Conflict in 2006, Asian Centre for Human Rights, New Delhi, 10 January

    [2]. 31 civilians massacred in Doda, Udhampur - Bodies of 9 more abducted villagers recovered - 10 injured victims rushed to Jammu hospitals, The Kashmir Times, 2 May 2006 

    [3]. 31 civilians massacred in Doda, Udhampur - Bodies of 9 more abducted villagers recovered - 10 injured victims rushed to Jammu hospitals, The Kashmir Times, 2 May 2006 

    [4]. Grenade attack on ISKCON temple complex, The Hindu, 17 August 2006 

    [5]. Naxal Conflict Monitor, Vol II (April-June 2006), Asian Centre for Human Rights, http://www.achrweb.org/ncm/ncm-vol-2.pdf

    [6]. Limbs of 13 chopped off in J&K, The Deccan Chronicle, 17 June 2006

    [7]. In Manipur, tribal groups call for probe into rape by militants, The Indian Express, 7 March 2006

    [8]. Women were raped in Parbung: NWC, The Statesman, 4 June 2006

    [9]. Déjà Vu: One Year After the Kalinga Nagar Massacre, 2 January 2007, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network

    [10]. Déjà Vu: One Year After the Kalinga Nagar Massacre, 2 January 2007, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network

    [11]. Rape slur stalks Assam Rifles - Gangrape charge denied, high-level probe launched, The Telegraph, 14 February 2006

    [12]. Rape victims record statements, AR denies charges, The Shillong Times, 16 February 2006

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