In 2007, Karnataka witnessed serious human rights violations against members of tribal groups. Between August and September 2007, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) received 100 complaints as of 21 September 2007 and called for reports from the authorities in 40 cases. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received eight cases of deaths in police custody and six cases of encounter deaths between 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.
The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission opened on 25 July 2007 after appointment of Justice S R Nayak as its first Chairperson. Though the SHRC was established in 2005, it could not function due to lack of members, resources, office space, funds and staff. In June 2005, before the commission came into being, the government had sanctioned 53 posts but only six persons reported for duty as of 21 September 2007. On 6 September 2007, Justice S R Nayak appealed to the state government to provide a separate building for the commission and more staff. He stated that the commission needed 160 staff members, including 42 personal staff, 58 administrative staff, 59 legal staff and 101 staff for the investigation wing.
The Judiciary was also hampered by delay. A total of 1,04,237 cases were pending with the Karnataka High Court and another 10,95,705 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts in the state as on 30 September 2007. As on 1 January 2008, there were six vacancies of judges in the Karnataka High Court. There were 217 vacancies of judges in the District and Subordinate Courts in the state as on 30 September 2007.
Human rights defenders faced harassment. On 8 March 2007, Dalit activist Mr Vasanth was arrested when he went to the Madikeri Town police station in Karnataka to seek information regarding a case of torture. He was assaulted by five policemen in custody in Madikeri Town police station and then shifted to Madikeri District jail. He was released on bail.
Apart from receiving complaints of eight cases of deaths in police custody and six cases of encounter deaths during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007, the NHRC also registered seven cases of illegal arrest, two cases of unlawful detention, nine cases of false implication of innocent persons, and 92 cases of “other police excesses” in Karnataka during 2006-2007.
On 6 March 2007, Yamanappa Devappa Jalhalli was allegedly tortured in custody by Surpur Circle Inspector S B Kattimni, Sub-Inspector Malappa Bidari and Constable T Ramulu at Surpur town in Gulbarga district. The policemen reportedly burnt Yamanappa’s genitals, back and chest. Jalhalli was taken into custody by the police after receiving a complaint that he was drunk and disorderly.
On 16 December 2007, Maqsood Shareef, a resident of Kondappa Badavane under Yelahanka police station in Bangalore, was allegedly tortured to death in the custody of Kengeri police station in Bangalore. He died at Jayadeva Hospital, Bangalore a few hours after he was taken into custody by the police.
In a few cases, the judiciary intervened. In July 2007, the Karnataka High Court asked the state government to pay compensation in two custodial death cases. On 3 July 2007, the Court directed the state government to pay Rs. 300,000 as compensation for the custodial death of Basappa Kuri in Dharwad in 2002. Again on 11 July 2007, the Court asked the state government to pay compensation of Rs. 250000 for the custodial death of one Dhananjaya of Bangalore at the Gnanabharati police station in 2004.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Government of India, 214 cases of atrocities against tribals were reported from Karnataka in 2006. These included four cases of killing, seven cases of rape and 117 cases registered under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, among others.
The rate of filing charge-sheet for crimes committed against tribals was 95.7% during 2006 but the conviction rate was only 4%. Out of total 259 cases in which trials were completed, only in 10 cases the accused were convicted and in other 240 cases the accused were acquitted.
The conditions of displaced tribals who now live in forest areas are deplorable. In August 2007, the Adivasi Mulabhuta Hakkugala Horata Samiti alleged that the Forest Department officials were making the lives of the tribals living in the “hadis” (tribal settlements) inside the Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka miserable by restricting their movement and lodging of false cases against them. The tribals were repeatedly booked for growing paddy, ginger, vegetables and coffee in and around their habitations in the forests and transporting them outside the forests to sell them to earn their livelihood.
In December 2006, nearly 78 tribal families were evicted from the Saragodu Reserve Forest in Chikmagalur district on the direction of the Supreme Court who termed the tribals as “encroachers”. After their eviction, the tribal IDPs were asked by the government to fend for themselves. The State government promised to provide to each family two acres of land, Rs 50,000 for a girl who had attained marriageable age and money for construction of house but as of 19 February 2007 the evicted tribals were given nothing. Earlier in January 2006, the tribal people petitioned to the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes against the eviction notice. The tribals rejected the government’s resettlement package as it did not include the names of several families who were in the voters' list as well as in school documents. The tribals demanded that the resettlement package be converted into a development package and the lands being cultivated by tribals in the Saragodu Reserve Forests should be regularised.
The state government failed to prevent further alienation of the lands of tribal people. According to the Annual Report 2007-08 of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, a total of 42,582 cases alleging alienation of 130,373 acres of land have been filed in the court in Karnataka. The courts disposed off 38,521 cases out of which 21,834 cases involving 67,862 acres of land have been decided in favor of tribals and 16,687 cases involving 47,159 acre of land have been rejected. About 4,061 cases were pending in the court.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs, 1,730 cases of atrocities were reported against Scheduled Castes in 2006 in Karnataka. These included 28 cases of killing, 27 cases of rape, four cases of abduction/kidnapping, 25 cases registered under the Protection of Civil Rights Act and 1,051 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989.
The rate of filing charge-sheets for crimes committed against the Dalits was 92.3% during 2006 but the conviction rate was only 2.3%. Out of total 1519 cases in which trials were completed, only in 35 cases the accused were convicted and in other 1484 cases the accused were acquitted. Mr Nehru C. Olekar, the chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes stated on 3 July 2007 that the accused in 98% of cases involving violations of human rights of the Dalits were allowed to go free as witnesses in most cases did not turn up for fear of being attacked by the upper castes.
Dalits were targeted for accessing public places. On 13 April 2007, upper caste Hindus attacked Dalits at K. Shettahalli in Mandya district. At least 20 Dalits including women were injured in the attacked launched by members of dominant Vokkaliga community. The upper caste Hindus attacked the Dalits after a few Dalit youths swam in the Lokapavani River. Leaders of both the communities tried to resolve the differences at a meeting. However, more than 20 armed men belonging to Vokkaliga community attacked the Dalits within minutes of the completion of meeting.
According to the 2006 Annual Report of the NCRB, a total of 6,084 cases of violence against women were reported in 2006. Of these, 400 were rape cases, 328 kidnapping and abduction cases, 244 dowry death cases, 786 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others.
Crimes against women were committed by the police. The NHRC registered one case of custodial rape in Karnataka during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
In October 2007, the SHRC intervened after an undertrial prisoner Asha (name changed), lodged at the Central prison at Parapanna Agrahara, alleged that she was raped by police constable CC Basavaraj of Koramangal police station while in judicial custody. The victim along with her husband were illegally detained at the Koramangala police station for almost a week and tortured by the police.
The NCRB recorded 276 cases of crime against children in Karnataka during 2006. These included 54 cases of murder, 84 cases of rape 62 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 6 cases under the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1978.
Child labour remained a problem. In 2003, the State government of Karnataka had claimed to have put in place an action plan that would end child labour in the state in the next four years i.e. by 2007. In 2002, it had conducted a survey and identified 7,112 children employed in hazardous jobs and 32,118 in non-hazardous jobs. But a study conducted in 2006 by the Institute for Social and Economic Change for the International Labour Organisation’s “Karnataka Child Labour Project” found that there were nearly 60,000 child labourers (age group 4-14 years) in Bidar and Chamarajanagar districts alone. The study showed that 34 per cent of child labourers in Bidar and 30 per cent of child labourers in Chamarajanagar worked between 5 and 8 hours every day. Around 40 per cent of the child labourers in both districts were employed in hazardous jobs.
In July 2007, the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Karnataka government on the large number of out-of-school children. According to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, at least 80,863 children were out of school in Karnataka of whom at least 60,516 (age group 7-14) were drop-outs while 20,347 had never been to school.
Juvenile justice remained deplorable.
Juveniles were kept in the Observation Home from seven months to more than one
year without being chargesheeted. There were over 70 per cent of the children
in the Observation Home in Madivala who had long crossed the remand limit of
six months under the Juvenile Justice Act Rule. Under the JJ Act Rule, the
enquiry against a child apprehended by police for an offence should be
completed within six months. In March 2007,
NHRC issued notice to Karnataka government on the issue.
Prison conditions remained deplorable. According to NHRC, 56 cases of deaths in judicial custody were registered in Karnataka during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
Karnataka has 98 jails with sanctioned capacity for 11,799 prisoners. But as of 15th February 2007, there were a total of 12,732 prisoners, including 480 females. Majority of them (8,575) were under-trial prisoners.
In addition, there were also 31 children below the age of six years, including 15 girls, living in the jails along with their mothers. There is no separate jail for female prisoners in Karnataka. They are kept in separate enclosures in the jails guarded by female staff.
From 2002-03 to 2006-07, the State government was allotted Rs.53.90 crore (inclusive of Central and State share of allocation) for modernizing prisons but the state government spent only Rs.44.19 crore as of 31 December 2006. Out of the total allocation of Rs.53.90 crore during 2002-03 to 2006-07, 21.51 crore was for construction of new prisons, 16.32 crore for expansion and renovation of existing prisons, 0.91 crore for improvement of sanitation and water supply, and 15.16 crore for construction of staff quarters.
In 2007, several prisoners died, some of them due to alleged denial of medical care.
On 9 February 2007, an under-trial prisoner identified as Mahadeve Gowda of Berambadi in Gundlupet taluk allegedly died as he could not get sufficient medical treatment at the sub-jail in Nanjangud in Mysore district.
On 1 July 2007, under-trial prisoner, Tippeswamy, resident of Pavagada taluk of Tumkur district, died under circumstances of concern in the Chitradurga district jail. According to jail authorities, he died of injuries after he was allegedly attacked by members of the Korangu gang inside the jail.
On 17 December 2007, an under-trial prisoner identified as Krishna Naik (30) allegedly died of torture in the K.R. Nagar Sub-Jail in Mysore. On 10 December 2007, the deceased was arrested in a forest related case and detained at K.R. Nagar Sub-Jail.
The jails in the state did not have proper facilities to allow prisoners to meet and discuss legal matters with their lawyers. In October 2007, the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission directed the Director-General of Police (Prisons) of Karnataka “to provide a suitable and conducive place where advocates and other visitors meet the prisoners” following a complaint that about 35 to 40 under-trial prisoners meet their advocates in a small room and the time allowed for meeting was not sufficient to facilitate legal access.
VIII. Special focus: farmer suicides
As many as 20,093 farmers committed suicide in Karnataka during 1997-2005 as a result of crop failures. In February 2007, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, a farmers’ association, alleged that over 12,000 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the last three years.
On 29 September 2006, the Union Cabinet approved a Rs.16,978.69-crore rehabilitation package for farmers in 31 districts of Andhra Pradesh (16 districts), Karnataka (6 districts), Kerala (3 districts) and Maharashtra (6 districts of Vidarbha region). The package comprised loan rescheduling and interest waiver, and specific schemes for watershed development, seed replacement, horticulture and extension services, and for subsidiary income through livestock, dairying and fisheries. Under the package which would be implemented in a period of three years, Karnataka’s share was Rs. 2,689.64 crore which included an interest waiver of Rs. 209.81 crore.
Under Special Livestock Package, Rs 16.05 crore was sanctioned to Karnataka by the Centre during 2006-07 for the farmers. But as of 8 June 2007, no funds had been utilised by the state government. This has been certified by Karnataka’s Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Commissioner on 8 June 2007. The relief operations in the state were hampered by political considerations. Despite clear notification from the Central government that Karnataka Livestock Development Agency would be the implementing agency of relief to farmers, the state cabinet of Karnataka in January 2007 handed over relief implementation to the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) whose chairman was Energy Minister H D Revanna, brother of then Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.
On 26 December 2007, a fact finding team comprising of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, P.D.F., Agricultural Labours Association, Samata Vedike, Revolutionary Youth Association and Pedestrian Pictures conducted an on-the-spot investigation into the suicide of two farmers - Manjunath and Siddaraju of Hosapura village in Mysore district and Harave village of Chamaraj Nagar district of Karnataka respectively. The two farmers had taken loans from ICICI Bank (a private bank) to buy a tractor. The team observed that “Capital has become scarce in rural economy. Farmers, who are already in a debt trap, courtesy private money lending, are hankering for loans from Banks and other government institutions. In this situation the Banks, especially private one, are resorting violent methods to recover dues from the farmers which has driven the farmers to suicides. Globalization policies have forced the farmers to approach private Banks for finance, as Nationalised banks and Co operative banks are shirking from their responsibilities in implementing welfare schemes.”
The Maoists insurgency is slowly expanding in Karnataka and the Maoists are reportedly active in Bidar, Gulbarga, Bellary, Raichur, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan, Kodagu, Tumkur and Kolar areas.
The police killed innocent civilians in the name of anti-Naxalite operations. On 10 July 2007, five tribals were killed by police in an alleged encounter near Menisinahadya in Koppa taluk of Chikmagalur district. The police claimed that the deceased were “Naxalites”.
The Naxalites executed alleged police informers. On 3 June 2007, the Naxalites shot dead Venkatesh, a shopkeeper, in front of his wife and son at Gandaghatti village near Sringeri in Chikmagalur district for =being a “police informer”.
Naxalites destroyed public property. On 1 July 2007, alleged Naxalites burned down a Karnataka State Transport bus after forcing the passengers, driver and the conductor to get down at Hosagadde in Shimoga district.
1. State human rights panel bedevilled by problems, The Hindu, 22 September 2007
2. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
3. Justice Nayak takes over as State HRC chief, The Deccan Herald, 26 July 2007
4. State human rights panel bedevilled by problems, The Hindu, 22 September 2007
5. State Human Rights Commission waits for building, staff, Deccan Herald, 7 September 2007, available at http://www.deccanherald.com/CONTENT/Sep72007/state2007090723917.asp
Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007,
available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf
human rights defender released on bail, FrontLine,
8. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
9. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
10. Human Rights – Burning of private parts of a suspect - NHRC turns heat on state, The Deccan Herald, 12 March 2007
11. NHRC seeks report on police torture, The Deccan Herald, 17 March 2007
12. Death sparks tension, The Deccan Herald, 17 December 2007
13. Compensation for custodial death, The Hindu, 12 July 2007
National Crime Record Bureau, Annual Report 2006,
National Crime Record Bureau, Annual Report 2006,
National Crime Records Bureau, Annual Report 2006,
17. Tribal people complaint of harassment by officials, The Hindu, 9 August 2007
18. Forest officials harassing us, say tribal people, The Hindu, 23 July 2007
19. Saragodu evacuees yet to get compensation, The Deccan Herald, 19 February 2007
20. Tribal people reject resettlement package, The Hindu, 7 January 2006
National Crime Record Bureau, Annual Report 2006,
National Crime Record Bureau, Annual Report 2006,
The National Crime Records Bureau, Annual
25. ‘Protect witnesses in cases of atrocities against Dalits’, The Hindu, 4 July 2007
26. K. Shettahalli Dalits living in fear despite presence of RAF, police, The Hindu, 15 April 2007
27. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
28. SHRC discovers third instance - Woman 'raped' while in police custody, The Deccan Herald, 16 October 2007
29. Karnataka plans to end child labour by 2007, The Hindu Business Line, 14 June 2003
30. Target of eliminating child labour by 2007 unlikely to be achieved in State, The Hindu, 1 September 2006 available at http://www.thehindu.com/2006/09/01/stories/2006090102250500.htm
31. NHRC notice to Ktaka govt on out-of-school children, The Deccan Herald, 27 July 2007
32. 70 pc of juveniles overshoot remand, The Deccan Herald, 9 February 2007
33. NHRC slaps notice on State over DH report, The Deccan Herald, 27 March 2007
34. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC through RTI application
35. Source: Karnataka Prison, see http://www.karnataka-prisons.org/reforms/profile3.htm
Karnataka Prison, see http://www.karnataka-prisons.org/reforms/profile4.htm
37. Source: Karnataka Prison, see http://www.karnataka-prisons.org/reforms/profile6.htm
38. Source: Karnataka Prison, see http://www.karnataka-prisons.org/reforms/profile6.htm
39. Undertrial dies in Nanjangud jail, The Hindu, 10 February 2007
40. Officials seek probe into undertrial’s death, The Hindu, 4 July 2007
41. Prisoner’s death to be probed, The Hindu, 19 December 2007
42. KSHRC wants better conditions for undertrials, The Hindu, 31 October 2007
43. “One farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes” by P. Sainath, The Hindu, 15 November 2007
44. Suicide by farmers: sangha to protest, The Hindu, 11 February 2007
45. Package for farmers, The Hindu, 30 September 2006
46. A yr after it got 16-cr as relief for farmers, Karnataka says not a single paisa spent, The Indian Express, 23 July 2007
Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL),
48. Karnataka naxal movement splits, The Hindu, 14 February 2007
49. ‘Police action a violation of rights’, The Hindu, 12 July 2007
50. Naxals kill police informer, The Deccan Herald, 4 June 2007
51. Naxals torch KSRTC bus, The Deccan Herald, 1 July 2007