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‘Jharkhand State seriously failing in protecting the Human Rights of its people’ - ACHR

The Asian Centre for Human Rights, a centre dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia,
declares
‘Jharkhand State seriously failing in protecting the Human Rights of its people’

Stan Swamy

Some extracts from its 2008 - Report

Both the Naxalites and the security forces were responsible for serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and torture. The Maoists targeted political activists.

The NHRC revealed in July 2007 that there were as many as 84,000 cases of human rights violations under consideration of the NHRC out of which 3,000 were from Jharkhand. However, Jharkhand government failed to establish a State Human Rights Commission.

The Adivasis continued to face serious human rights abuses. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 332 cases of crimes against Scheduled Tribes were reported in Jharkhand during 2006.

Tribals have been arrested under false charges when they tried to access minor forest produce in Jharkhand. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against tribals as of 12 August 2007 for claiming land rights by tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

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II. Human rights violations by the security forces
a. Violations of the right to life

The NHRC received three cases of police custody death in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007. It also reported two cases of ‘encounter deaths’ during the same period.
b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

the NHRC received two cases of illegal arrest, two cases of unlawful detention, one case of disappearance and 128 cases of other police excesses in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007. The police failed to take action in 144 cases. The police often tortured the accused persons during interrogation.

III. Violations of International Humanitarian Law by the AOGs

The Maoists were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. According to a report prepared by the Jharkhand Police, 70 per cent of the people killed by Maoists belong to tribal and Dalit communities.
a. Violations of the right to life

28 civilians were killed by the Maoists during January to September 2007. Political leaders and police informers were specifically targeted.

The Maoists continued to kill alleged police informers. The Naxalites continued to organise Jana Adalats, Peoples Court, to impose Maoist ‘justice’.
b. Destruction of public properties

The Naxalites continued to destroy of public property.
IV. Judiciary and administration of justice

The judiciary continued to limited by judicial delay in Jharkhand. Yet, there were 11 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 20 judges in the Jharkhand High Court as on 1 January 2008. There were 66 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 503 vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007. Besides, there were a total of 49,276 cases pending with the Jharkhand High Court and a total of 2,63,901 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2007.

There has been lack of tribal representation in the judiciary of Jharkhand. Though the tribals constitute about one third (nearly 80 lakh) of the total population of the state, as of 18 May 2007, there was not a single tribal representative as a high court judge or district judge. There were about 300 lawyers from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women out of the 1,836 practitioners registered with the Advocates Association of Jharkhand High Court. The state judicial service officers’ strength was about 430. Significantly, the law officers, appointed by the state government, to argue its cases in various courts, including the high court, did not have a tribal member either.

V. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples

The National Crime Records Bureau of the government of India reported a total of 332 cases of crimes against the Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 13 cases of murder, 21 cases of rape, 13 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 91 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act of 1989, among others.

The conditions of the tribals were deplorable due to government’s apathy in Jharkhand. The Sabar tribes, one of the oldest in the Chottanagpur Plateau, were on the verge of extinction due to government’s apathy. In Darisai village, once dominated by over 200 Sabar families, was left with a mere 11 families consisting of only 47 people as on February 2007.
a. Land alienation and displacement

In Jharkhand, cases of alienation of tribal land have risen despite two laws - Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Parangan Tenancy Act to prevent sale of tribal land to non-tribals in the state. A total of 2,608 cases have been filed by tribals with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2003-2004, which increased to 2,657 cases in 2004-2005 and further to 3,230 cases in 2005-2006. As of January 2007, 3,789 cases have been filed with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2007.

Lack of lawyers to take up land-related cases of the tribals further delayed adjudication. Around 5,500 land-related cases of tribals were pending in various district courts in Jharkhand as of March 2007. The government of Jharkhand had an annual budget of Rs 50 lakh to provide legal assistance to poor tribals to pursue their land-related cases. However, less than 10 per cent of the total allocated budget was spent over the last six years. Lawyers were unwilling to fight cases on behalf of tribals seeking government assistance. The offer of Rs 5,000 per case was cited as one of the main reasons for pendency of land-related cases in courts.

In February 2007, the Supreme Court allowed a tribal petitioner to file a fresh petition before the Jharkhand High Court for recovery of his land from a mining company. In its order, the Supreme Court held that the Jharkhand High Court was wrong to dismiss the petition of Surendra Dehri, a tribal who alleged that over 10,000 acres of “notified tribal land” had been usurped by mining contractors in connivance with the government officials. The High Court had dismissed his petition saying that it involved only “private interest”. But a bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar stated that a clear violation of constitutional guarantees given to the tribals could not be held to be related to “private interest”.

The tribals of Jharkhand have also been protesting against the implementation of Koel Karo hydroelectric project by National Hydroelectric Corporation over the Koel and Karo rivers. The project, if implemented, would submerge as many as 256 villages involving 50,000 acres of forest area, 40,000 acres of agricultural land and 300 forest groves (considered sacred by the tribals), 175 churches and 120 Hindu temples.
b. Repression under the forest laws

The tribals have been intimidation and abuse including arrest for accessing minor forest produce. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against the tribals as of 12 August 2007. Most of these cases related to the claims of land rights by the tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

On 12 August 2007, the government of Jharkhand ordered the release of all tribals who had been lodged in various jails in the state in connection with cases registered by the Forest Department and to pay compensation to all the villagers who had lost their paddy fields and vegetable farms due to forcible plantation undertaken by the state’s Forest Department.

VI. Violence against women

Violence against women including rape and dowry deaths continued to be reported. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 2,979 cases of crimes against women were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 799 cases of rape, 410 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 281 cases of dowry death, 668 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 414 cases of molestation, 11 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others.

The security forces were responsible for violence against women and children. Tribal women were especially targeted for sexual violence.

VII. Violations of the rights of the child

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 112 cases of crimes against the children were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 9 cases of murder, 28 cases of rape, 11 cases of kidnapping and abduction, among others.

The provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), 2000 continued to be violated. Children were often tortured in homes/orphanages.

The security forces continued to occupy schools for military purposes, thereby making the schools targets of the Naxalites. As of mid-April 2007, 25 schools were converted into police camps. Many schools remained closed over the last five years. Estimates put the number of affected students at 12,000. A few schools such as Chatrapur Middle school of Daltanganj had been closed since 1990. Many schools have not been totally closed but the security personnel live in the school buildings. Often, children were forced to learn their lessons in the open sky, apart from living under the fear of the attacks by Maoists.

VIII. Violations of the prisoners’ rights

the NHRC received 59 cases of death in judicial custody in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007.

[source: ACHR’s quarterly newsletter, Naxal Conflict Monitor series of 2007.]

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