Just days after 76 security personnel were killed by Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh, a long-pending bill to prevent torture has been cleared by the cabinet for introduction in parliament, which aims to align Indian law with the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Activists have for years demanded ratification of the 1984 U.N. convention, which India signed 13 years ago, to curb alleged brutalities by state agencies especially in disturbed areas like Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and the “red corridor” where Maoists operate.
But some cabinet members reportedly felt the bill was ill-timed in the wake of the Dantewada killings, arguing it could be demoralising for security forces who are trying to maintain security in hostile environments.
The police and security forces are often accused of using violence to extract confessions from suspects, and activists say hundreds of custodial deaths and other alleged human rights violations stoke separatist sentiments in Kashmir and contribute to the growth of Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Special legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives extra powers to the armed forces, have been blamed for many rights violations especially in the north-eastern state of Manipur, where protests demanding the repeal of the act are common.