Human Rights

Indian Police Still Using Torture In Punjab

Amnesty International, Jun 2003

Amnesty International says "torture and custodial violence" still takes place in prisons of the northern Indian state of Punjab, even though militancy ended there a decade ago.

It says this is largely because the criminal justice system, which evolved during the militancy period, allowed room for torture.

"Unless this trend is reversed and the procedures and attitudes which facilitated abuses during that period are dismantled, custodial violence will continue to take place in the state," Amnesty said.

It also says human rights violations had declined after the end of militancy in the early 1990s, but thousands of families were still waiting to know the fate of relatives who "disappeared" during the period.

"Until justice and truth is delivered to these families, the wounds left by the militancy period will remain open," the human rights watchdog said.

Separatist militants had been active in Punjab, where a bloody insurgency in the 1980s sought to create a Sikh nation called Khalistan.

Indian forces had largely quashed Sikh separatism by the early 1990s.

Amnesty says only a small number of police officers had been charged with torture and other human rights violations.

It says this has encouraged the police force to use torture rather than thorough investigations to solve crimes.

"Victims of torture today are most often those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, including women, dalits (lowest-caste Hindus) and the poorer sections of the community," the group said.

"Human rights activists are often victims of harassment and ill treatment."

Amnesty says action was rarely taken against policemen as the state's human rights watchdog has not been given sufficient powers.

"Punjab today should serve as a warning to states in India presently affected by armed conflicts, such as Jammu and Kashmir and states in the north-east," Amnesty said.

"Perpetrators of human rights violations must be held to account in situations of widespread and prolonged violence, if long-term repercussions for the enjoyment of human rights are to be avoided after the end of conflicts."

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