In upholding constitutional guarantees of equality, freedom, justice and human dignity, the government of India should demonstrate its commitment to the eradication of caste violence and caste-based discrimination by implementing the following recommendations at the earliest possible date.
In particular, the government should implement measures designed to ensure that states abolish the practice of untouchability, in compliance with Article 17 of the constitution; commit to taking steps to prevent further violence and prosecute both state and private actors responsible for caste-motivated attacks on Dalit communities; enforce the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and other relevant legislation; and educate state agents and the Indian population on the rights and constitutional freedoms of all citizens.
Immediately and without fail, the government should disband the Ranvir Sena, prosecute and punish state and private actors responsible for abuses documented in this report, and place a high priority on the protection of Dalit women. Naxalite groups have also committed egregious abuses, including murders of landlords and their family members. Human Rights Watch condemns all such attacks on civilians.
Many of the recommendations that follow complement the major areas of action outlined above. In addition, Human Rights Watch recognizes that the problem of caste violence and caste-based discrimination cannot be resolved without a meaningful commitment to land and wage reform.
Recommendations to the Government of India
The Indian government should fully implement the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. In particular it should:
· Ensure that states constitute and oversee state- and district-level vigilance and monitoring committees, as required by Rules 16 and 17 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, for the purpose of properly implementing the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 [hereinafter the Atrocities Rules and the Atrocities Act]. This effort should ensure that a sufficient number of investigators (including appropriate representation of Dalit men and women) are included in the committees to guarantee full implementation of the act. Given the number of potential cases, the government should enlist lawyers, social workers, medical personnel, teachers, civil servants, and othersinvolved in Dalit issues as investigators. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives should also be consulted in the recruitment of investigators. Committees should submit their reports to district collectors to pursue prosecution. In turn, collectors should report on actions taken during committee meetings. Reports published by the committee should be made public, and in-depth training should be provided to district officials charged with enforcing the act.
· Ensure that states establish special courts in every revenue district and appoint special public prosecutors to try cases arising under the Atrocities Act.
· Ensure strict implementation of the Atrocities Act, as regards victims of violent abuse and other atrocities. Each police station should have a scheduled caste/scheduled tribe atrocities cell to handle investigations of abuses and alleged violations of the Atrocities Act. Each revenue district should also have a special deputy superintendent of police charged with investigating atrocities under the act. In keeping with the Atrocities Rules, police who refuse to register cases under the act should be punished accordingly. For full implementation of the act, these cells should be statutorily empowered to receive and address complaints of violations under the act and complaints of official misconduct. They should also be able to file first information reports (FIRs), the first step in prosecution of a criminal charge, when abuses are committed against Dalits. The cells should work closely with the vigilance and monitoring committees established under the Atrocities Rules to ensure full enforcement.
· Ensure immediate and full compensation by the district administration to victims of atrocities as per the Atrocities Rules. The value of property destroyed and crops damaged should be included in the compensation schedule. The committees appointed by the government under the rules to estimate loss should include NGOs in addition to government officials. In accordance with Rule 11, the district administration should also ensure that victims trial
expenses are paid.
· Provide training to district officials charged with enforcing the Atrocities Act and ensure that a copy of the act (translated into the local language) and accompanying rules are easily available and prominently posted in all local level police stations and available in all courts trying cases under the act.
· Statutorily empower the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to oversee implementation of the Atrocities Act in all states. Strengthen the capacity of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to operate legal cells and open branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate prosecution of cases. As recommended by the commission, amend Article 338 of the constitution to empower the commission to issue directions for corrective action and implement its findings.
· Strengthen the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women to operate branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate prosecution of cases. Amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 so that national and state human rights commissions are not automatically exempted from inquiring into matters already pending before a state commission or any other commission duly constituted under any law.
· Establish a civilian review board or civilian ombudsman committee comprising judges and lawyers to monitor police stations and ensure that Supreme Court guidelines on treatment of persons in custody, as established in D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, are strictly enforced. NGO input should also be solicited. Ensure that complaints against law enforcement personnel are promptly and thoroughly investigated by adequately trained investigatory staff. The agency should have the power to subpoena documents, summon witnesses, and enter the premises of police stations, lock-ups, and detention centers to conduct thorough investigations.
· Implement the recommendations made by the National Police Commission in 1980, specifically those that call for a mandatory judicial inquiry in cases of alleged rape, death, or grievous injury of people in police custody and the establishment of investigative bodies whose members should include civilians as well as police and judicial authorities.
· Ensure that each police station has adequate female police personnel, consistent with recommendations made by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Female police should record complaints submitted by women. Each police station should also have adequate scheduled caste and scheduled tribe personnel and enough financial resources to carry out investigations.
· Ensure strict implementation of the bonded labor-related provisions of the Atrocities Act. As Dalits constitute the majority of bonded laborers, the government should ensure that states and districts establish and oversee bonded labor vigilance committees, as required by the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976. The government should ensure that a sufficient number of investigators can be included in the committee to guarantee implementation of the act. Lawyers, social workers, teachers, civil servants, and others with ties to bonded laborers and their families should be enlisted as investigators. Nongovernmental organization representatives should be consulted in the recruitment of investigators. The government should provide in-depth training to district officials charged with enforcing the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976, as directed by the Supreme Court in Neeraja Chaudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1984.
· Ensure appropriate implementation of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, including prosecution of officials responsible for the perpetuation of the practice and non-rehabilitation of affected scavenger communities, the majority of which are Dalits. The government should ensure that states and districts constitute and oversee vigilance and monitoring committees with adequate representation of NGOs, women, and members of the scavenger communities. State governments should also train district officials charged with enforcing the act.
· Implement measures designed to ensure that states are in compliance with Article 45 of the constitution, which mandates free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of fourteen. Primary education is the first step in breaking the cycle of discrimination and caste-based employment.
· Incorporate education on relevant legislation for Dalits and women into school curricula (including education on the Atrocities Act and the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993).
· Launch a nationwide public awareness campaign regarding the legal prohibition of untouchability, atrocities and other forms of discrimination and violence against Dalits. This campaign should explain in simple terms what actions are legally prohibited, what recourse is available to Dalits and their families, and what the procedures are for filing an FIR. It should alsoinclude a program of public service announcements in all states aimed at sensitizing the population on Dalit issues and creating awareness of Dalit rights.
· Make available to the public government studies on issues affecting Dalits. Specifically, the government should release the white paper on reservations and the white paper on land reform. The first outlines the extent to which constitutional reservations have been implemented at the state and central level since independence. In particular, attention should be given to implementation of reservations in all ministries, in the secretariats of the prime minister and president, and in the police and judiciary. The second outlines the extent to which tenancy acts and acts that establish ceilings on single landowners holdings have been implemented in all states.
· Ensure that adequate financial resources are allocated to the proper functioning of the newly constituted government bodies under the seventy-third and seventy-fourth amendments to the Indian constitution. These amendments provide that in every panchayat (village council) and every municipality, seats shall be reserved for scheduled-caste and scheduled-tribe members in proportion to their representation in the population. Among the seats reserved for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, not less than one-third shall be reserved for women belonging to those castes or tribes. The government should work with intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to provide appropriate training to elected members of rural and urban bodies, including gender and caste sensitivity training. Women should take part in legal literacy workshops, and all those appointed to reserved panchayat positions should be provided legal protection to ensure that they are able to perform their duties.
The Indian government should provide full cooperation to relevant United Nations bodies in the implementation of the following recommendations:
· Invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, and on Violence against Women to visit India. The government should encourage them to include in their investigations allegations of illegal detention, abuse, and deaths of Dalits in police custody, of fake encounter killings, and of violence against Dalit women, including abuse by the police and by private upper-caste militias.
· Implement the recommendations of the 49th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In particular, the government should implement the recommendation that special measures be taken by the authorities to prevent acts of discrimination towards persons belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, and in the case where such acts have been committed, to conduct thorough investigations, to punish those found responsible and provide just and adequate reparation to the victims. As per committee recommendations, the committees findings should be available to the public in local languages.
· Promptly submit the Indian governments next periodic report on compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination to CERD, as this has been overdue since January 4, 1998. As requested by CERD, the report should include detailed information on the legislative aspects and the concrete implementation of the Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Constitution, as well as information on the powers and functions of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
· Promptly submit the Indian governments initial report on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as this has been overdue since August 8, 1994.
· Ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984.
Recommendations to All State Governments
In addition to recommendations outlined for the government of India, state governments should implement the following recommendations at the earliest possible date:
· Ensure full implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, including the appointment of special courts, special prosecutors, and vigilance and monitoring committees. Provide training in proper procedures under the act to judges and prosecutors charged with trying atrocities cases. (See related recommendations under Recommendations to the Government of India.)
· Ensure ratification and implementation of the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act, 1976 and ratify and implement the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. (See related recommendations under Recommendations to the Government of India.)
· Implement measures designed to ensure that states are in compliance with Article 46 of the constitution, which directs states to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of economic exploitation.
· Study and publicize the extent to which land and wage reforms have been implemented in the state. In particular, state governments should determine industry compliance with minimum and living wage standards, particularly those industries that employ a majority of Dalits, as well as the status of land reforms, land ceiling laws, and distribution of surplus land. The study should also review proof of ownership in land records, the extent of encroachment on scheduled caste/scheduled tribe lands. NGO participation should be ensured in the investigations.
· Take immediate steps to prevent further violence, social boycotts, and other forms of discrimination against Dalits and to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks and acts of discrimination in affected districts. Any officials or members of the police who fail to respond to repeated calls for protection from villagers, or fail to prosecute acts of violence or discrimination should also be prosecuted.
· Take decisive steps to ensure police agents use deadly force only as a last resort to protect life. Police agents should act in accordance with guidelines established in relevant state police manuals that meet international standards on use of force. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force or Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials emphasize that the use of force and firearms should be in consonance with respect for human rights and that deadly force should not be used against persons unless strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
· Take decisive steps to ensure that police do not conduct raids on villages or engage in arbitrary and unlawful destruction and seizure of property in response to caste clashes. Police involved in such activities should be promptly investigated by an independent judicial body and prosecuted accordingly.
· Ensure that investigations of complaints of violence against women include women investigators. Amend the Criminal Procedure Code so that rape victims are not restricted to approaching government hospitals for medical examinations and can instead be examined by any registered practitioner for the purposes of gathering evidence.
· Establish independent monitoring agencies to review cases of Dalits and Dalit activists detained under detention laws. All cases found to be without merit, or in violation of proper detention procedures, should be withdrawn.
· Compile and release state-level statistics on the number of atrocities committed against Dalits, the number of cases registered under the Atrocities Act, and the extent to which reservations have been implemented in the state. States should ensure that all NGOs and citizens have access to this information.
· Investigate the process of recruitment of police officers in the state to ensure that requirements of reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are met and that monetary bribes are not part of the police and judicial recruitment process. Prosecute and punish those found to have engaged in bribes or extortion while registering cases or conducting raids.
· Ensure speedy review and publication of findings by commissions of inquiry appointed by the state to investigate abuses against Dalits.
Recommendations Specific to Abuses Documented in this Report
Naxalites and other armed opposition groups are at all times obliged to respect minimum standards of humane behavior. These standards require that civilians and other protected persons be treated humanely, with specific prohibitions on murder, torture, or cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment. Groups engaging in armed struggle should look to the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions for additional guidance on the legal foundations of these basic principles. Additionally, the state government of Bihar should:
· Appoint an independent judicial body to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks in affected districts, including any officials or members of the police who failed to respond to repeated calls for protection for villagers or to prosecute previous acts of violence.
· Make special efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacks on women during the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre of December 1997, and other massacres.
· Investigate the role of the police in conducting raids on villages in the aftermath of massacres and in illegally destroying or seizing property. Police responsible for such abuses should be prosecuted and punished accordingly. Dalits who have lost property during such raids should be compensated.
· Disband the Ranvir Sena, an upper-caste private militia which has been implicated in the massacre of hundreds of Dalits since 1994.
· Provide full security to villagers against further private militia attacks. Relocate village-based police pickets away from upper-caste areas to areas more accessible and secure for lower-caste communities.
· Ensure that in all districts affected by caste clashes (particularly in Jehanabad, Patna, and Bhojpur) at least one senior officer is a member of the Dalit community.
The state government of Maharashtra should:
· Prosecute officers found guilty of killing and injuring hundreds of Dalits in Bombays Ramabai colony on July 11, 1997 when members of the Special Reserve Forces fired indiscriminately into a crowd of Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
· Prosecute and punish those officials held responsible by the Gundewar commission for the Ramabai killings.
The state government of Tamil Nadu should:
· Use an independent judicial body to promptly investigate and prosecute police involved in raids on villages during the southern district clashes from July 1995 to December 1998. Dalits who lost property during such raids should be compensated.
· Ensure that in all southern districts affected by caste clashes (particularly Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai, Madurai, and Theni) at least one senior officer is a member of the Dalit community.
Recommendations to the United Nations
· The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should ensure that all United Nations agencies working in India pay particular attention to the issue of caste violence and caste discrimination and develop programs and strategies designed to curb abuse and encourage accountability.
· Agencies should establish consultative mechanisms to seek Dalit NGO input in project design and evaluation.
· The World Health Organization should investigate and publicize the adverse health consequences arising from the practice of manual scavenging and promote measures to eliminate exposure of Dalits to hazardous work conditions.
· U.N. agencies that have programs for women in India, including WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, and UNIFEM, should use these programs to focus attention on the human rights implications of violence against Dalit women, including the role of official forces in perpetuating that violence.
· UNIFEM, in conjunction with the Indian government and NGOs, should expand its efforts in providing legal training to rural women elected as panchayat members.
Recommendations to the World Bank and Other International Lending Institutions
The World Bank and other international lending institutions operational in India should:
· Ensure that anti-discrimination measures are built into World Bank and Asian Development Bank-funded projects in areas where the problems of caste violence and caste discrimination are severe. As part of its commitment to good governance, the World Bank, as well as other international lending institutions, should establish ongoing dialogue with Dalit NGOs at all stages of the decision-making processbefore a loan is released, while the project is being implemented, and in the course of any post-project evaluation.
· Prior to approval of projects, and in consultation with NGOs, investigate the effect of proposed policies and programs on caste violence, caste discrimination, and discrimination against Dalit women, and explore ways in which programs could help alleviate violence and discrimination.
Recommendations to Indias Donors and Trading Partners
Indias donors and trading partners should:
· Encourage India to adopt the recommendations outlined above and use every opportunity to raise the problem of caste violence both publiclyat international meetings, congressional or parliamentary hearings, and in press conferencesand privately, at Consultative Group meetings and in meetings with relevant officials.
· Work to develop programs and strategies for bilateral and multilateral aid programs to India that would make funds available to promote legal literacy programs aimed at educating Dalits and in particular Dalit women on the laws that are designed to protect them; train rural women who are elected to panchayats; launch a series of sensitization campaigns aimed at educating the population on the rights of Dalits and human rights in general; set up the various independent monitoring agencies described above; strengthen the capacity of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Commission for Women to operate legal cells and open branch offices in all states; and train judicial and law enforcement personnelparticularly investigators of caste violenceon crimes against Dalits and gender-based crimes against Dalit women. Programs should also be devised that would enhance the recruitment of women investigators.
· Encourage India to implement the recommendations of the National Police Commission and to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Extrajudicial Executions, and Violence against Women.