The World Sikh Organization (WSO), while expressing disappointment at India’s continuing disregard for human rights, is not surprised by the latest findings on India’s atrocious human rights record by the Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR). In its report, “Torture in India 2008: A State of Denial,” the ACHR reported that between 2002 and 2007, 7 468 people died or were killed in police custody across India. At least an equal number died in the custody of the Armed Forces. Many of these deaths were attributed to torture, which the ACHR says is widespread across India. According to the ACHR, the response of Indian authorities to claims of torture and custodial deaths has been almost non-existent. In other words, Killing of detainees by police and military is normal business and does not warrant any response.
India’s abysmal human rights record has been under scrutiny lately. On April 7th, 2007, The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the UNHRC to demand that India accept the recommendation of various government-appointed experts and repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, "which has allowed widespread human rights violations by security forces with impunity" as well as immunity clauses in Indian law.
The WSO has been highlighting and documenting India’s poor human rights record for the last 24 years. There were thousands upon thousands of custodial deaths in Punjab throughout the 80’s and the 90’s. Even prominent human rights activists like Jaswant Singh Khalra, whose focus was on documenting custodial deaths in Punjab were not spared. Mr. Khalra became a victim in 1995, when he was picked up by the Punjab Police, was tortured and killed in custody. While junior Punjab Police officials were convicted of his killing in 2005, but senior officials like KPS Gill implicated in the case roam freely. “We welcome this report and hope that many people, dazzled by India’s economic progress would take a breath and take notice of India’s horrible human rights record, and deplore the ugly reality inside India, said,” Gurpreet Singh Bal, WSO Canada President.
The ACHR report has called India’s stance on torture “indefensible”, and pointed out that India has continued to ignore repeated recommendations aimed at eradicating torture. These include passing a national law against torture and ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which India is a signatory to, but has not ratified. India also holds the record for refusing an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture for the longest period of time, since 1993.
Commenting on the report, Gian Singh Sandhu, WSO’s Senior Policy Adviser, expressed disappointment at the fact that there has thus far been no accountability for human rights abuses in India. It’s clear that India will not hold the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity accountable. It’s up to countries like Canada and other Western nations, which do business with India and have some clout, to hold India accountable. Sandhu urged Canadian politicians to not let economic interests override human rights concerns. “India has seen tremendous economic progress over the last decade, but this has not translated into any positive impact in the area of human rights. Canadian politicians must strive to ensure that fundamental human rights and basic liberties are upheld, not only in Canada but in every country they do business with.”
The World Sikh Organization (WSO) is a non-profit international umbrella organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.
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