India Maoist's bad human rights
New Delhi -India's Maoist rebels top the list of the worst human rights offenders among the myriad of insurgent groups in the country, a study on torture in the world's largest democracy said on Tuesday.
Rights group the Asian Centre for Human Rights, which brought out the report "Torture in India, 2010", also noted the total number of reported torture cases had risen between the years 2000 and 2008 in the country.
"The Maoists are the worst violators of human rights among all the armed groups in India. All their actions of killing and extortion have the sanction of their top leaders," Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based group, told reporters.
The report came exactly a week after 76 Indian paramilitary personnel were slaughtered by Maoists in central Chhattisgarh state.
According to the report, Maoists targeted ordinary people "in blatant disregard for the international humanitarian law" on suspicion of them being police informers, members of anti-Maoist civilian militia or not obeying their diktats.
India's Maoist insurgency began in the state of West Bengal in 1967 and has since spread to 20 of the country's 28 states. The federal home ministry says 908 people were killed last year in Maoist-linked violence.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the Maoists India's biggest internal security threat, but little is known about the movement's shadowy leadership or cadre strength, variously estimated at between 10 000 and 20 000.
30 militant groups
There are at least 30 militant groups operating in India's north-east bordering Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.
New Delhi is also battling an Islamist insurgency in Kashmir.
The Indian government also came in for criticism in the report, which said New Delhi was "failing in its efforts to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable for their actions, whether committed by the state, the Maoists or other armed opposition groups."
There was a 55% jump in prison deaths between 2000 and 2008 and a 20% rise in the number of police custody killings during the same period, the report said.
"This has happened, in part, during the term of the Congress-led coalition government, which has campaigned on a pro-poor and pro-common man platform," Chakma said.
The country set up a National Human Rights Commission in 1993 to examine cases of torture but it was inadequately staffed to enquire into the 100 000 complaints it was flooded with every year, Chakma said.
But on the whole, "India's track record is better than many Asian countries as it is one of the few to collect data, to have documentation of such crimes," he said.
"This reflects positively on the government."