A recent report by the New Delhi-based organization, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), documents India’s the sordid record when it comes to custodial and extrajudicial deaths. They report that since 2001, 14,231 people died in police or judicial custody in India. Some of the cases may not be due to misconduct, but according to the ACHR, “a large majority of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody.”
Amnesty International has been demanding a thorough investigation into 31 unlawful killings by police in the state of Gujarat during 2002-2006. This is not to mention coming to grips with the massacres of minorities in the state that left hundreds dead.
Our research indicates a pattern of extrajudicial killings in Gujarat where at least 16 of 31 killings have been carried out by the same set of police officials who claim that those shot dead were “terrorists”, conspiring to either kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi or other leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or intending to set off explosions.
In at least a couple of cases, we can report a little bit of progress. The Gujarat High Court ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into the 2004 shootings of four “terrorist” suspects. The high court order offers a ray of hope for the families of Ishrat Jehan and Javed Shaikh who have fought a legal battle for the last seven years.
Investigations into a select few cases, while many others are ignored, signals that impunity continues to prevail in Gujarat. Authorities must investigate all 31 unlawful police killings in 2002-2006, those responsible for these deaths must be brought to justice and the rule of law restored.