National Project on Preventing Torture in India
National Project on Preventing Torture in India was a unique, short-term project intended to demonstrate and combat the widespread use of torture in India, with a deliberate focus on torture practices routinely employed by police and protecting those on the margins of Indian society, such as Dalit, tribal groups, minorities, women, and children.¬† The Project was developed by People‚Äôs Watch and has been implemented with local partners in nine states in India. This initiative was made possible by the funding and support of Friedrich Naumann Stiftung and a grant from the European Union under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. The project was created and implemented through a two-pronged approach to decrease the prevalence of torture in India. The two stages included,
- Formation of nine state-wide networks to monitor instances of torture and to intervene on behalf of victims.
- A national campaign against torture that uses monitoring data to develop public awareness, to train professionals, to improve institutional responses to abuse, and to lobby for India‚Äôs ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UN CAT) and its Optional Protocols.
The project began in 2006 and 2008 was the final implementation year of the Project.
In the first stage of the project, People‚Äôs Watch created nine state-wide networks to monitor instances of torture and intervene on behalf of individual victims. Volumes of incident reports were collected for the following 9 States in India: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar.
People‚Äôs Watch then launched a national awareness campaign, citing the extensive monitoring data, to 1) generate public and professional condemnation of torture practices within a wider culture of rights, 2) improve enforcement of and adherence to existing constitutional guarantees, and 3) lobby for ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and stricter domestic laws in India‚Äôs Parliament and the individual state legislative assemblies.
A major component of the national awareness campaign was a series of state-level awareness cum training programs geared towards those professions‚ÄĒlawyers, judges, social activists, doctors, psychiatrists, journalists, and teachers‚ÄĒto play a role in the elimination of torture. Police themselves were treated as constructive partners rather than adversaries in this project, and were given awareness training.
After India signed the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Indian Government has finally initiated steps to have a law against torture by making it a punishable offence. The Bill was drafted in the last year of the Project (2008), which undoubtedly was the result of the lobbying effort taken through the project by putting pressure on the institutions to take action to create laws to protect victims of torture and make it a punishable crime.¬†
The third year of the project envisaged a series of People‚Äôs Tribunals on Torture conducted in each of the 9 project States culminated with the National People‚Äôs Tribunal on Torture. The purpose was to show case the coexistence of a wide prevalence of torture and impunity not any longer as an exceptional case in this country, but as a day-to-day occurrence affecting the poorest of poor. Feeling the necessity for a participatory democratic process into action in the combat against torture requires a multi-actor response rather than individual responses.¬†
Subsequent to the fact finding missions and the legal interventions undertaken in the 3 year program during 2006-2008, People‚Äôs Watch extended the legal interventions to continue in seven states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) till June 2010 as many cases were in progress and it would defeat the purpose of the Project if they were dropped. For the perpetrators of torture to be prosecuted and the victims to get the justice they deserve, it was of utmost importance that the Project continued to undertake ‚Äėmeta legal interventions‚Äô before the authorities at the district level and the Human Rights Institutions at the State and National level.