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Encounter deaths high in Assam

- House discusses misuse of AFSPA

New Delhi, May 22: Assam accounts for nearly half of the country’s encounter deaths registered by the National Human Rights Commission, government statistics show.

Of the 183 alleged fake encounter deaths (by the police, army and paramilitary forces) registered last year, 87 took place in Assam.

Besides, recorded cases have increased considerably in the past three years. The 31 cases registered in 2009-10 rose to 54 in 2010-11, which again rose by over 50 per cent to 87 cases last year.

Uttar Pradesh recorded 20 encounter deaths last year, a drop of over 50 per cent from 2010-11, while Manipur recorded 17 cases, some of which are related to human rights violations under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), home ministry sources conceded.

In terms of custodial killing allegations, Maharashtra led the race for infamy. Of the 134 cases registered by the NHRC, 20 were in Maharashtra followed closely at 16 in Uttar Pradesh and 13 in Andhra Pradesh. The statistics were provided by minister of state for home Jitendra Singh in a written answer in Lok Sabha today to a question on misuse of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The government said it was not possible to give specific figures of AFSPA since complaints of human rights violations were not categorised with reference to specific laws.

The statistics throw up some questions, too.

Assam has recorded high encounter deaths despite, as home minister P. Chidambaram said, militancy declining “dramatically” while some other states show very low registration of such deaths.

Sources said this could also be a reflection of increased registration of cases because of higher level of awareness.

Chhattisgarh, where Maoists rule the roost and allegations of human rights violations against the police are many, registered three cases of encounter deaths last year while Jharkhand registered nine cases and Andhra Pradesh eight. In Naxal-affected Odisha, the number dropped from 10 deaths in 2010-11 to five last year.

Singh, however, argued that the government maintains zero tolerance for human rights violations. He said human rights cells were part of army and paramilitary forces and troops were sensitised at regular intervals on the importance of upholding human rights.