ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Defining an Absence: Torture 'Debate' in India

This article focuses on the absence of a torture "debate" in India. The absence is striking when considered in relation to the National Human Rights Commission's statistics that there were 1,473 deaths in judicial custody and 124 in police custody in 2009-10. While the NHRC does not attribute all these deaths to custodial torture, there is a close link between the two as confirmed by many human rights groups. While this absence of a debate can be addressed at various levels, the paper articulates some of the theoretical framings that allow for a denial of torture to take place in India despite evidence of high levels of custodial deaths and torture. It suggests that the denial in multiple sites, most visible in the state discourses, contributes centrally to an absence of a public debate on torture in India.

Earlier versions of this article were presented at Azim Premji University, Bangalore in January 2014 and Center for Political Studies, JNU in February 2014 and I thank everyone who commented on the presentations. I am also grateful to Anupama Roy, Pratiksha Baxi and Sangay Mishra for their helpful comments on the article.

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