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Abusive counter-terrorism tactics, such as torture, are routinely used by Indian police and may actually be boosting militancy in the country, a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
According to the report, there is evidence of discrimination, harassment and stereotyping of Muslims by law enforcement authorities, leading to feelings of disquiet amongst the minority community in officially secular India.
"Allegations of torture are often used as propaganda for recruitment (by militant groups)," said HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly.
"When torture happens, it is used to bring in other Muslims who are told that their community is under threat."
India remains vulnerable to militant attacks such as the November 2008 strike in Mumbai which killed 166 people. Earlier that year, a home-grown Islamist group set off bombs in three cities, including New Delhi.
The attacks have heightened suspicions that Muslims, who form 13% of India's 1.2 billion population, are involved or support militant attacks. Critics say these biases have led to the community unfairly being targeted in police probes.
The group said torture had become a common tool to gain information, mainly because police and intelligence agencies were overstretched and underequipped.
"The shortcomings of state police forces ... have resulted in ineffectual investigations and widespread abuses in counter-terrorism efforts. Police capacity to collect and analyse forensic evidence is minimal," said the report.
HRW said courts and human rights investigators often appeared uninterested or ineffectual in pursuing violations.
Indian authorities deny there is official complicity in such abuses, adding that those found guilty of such offences are convicted.
This is not the first time India has been in the spotlight over torture, despite the country's domestic laws and international commitments.
In 2005, the Red Cross told the US embassy in New Delhi of widespread human rights violations by Indian security forces in restive Kashmir, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks and later confirmed by the humanitarian group.
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