Status of human rights in India, Muslim community worst hit
Syyed Mansoor Agha: Mr. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the outgoing U.N. human rights chief expressed his anguish at the state of Human Rights and dared to accuse “the veto-wielding members of the UNSC of being second only to criminals who kill and maim when it comes to responsibility for some of the world’s most egregious rights violations.” His address(1) in Geneva on 26th Feb echoed the findings of Amnesty International.(2)
The Amnesty, in its report(3) for 2017 has warned against the severity of violations and cursed the support thereof by the politicians. The front page highlight says “Over the past year, leaders have pushed hate, fought against rights, ignored crimes against humanity, and blithely let inequality and suffering spin out of control.”
On growing notion of non-tolerance, the report said, “In 2017, the world witnessed a rollback of human rights. Signs of a regression were everywhere. Across the world, governments continued to clamp down on the rights to protest, and women’s rights took a nosedive in the USA, Russia, and Poland.”
It should make all the people worried who have a beating heart and not just a lump of flash. Mr. Hussein felt anguished over the killing in Syria. We share the pain of ongoing genocide of Rohingya in Myanmar.
The Gen. Sec. of Amnesty, Mr. Salil Shetty, opened his forward, “Throughout 2017, millions across the world experienced the bitter fruits of a rising politics of demonization. Its ultimate consequences were laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.”
Where stands India?
Including India, the Amnesty report covers 159 countries around the globe. We are saddened to note that the Human Rights are alarmingly under threat in the US and India, respectively the largest and second largest democratic welfare states. These two may be bracketed amongst chillingly high violators, India within her territories and US beyond the seas. The political agenda of the rulers is highly apathetic to the issue. It is genuinely reported that in India, the severity of anti-human rights incidents is unabated against SC/ST, tribal, and especially the Muslims. Though acknowledged by the law and the constitution, their fundamental rights are being denied and the country is being pushed into the old-age apartheid and cast discrimination. Majoritarianism is over-shadowing the basic tenants of secular democracy and liberalism.
The opening sentence of Amnesty report on India said, “Religious minority groups, particularly Muslims, faced increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media, and some state officials.” “Hate crimes against the Dalit have remained widespread.”
We feel that the hateful atmosphere being engineered aggressively since the 1980s is more dangerous than anything else for the country. After 2002 trail in Gujarat, is India slipping into another Bosnia-Herzegovina or Myanmar, is a perturbing question. Indicating unethical role of political leadership and the state administration, the report said, “Authorities were openly critical of human rights defenders and organizations, contributing to a climate of hostility against them. Mob violence intensified, including by vigilante cow protection groups.”
Communal and Ethnic Violence: Under this subheading, the report noted, “Dozens of hate crimes against Muslims took place across the country. At least 10 Muslim men were lynched and many injured by vigilante cow protection groups, many of which seemed to operate with the support of members of the ruling BJP. Some arrests were made, but no convictions were reported.”
In September, Rajasthan police cleared six men accused of killing Pehlu Khan(7), a dairy farmer who had named the suspects before he died. Some BJP officials made statements which appeared to justify the attacks. The SC said that state governments were obligated to compensate victims of cow vigilante violence.”
But concerned BJP ruled states are reluctant to make amendments. Strangely the report did not mention adequately the most chilling cases of hate crime, the lynching of Junaid(4), a 17 years young Hafiz, when he was returning home on train on the eve of Eidul-Fitr in BJP ruled Haryana, and the cold-blooded killing of Afrazul(5,6), in BJP ruled-state of M.P. The incident was video graphed and posted on Fb, hailed by many.
Likewise cases of human right violations in J&K are dealt cursorily. However case of Farooq Dar7 finds remarkable reference. I quote, “In April, eight people were killed by security forces, some of them by the use of excessive force, following protests during a by-election for a parliamentary seat. One voter, Farooq Ahmad Dar, was beaten by army personnel, strapped to the front of an army jeep and driven around for over five hours, seemingly as a warning to protesters. In May, the officer suspected of being responsible received an army commendation for his work in counterinsurgency operations. In July, the J&K State Human Rights Commission directed the state government to pay Farooq Dar 100,000 INR (around USD1, 500) as compensation. The state government refused to pay.”
Under the heading, “Impunity for Human Rights Abuses Persisted” the report says, “A military court acquitted two soldiers of killing 16-year-old Zahid Farooq Sheikh in 2010. The force had successfully prevented the case from being prosecuted in a civilian court. In July, the Supreme Court refused to reopen 215 cases in which over 700 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in J&K in 1989, citing the passage of time. The same month, an appellate military court suspended the life sentences of five army personnel convicted by a court-martial of the extrajudicial executions of three men in Machil in 2010. In November, the State HRC repeated a directive issued to the state government in 2011 to investigate over 2,000 unmarked graves.” It noted, “Security forces continued to use inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns during protests, blinding and injuring several people.”
The report also took note of the atrocities against SC/ST at the hands of dominant classes who also have upper hand in ruling party. It says, “In November, statistics were published stating that over 6,500 crimes were committed against STs in 2016.” The report also mentioned, “The government acquired land for coal mining under a special law without seeking the free, prior and informed consent of Adivasis.” “In September, activists protested against the inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat, saying that some 40 thousand displaced families, including many Adivasi, had not received adequate reparation. In June, 98 Adivasis in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, tried to file criminal cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, alleging that they had been forced into selling their land to agents of private companies. The police …refused to register criminal cases.”
Under sub-heading, “Caste-Based Discrimination and Violence”, the report noted, “Official statistics released in November stated that more than 40, 000 crimes against SCs were reported in 2016. Several incidents were reported of members of dominant castes attacking Dalit.” “In May, two Dalit men were killed, several injured, and dozens of Dalit homes burned by dominant caste men in Saharanpur, UP.”
“Activists said that at least 90 Dalit employed as manual scavengers died while cleaning sewers. Many of those killed were illegally engaged” and the families of deceased men did not get relief.
Reporting the violations of “Children’s Rights” it is noted, “In November, statistics were published stating that over 106,000 cases of violence against children were reported in 2016.”
“According to national survey data, nearly 36% of children aged below five were underweight, and more than 38% were short in height. In September, 70 children died at a hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, allegedly because of disruption to the oxygen supply. The share of public spending on health remained low at 1.2% of GDP. Spending on government programmes to provide nutrition and preschool education to children under six remained inadequate. “
Taking note of duress on the freedom of speech, the Amnesty recorded, “Press freedom and freedom of speech in universities came under attack. India failed to respect its human rights commitments made before the UN Human Rights Council. ” It noted, “In September, journalist Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken critic of Hindu nationalism and the caste system, was shot dead in Bengaluru.” The report also mentioned other incidents of killing or coercing journalists including Shantanu Bhowmick, Photojournalist Kamran Yousuf(9) in J&K. Journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik(10) was shot dead, allegedly by a paramilitary force member.”
“Journalists also continued to face criminal defamation cases.” The report did not take note of lack of reporting in the media of the real problems faced by people and fuming intolerance, communal hatred and raising flimsy issues to divert people’s attention. However, it noted that “Repressive laws were used to stifle freedom of expression.”
Freedom of people is also under strains and they are being rounded up for non-issues. “In June, 20 people were arrested for sedition in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, following complaints that they had cheered the Pakistan cricket team’s victory over India. On July, 31 Dalit activists were arrested and detained in Lucknow for organizing a press conference about caste-based violence.”
“Freedom of expression in universities also remained under threat. ABVP, affiliated to RSS used threats and violence to block events and talks. In June, eight Lucknow University students were arrested and detained for 20 days for protesting against the UP CM Yogi. UP police baton charged students, mostly women protesting against sexual assault at BHU. “
Strangely cases of killings in encounters in Yogi Regime did not find mention. A report in Indian Express (11 January) revealed, “In last 10 months at least 921 encounters, 33 deaths and an NHRC notice to Yogi Adityanath govt.” “Records show at least 29 wanted men were killed. In the month-and-a-half since the notice, eight encounters — three in the New Year — have led to the death of eight wanted men and a constable.”(11) The encounters are still going on. Recently an SC law student was killed in Kanpur brutally in Kanpur. An SC young girl was burnt alive in Unnao.
Harassment and suppression of Human Rights Defenders is also indicated. Most atrocities are taking place under political patronage. The government instead of taking steps to stop such violations seems more interested in stopping reporting of atrocities. In January, the UHM refused to renew the foreign funding licence (FCRA) of the NGO known as People’s Watch because it had allegedly portrayed India’s human rights record in a “negative light” internationally.”
In April, Varsha Dongre, an official at Raipur Central Jail in Chhattisgarh, was transferred after she posted on Facebook that she had seen police torturing Adivasi girls. In May the Odisha state police arrested Kuni Sikaka, an Adivasi activist opposing bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills, and released her only after presenting her to journalists as a surrendered Maoist.
In January, four Adivasi women in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, said they had been gang-raped by police personnel. In March, Adivasi villagers in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, accuse d security force personnel of gang-raping a 14-year-old Adivasi girl. In September, two paramilitary personnel were arrested on suspicion of killing a woman and raping.
In April, a senior officer of the CRPF alleged in writing to his commanding authorities that multiple security agencies had killed two suspected armed group members in an extrajudicial execution in Assam. The officer was transferred. In July, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to investigate more than 80 alleged extrajudicial executions by police and security force personnel in Mizoram.
In June, the Madhya Pradesh police shot dead five protesting. In August, at least 38 people were killed during protests in Haryana following the conviction for rape of a self-styled guru Ram Rahim.
The report did not take note of killing 8 SIMI activists lodged in Bhopal jail by M.P. Police in an alleged encounter.
Refugees’ and Migrants’ Rights: “An estimated 40,000 Rohingya people including more than 16,000 recognized as refugees by UNHCR, at risk of expulsion. The Home Ministry said that all Rohingya were “illegal immigrants”, and claimed to have evidence that some Rohingya had ties to terrorist organizations. The Supreme Court deferred expulsions. In a contrast in September, the Home Ministry said that it would grant citizenship to about 100,000 (Hindu) Chakma and Hajong who had fled to India from Bangladesh.”
Between January and August, 894 deaths in judicial custody and 74 deaths in police custody were recorded. Uma Bharti, a Union Minister, said she had ordered rape suspects to be tortured when she was CM of MP. Reports of beating, raping and killing women prisoners have also been counted.
In September, during India’s UN UPR process before the UN Human Rights Council, the government accepted for the third time recommendations to ratify the UN Convention against Torture, which it signed in 1997.
In November, statistics were published showing that over 338,000 crimes against women were registered in 2016, including over 110,000 cases of violence by husbands and relatives.”.
Several rape survivors, including girls, approached courts for permission to terminate pregnancies over 20 weeks. Courts approved some abortions. The central government instructed states to set up permanent medical boards to decide such cases promptly and killing of fetus make easy.
This brief indicates that adherence to Law is on decline under the present regime.
(The writer is a Delhi based social activist and a free-lance Journalist: email@example.com)
2.Amnesty International is a global movement, based in UK, investigating, reporting and documenting violations of Human Rights since 1961.
3.Published on 22 Feb, 2018.