No let-up in human-rights violations in India

2 weeks ago

8 min

Amjed Jaaved

The International Federation for Human Rights has published a report on human rights violations in India. The Federation was assisted in the compilation of the report by its partner including the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)

A bird’s eye view of the findings

The report covers a broad range of subjects including enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings torture, and military impunity for grave crimes.

Use of excessive military force

The report observes “military operations were marked by the excessive and disproportionate use of force”. Since 1990, over 70,000 people have been killed, more than 8,000 have been subjected to enforced disappearances, several thousand have been arrested and detained under repressive laws, and torture and other acts of inhuman and degrading treatment against protestors and detainees have been routinely used by Indian security forces.

Inaccessibility

The Indian government continued to deny access to international human rights bodies to occupied Jammu & Kashmir. In 2016, even some journalists were warned not to visit the disputed state.  In November 2010, US academic Richard Shapiro also was deported for “political activism” in Kashmir. In May 2011 Indian activist and writer Gautam Navlakha was denied entry at Srinagar airport.

Extra judicial disappearances

Extrajudicial disappearances continued unabated. There are at least 1,500 so-called “half widows” in Kashmir, referring to the wives of men who have disappeared.

The paramilitary forces sometimes kill the “disappeared” in custody. The bodies of five disappeared persons were recovered and three of them had been killed by the Indian armed forces. In 2018, three civilians were subjected to enforced disappearance and later found dead.

“Enforced disappearances are used in Jammu & Kashmir to instill fear among the local population and to dissuade them from participating in, and supporting, the freedom movement and to target civilians and militants alike.

Mass and unmarked graves

The fate or whereabouts of the 8,000 people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in Jammu & Kashmir have never been officially established. However, there are strong indications that a large number of these people are likely to have been buried in

Mass and otherwise unmarked graves

Many victims of enforced disappearances are thought to have been killed and buried in unmarked mass graves The Indian government acknowledges 4,008 persons had been missing.

Although India signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) in 2007, it has yet to ratify it or to pass domestic laws.

Extrajudicial killings

 From January 2008 to December 2018, there were 4,059 extrajudicial killings in the occupied Kashmir, out of which 1,081 were civilians.

Torture

Torture has been used to: punish militants who have been arrested; carry out acts of reprisal against individuals with suspected ties to militants; coerce suspected militants or

sympathisers to reveal crucial information. Torture has also been used against a significant number of seemingly random civilians. Common torture centers in Jammu & Kashmir are Indian army camps and police stations. In

In the past, cinema theatres and hotels occupied by armed forces, abandoned houses, and government buildings were also converted into torture centers, where, according to

testimonies, extreme forms of torture were perpetrated. Commonly used torture techniques practiced in Jammu & Kashmir include: excessive beatings; waterboarding; roller treatment;

hanging from the ceiling upside down; tying in stretching positions for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; burning; mutilating organs; electrocution; and starvation.

Despite signing the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading

Treatment or Punishment in 1997, India has not yet ratified the treaty, nor has it taken steps to criminalize torture at the domestic level.

Impunity under draconian laws

This impunity is exacerbated by laws such as the 1990 Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allows Indian armed forces to use deadly force, and provides them with the power to arrest individuals without a warrant on mere suspicion of

the commission of a crime; enter and search any premises; stop, search, and seize any vehicle. AFSPA also protects the Indian armed forces from being prosecuted in civilian courts without prior authorization from the government.

Apathy

India shrugs off reports on rights violationsEarlier, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet had expressed `concern over restrictions on Non-governmental Organisations, arrests of activists and implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

She `appealed to the Government of India to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent’. She `expressed regret at the tightening of space for human rights NGOs in particular, including by the application of vaguely worded laws that constrain NGOs’ activities and restrict foreign funding’. Besides, she `cited as worrying the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which a number of UN human rights bodies have also expressed concern is vaguely worded and overbroad in its objective’. The Act prohibits `receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest’. But, it leaves a vague definition of the `public interest’ ad `prejudicial’ to the wild imagination of police officers. 

The Act, which was adopted in 2010 and was amended last month, has had a detrimental impact on the right to freedom of association and expression of human rights. Amnesty International was compelled to close its offices in India after its bank accounts were frozen over alleged violation of the FCRA. Bachelet noted, `The FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies. ..Constructive criticism is the lifeblood of democracy. Even if the authorities find it uncomfortable, it should never be criminalized or outlawed in this way.’

India keeps the UN in dark: The UN Human Rights Committee oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party. The Committee found that India did not  `show the specific nature of the threat or risks posed, and limit its responses to those necessary and proportionate to address such threat or risks’. India was bound to explain to the Committee that it was invoking `national security and protection of public order as a reason to restrict the right to freedom of association’. 

Conclusion

 India uses its draconian laws to gag dissent. The POTA is just old wine in a new bottle.  It does not repeal fake cases under TADA. Indian media termed POTA as “draconian’. Verily so as penalties under this law are akin to those stipulated in Draco’s code of 610 BC to forestall future revolts by common men.  The code provided the death penalty for even trivial offences like stealing an apple, or an earthenware utensil.

The POTA attaches evidentiary value to the telephonic, telegraphic and internet conversations.  The brutality of the law was brought into limelight when S. A. R Geelani, a Kashmir lecturer in Delhi University was implicated for attack on the Indian parliament.

POTA was employed to frame cases against several other Kashmiri leaders _ Yaseen Malik, Syed Ali Geelani et al.  Despite his frail health (ailing kidney, heart with right ear subjected to micro-surgery), Malik was arrested on March 25 under POTA for receiving ISI’s money when he was addressing a press conference at the Hurriyat office. The court acquitted him with the observation that there is not an iota of believable evidence against him.

Syed Geelani and his journalist son-in-law, Iftikhar Gilani also were detained under POTA.  Funny charges on senior Geelani included: (1) “Being a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, he criticised US war against Afghanistan, and described himself as Pakistani”.

Iftekhar Geelani was detained for violation of the Official Secrecy Act for possessing information about Indian troops’ movement of the pre-1996 period.   The alleged information was available on the ISSI dot org dot pk. Having failed to make a case against him, police charged him under the Pornographic Act!

The Hindu-monk chief minister of India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh regards a cow as a citizen. He directed the police to register cases under the National Security Act for offences concerning a cow. One hundred and forty cases were soon registered to terrify the Muslims. 

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