Conversations with Badami Bagh residents

March 15, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed

Badami Bagh is no less than a ravaged town awaiting life once again. Along the sides of the roads are little yellow tents set up for the Christian families who lost their homes when an angry mob set fire to the entire residential area.

These little tents are filled with people. It is as if the little tents have become portable homes for the citizens who have nothing else left. Little toys, water bottles, a pile of clothes – Badami Bagh residents have begun to reconstruct their lives within the temporary homes provided to them since there is no knowing when their real homes will be ready for them to go back to.

Read more…

Pres Zardari oped in Sunday’s Washington Post

March 7, 2011

By Asif Ali Zardari
Washington Post

Just days before her assassination, my wife, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, wrote presciently of the war within Islam and the potential for a clash between Islam and the West: “There is an internal tension within Muslim society. The failure to resolve that tension peacefully and rationally threatens to degenerate into a collision course of values spilling into a clash between Islam and the West. It is finding a solution to this internal debate within Islam – about democracy, about human rights, about the role of women in society, about respect for other religions and cultures, about technology and modernity – that shall shape future relations between Islam and the West.”

Two months ago my friend Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was cut down for standing up against religious intolerance and against those who would use debate about our laws to divide our people. On Tuesday, another leading member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in our cabinet, was murdered by extremists tied to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

These assassinations painfully reinforce my wife’s words and serve as a warning that the battle between extremism and moderation in Pakistan affects the success of the civilized world’s confrontation with the terrorist menace.

A small but increasingly belligerent minority is intent on undoing the very principles of tolerance upon which our nation was founded in 1947; principles by which Pakistan’s founder, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, lived and died; and principles that are repeated over and over in the Koran. The extremists who murdered my wife and friends are the same who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and who have blown up girls’ schools in the Swat Valley.

We will not be intimidated, nor will we retreat. Such acts will not deter the government from our calibrated and consistent efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism. It is not only the future of Pakistan that is at stake but peace in our region and possibly the world.

Our nation is pressed by overlapping threats. We have lost more soldiers in the war against terrorism than all of NATO combined. We have lost 10 times the number of civilians who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Two thousand police officers have been killed. Our economic growth was stifled by the priorities of past dictatorial regimes that unfortunately were supported by the West. The worst floods in our history put millions out of their homes. The religious fanaticism behind our assassinations is a tinderbox poised to explode across Pakistan. The embers are fanned by the opportunism of those who seek advantages in domestic politics by violently polarizing society.

We in Pakistan know our challenges and seek the trust and confidence of our international allies, who sometimes lose patience and pile pressure on those of us who are already on the front lines of what is undeniably a long war. Our concern that we avoid steps that inadvertently help the fanatics is misinterpreted abroad as inaction or even cowardice. Instead of understanding the perilous situation in which we find ourselves, some well-meaning critics tend to forget the distinction between courage and foolhardiness. We are fighting terrorists for the soul of Pakistan and have paid a heavy price. Our desire to confront and deal with the menace in a manner that is effective in our context should not become the basis for questioning our commitment or ignoring our sacrifices.

If Pakistan and the United States are to work together against terrorism, we must avoid political incidents that could further inflame tensions and provide extremists or opportunists with a pretext for destabilizing our fledgling democracy. The Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, which directly resulted in the deaths of three Pakistani men and the suicide of a Pakistani woman, is a prime example of the unanticipated consequences of problematic behavior. We need not go into the legal, moral and political intricacies of this case. Suffice it to say that the actions of Davis and others like him inflame passions in our country and undermine respect and support for the United States among our people. We are committed to peaceful adjudication of the Davis case in accordance with the law. But it is in no one’s interest to allow this matter to be manipulated and exploited to weaken the government of Pakistan and damage further the U.S. image in our country.

Similarly counterproductive are threats to apply sanctions to Pakistan over the Davis affair by cutting off Kerry-Lugar development funds that were designed to build infrastructure, strengthen education and create jobs. It is a threat, written out of the playbook of America’s enemies, whose only result will be to undermine U.S. strategic interests in South and Central Asia. In an incendiary environment, hot rhetoric and dysfunctional warnings can start fires that will be difficult to extinguish.

The writer is president of Pakistan.

Traffic fine fuels French debate over burka

April 28, 2010

Emma Alberici

A Muslim woman fined for wearing an Islamic head veil while driving in France has launched an appeal, claiming her human rights have been infringed.

France wants to become the first country to ban the veil in official buildings and on the streets. (Reuters: Jean-Paul Pelissier)

Tensions are rising between the French government and the country’s Muslim community as president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government prepares to push ahead with a ban on wearing the traditional Muslim veil in public.

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Operation Green Hunt: Its Stated And Unstated Targets of India

March 22, 2010

Kumar Sanjay Singh

Every conscious citizen is aware that the proposed operation Green Hunt, ostensibly to deal with the Maoist armed struggle, is an event with ominous portents. It can be argued that the events that are unfolding have consequences that go much beyond the attempted military solution to problems that are essentially political and economic in nature.

That the intended target of the government is much larger than the stated target is becoming obvious in the statements and actions of the state. Witness how in the aftermath of the Silda action the Home Minister Mr. P C Chidambaram tried to steam roll all the critiques of the government into Maoist sympathisers, completely ignoring the fact that criticising the human rights violation of the government is not tantamount to a support of the Maoists. More recently, the charge sheet on Mr. Kobad Ghandy, filed by the Delhi Police, mentioned some prominent democratic and civil liberties organisations and activists as fronts of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Obviously, the intended targets of the state are not simply the Maoist party but all such organisations and individual that have been critical of the state’s developmental policy and track record on human rights. A fact testified by the assault of rights activists and Gandhian organisations in Chhattisgarh.

The manner in which the central government wants to deploy paramilitary forces in the so-called sensitive states betrays the state’s unstated agenda in three respects. First, the attempt to cajole and pressurise the reluctant chief ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand through media propaganda and other kinds of pressure and persuasion is a testimony of the attempt to redefine centre-state relationship in the favour of the centre; even on the issue of law and order which is a state subject.

Second, deployment of armed paramilitary forces through a central fiat amounts to imposition of armed paramilitary forces over civilian administration. This is permissible only under emergency. Yet the government is not declaring emergency since such a declaration obliges the government for a mandatory review of the declaration every six months. The government has therefore imposed a de facto emergency without actually declaring it. Thus it has claimed unfettered power without any legal or time bound restraint, in other words it has claimed impunity in the area of operation Green Hunt. Experience of use of armed and paramilitary forces provided with impunity, for instance in the north eastern states and J& K has been that the number of civilian casualty and the erosion of human rights is unacceptably high. In other words the casualty, repression and oppression of the civilian population living in the areas of operation green hunt will be dramatically higher than the stated targets of operation green hunt. In fact, the plight of the civilian population is further compounded since they have been also targeted in some instance by the guerrilla forces.

Third, the initiation of the inter-state counter naxal operation is actually a part of the oft stated plan of the centre to restructure and centralise internal security apparatus. Thus, this is a decisive shift of law and order and policing from the state subject. Over the period of last more than two decades several issues of state subject have been taken over by the centre, for instance forest, roads, port management and now policing. These are portents of a shift towards a more unitary form of governments. Could this also be seen as imposition of a Presidential form of government by stealth? It ought to be pointed out here that this idea had been mooted by Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee during their respective tenures as Prime Minister.

To cut a long story short the current operation while stated to be against the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has a much larger unstated target. It threatens to trespass the safety and security of the indigenous and tribal people in the operation area, it seeks to trespass on the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country and finally, it seeks to redefine the structure of governance of the country. It is evident, therefore, the current offensive is quite comprehensive and seeks to impact upon a cross section of political process and the life and rights of common citizens. It stands to reason that such a challenge requires a resistance that is imaginative and flexible enough to include the opinions of all the stake holders that are to be impacted.

The danger of majority tyranny

March 3, 2010

Thomas W. Bechtler

Switzerland’s democracy lies nearer to the dividing line between direct democracy and tyranny of the majority than most. Last year’s decision to outlaw minarets reflects the dangers of crossing that line

Has the minaret poll in Switzerland helped in creating an atmosphere against all things foreign and “different”? Minarets, headscarves, Jewish cemeteries, German professors, international law – judging from recent debate in Switzerland one might wonder if they are all contrary to Swiss values.

Who better to define and postulate what is quintessentially “Swiss” than the people themselves in a referendum, just like the one held on 29 November. But this argument brings a queasy feeling and reminds us that there are limits on popular sovereignty.

The “yes”‘ to banning minarets has brought these limits to mind, causing a real shock and deep disappointment for many people. I cannot remember any referendum that has divided our country both politically and ethically in a similar manner.

In the widely held discussions after the event there were repeated suggestions that political parties had underestimated the fears some Swiss have that Muslims might segregate themselves and not respect Swiss customs and laws. Are such fears real or simply nothing more than a clever fabrication?

Obviously the responsibility for our political culture has fallen by the wayside. A solution has been found for a problem that our country is not faced with. The sad game of discrimination has once again been played successfully. And, just as in our national playwright and novelist Max Frisch’s play “The Fire Raisers,” normal citizens and “arsonists” have become one, this time through a plebiscite.

It is an undisputed fact that Swiss politics are closely linked to the will of the people than almost anywhere else. The fact that the Swiss are able to take an active role in deciding issues is a part of our national identity and is undeniably one of our country’s special qualities.

Democratically reached decisions reflect the will of the people in a given moment, though, not necessarily a superior wisdom or power. Democratic decisions can be wrong, unjust and impractical, violate the country’s constitution and even violate basic human rights. They can even relate to issues for which the democratic system is quite simply inadequate.

Ironically it was freedom-loving Switzerland,of all countries, that voted for a measure based on religious discrimination that violates both our own constitution and Swiss values and also breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. This is a country renowned for its role in the development of international law, a state whose neutrality has international roots, a nation that stands for tolerance and open-mindedness whose prosperity is based on the global economic network and is home to the International Red Cross!

The issue boils down to two different conceptions of democracy. Under an absolutist interpretation, the people decide, no ifs or buts. In a comparison from the world of art, (Brunnellesci), the central perspective converges in a point determining the order of the composition. Anything that may stand in the way of democracy is deemed suspect: judges, elected representatives, even international law.

In contrast, representatives of a liberal rule of law tend to set out from the interaction of various elements, as is visible – using the analogy of the arts once again – in the popular artist Alexander Calder’s mobiles. The parts are in a constant balance, jointly ensuring the stability of the whole (“checks and balances”). The democratic principle is essentially the basis for the decisions of democratically elected representatives and of the people in direct democracy decision making.

The principle of separation of powers, which forms the basis for judges’ decisions in individual cases, is just as important in a functioning democracy. Human rights and democracy, rule of law and popular sovereignty are not mutually exclusive but rather mutually dependent.

International law is also of equal importance. A more stringent formal and substantive examination of the content of referendums – be it through parliament, the Federal Council, the Federal Court or a special body – is in fact urgently needed.

Any argument that the European Court of Human Rights has no place assessing an issue decided directly by the Swiss people, ignores the role Switzerland played in developing the Court, and the fact that the court is part of the Council of Europe, a body that Switzerland currently chairs.

The debate about the limits of popular sovereignty will surely go on in Switzerland for some time to come. We need to make sure that the discussion is characterized by clarity of analysis, precision in drawing these borders and public education. An absolutized concept of democracy can threaten freedom and is susceptible to misuse. An enlightened people recognizes and acknowledges the limits of its sovereignty and knows that these limitations are what strengthen democracy and freedom.

India: Before Night Falls

March 3, 2010

What is more embarrassing for AMU- gay love or violation of human rights?


Illustration: UZMA MOHSIN

WHEN SECTION 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down last year, decriminalising homosexuallity in India, confetti flew. Even those who felt the law had little relevance in the daily lives of the LGBT community in India smiled a bit. Less than a year later, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) professor Shrinivas Ramachandra Siras, a Marathi scholar, has been suspended for alleged homosexual activity. The university says they have a video recording of the professor inside his home in sexual intercourse with a young rickshaw-puller. The university, clearly not a fan of that ancient sexual preference – ‘rough trade’ – termed this gross misconduct, taking care to emphasise the occupation of the professor’s alleged lover. Outrage against AMU has flown thick but the university is unembarrassed.

The video recording is suitably shrouded in mystery but AMU’s spokesperson confirms usefully, ‘the video clips are really indecent’. If it came from local reporters, as the first rumour had it, where did these reporters spring from? More than one report says that the video recording was a ‘sting’ paid for by the University. AMU’s statement is that the recording accompanied an anonymous complaint. So far, Siras does not seem to have engaged any legal counsel. Activists are in a rage, but there is no case without Siras. The 64-year-old Siras has chosen to resign and leave Aligarh for hometown Nagpur rather than combat the university. He is on the verge of retirement, after 22 years in AMU.

Vice-chancellor (VC) Abdul Aziz seems to not know that between February 8 and 10, AMU, a government institution, has violated pretty much every fundamental right you can lay your hands upon. He continues to issue statements – no one wants their child to be gay; AMU is an institution of international repute and its students go out with character.

AMU was also in the news this week when it proudly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with George Washington University (GWU) Law School – presumably neither party worried too much about GWU’s stated policy that it will not discriminate against employees or students for sexual orientation. Because, an international reputation for AMU does not stretch that far. Homosexuality is not good for students, the VC explains with a logic as eminently reasonable as one advising against junk food or videogames. In such morally ambiguous times as ours, it must be a source of comfort to be Abdul Aziz.

More than one report claims that the video recording was a ‘sting’ paid for by the University

The VC, who has a PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Kerala, is a very big fish, even by his own estimation. His list of achievements reads like the opening line of Snoopy’s novel: ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. His online resume says ‘he took charge at a time when the University was passing through one of the darkest periods in its history, dotted by murders of two students in quick succession, violent clashes between student groups, looting and destruction of property, regional fighting and constant disruption of academic activities. There was complete breakdown of rule of law and everyone was under constant threat of assault and humiliation. With firm and well-thought-out initiatives, the University has been brought back to normal level of functioning in the last two years.’ After which, presumably, the angels sang hosannas but the resume does not state that.

The hero of the JM Coetzee’s novel Disgrace, David Lurie, an English professor, is dismissed from his university job when he seduces a student. He makes no attempt to defend himself and goes off into the hinterlands of post-apartheid South Africa where he is broken bit by bit. Coetzee’s infuriatingly fatalistic hero says at some point, “One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be as hard as hard can be grows harder yet.”


February 26, 2010

Amnesty International

Indian authorities have given local communities scant or misleading information about the potential impact of a proposed alumina refinery expansion and mining project to be operated by subsidiaries of UK-based company Vedanta Resources in Orissa, Amnesty International said in a new report published on Tuesday.

There has been no process to seek the community’s informed consent.

The Amnesty International report, Don’t Mine Us out of Existence: Bauxite Mine and Refinery Devastate Lives in India documents how an alumina refinery operated by a subsidiary of UK-based FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources in Orissa, is causing air and water pollution that threatens the health of local people and their access to water.

“People are living in the shadow of a massive refinery, breathing polluted air and afraid to drink from and bathe in a river that is one of the main sources of water in the region,” said Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, Amnesty International’s researcher on South Asia. “It is shocking how those who are most affected by the project have been provided with the least information.”

Villagers wash in the river Vamsadhara at Chattarpur.

Adivasi (Indigenous), Dalit, women and other marginalised communities in the remote part of Orissa where the refinery is located have described to Amnesty International how authorities told them that the refinery would transform the area into a Mumbai or Dubai.

The Orissa State Pollution Control Board has documented air and water pollution from Vedanta Aluminium’s refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa. Amnesty International found that the pollution threatens the health of local people and their access to clean water yet there has been no health monitoring.

“We used to bathe in the river but now I am scared of taking my children there. Both my sons have had rashes and blisters,” a local woman told Amnesty International. The organization recorded many similar accounts from people living around the refinery.

Despite these concerns and the environmentally sensitive location of the refinery near a river and villages, the government is considering a proposal for a six-fold expansion of the refinery. Neither the Indian authorities nor Vedanta have shared information on the extent of pollution and its possible effects with local communities.

The Orissa Mining Corporation and another Vedanta Resources subsidiary also plan to mine bauxite in the nearby Niyamgiri Hills. The proposed mine threatens the very existence of the Dongria Kondh, an 8,000 strong protected indigenous community that has lived on the Niyamgiri hills for centuries. The hills are considered sacred by the Dongria Kondh and are essential for their economic, physical and cultural survival, yet no process to seek the community’s informed consent has been established.

A Dongria Kondh man told Amnesty International, “We have seen what happens to other Adivasis when they are forced to leave their traditional lands, they lose everything.”

“The people of Orissa are among the poorest in India and their health is being threatened by pollution from the refinery. Their voices are being ignored by Vedanta Resources and its partner companies as well as by Orissa’s government. There has been inadequate consultation with local people about the changes on the ground and yet it’s their lives and futures which hang in the balance,” said Ramesh Gopalakrishnan.

Amnesty International is calling on the Government of India and Vedanta Resources to ensure that there is no expansion of the refinery and mining does not go ahead until existing problems are resolved. Amnesty International is also calling for full consultation with local people and for the Indian authorities to set up a process to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the Dongria Kondh.

Report of human rights abuse in IOK presented to British Parliament

February 26, 2010

Associated Press of Pakistan

LONDON (APP): All Parties International Kashmir Coordination Committee has presented the report of human rights abuse in the Indian Occupied Kashmir to the members of the British Parliament and urged the United Kingdom to play a pro-active role in resolving the issue.The APIKCC President Dr Misfar Hassan in his communication to the British lawmakers said the report of inquiry has been prepared by an independent people of good public standing including lawyers, human rights activists and other members of the civil society.The report, according to Dr.Hassan, is a narrative of the victims who have and continue to suffer at the hands of the Indian occupational forces in Kashmir.

He pointed out the Kashmir issue was left unresolved by the last British government in India and it continues not only to consume massive amounts of human lives but there are other implications such as poverty, disease, maternal and infant mortality and particularly the damage to the ecological environment of the globe.

“Just to say that the conflict left unresolved in 1947 is now knocking at the doors in Britain in various shapes and one of the worst effect one can think of is the threat of terrorist activities.

“I personally feel that it is the time we all need to take the issue seriously owing to the dimensions just described and fulfil our responsibilities towards resolution of the conflict and help people of Jammu Kashmir to exercise their right of self determination to ensure safety of the British people and the regional and global peace.”

Dr.Hassan reminded the British legislators of their moral obligations to the humanity in general and to the safety of the British people in particular.

“I am only writing to remind you as in your role as representatives you have greater responsibilities and in this particular case you need to give a wake up call to the International community to play a proactive role for global peace.”

British politician Jenny Tonge sacrificed (again) to appease Zionists

February 17, 2010

By Stuart Littlewood
16 February 2010

Stuart Littlewood considers the hypocrisy of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party whose leadership, for the second time running, showed contempt for their own loftily-worded principles by sacking one of the party’s few principled politicians in order to appease the Zionist lobby.

In another blow to British free speech the parliamentarian Baroness Jenny Tonge, a good friend to Palestinians for many years, has been betrayed by her party colleagues and sacked.

Jenny Tonge dared to comment on allegations circulating in the media about Israel harvesting human organs during the emergency rescue operations in Haiti. To prevent these allegations going any further, she said, “the IDF [Israel Defence Force] and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.”

The allegations included reports that the former head of Israel’s forensic institute admitted Israeli pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians and others without permission but this nauseating practice had ended in the 1990s. Yet Jenny Tonge’s remarks brought a storm of protest from her own colleagues as well as the Zionist lobby. One of them said: “She is misguided to call for any investigation. On this basis, there could be calls for an investigation to discover the ‘truth’ in the the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Another said: “We understand why the idea would be offensive to the Jewish community.”

Yet another said: “Jenny’s comments were damaging within the community and also to the wider debate about the Middle East.”

“You have to ask yourself why the IDF, notorious for inflicting wholesale death and destruction on impoverished people who can’t defend themselves … would suddenly be interested is saving life in Haiti – praiseworthy though such a humanitarian conversion would be.”

A fourth, eager to cash in on the hysteria, commented: “It’s abhorrent that anyone should suggest that something as perverse and sick as this should be investigated.”

The Israeli embassy said that the allegations were “not fit to grace even the sickest of publications”, an oblique reference, presumably, to The Palestine Times which had published Jenny Tonge’s remarks.

After discussions between her party leader, Nick Clegg, and the Liberal Democratic leader in the House of Lords, she was ordered to “stand down” as health spokesperson following what Clegg called “her unacceptable comments suggesting an inquiry into highly offensive allegations against the IDF humanitarian operation in Haiti. The comments were wrong, distasteful and provocative and I recognize the deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community… I regard her comments as wholly unacceptable.”

You have to ask yourself why the IDF, notorious for inflicting wholesale death and destruction on impoverished people who can’t defend themselves (especially in Gaza where they have nowhere to run), shooting children, machine-gunning fishing boats, blocking humanitarian aid, abducting civilians in the middle of the night, bulldozing homes, stealing land at gunpoint and suppressing peaceful protesters, would suddenly be interested is saving life in Haiti – praiseworthy though such a humanitarian conversion would be. For 62 years they have been bent on destroying life. Many, therefore, will see no reason to be concerned about hurting the Israeli military’s feelings.

And many will question why Clegg deemed it necessary to grovel to Zionist opinion and take such savage action against Jenny Tonge when Israel is known for its lawlessness and apparently has form with regard to organ-stealing.

Jenny Tonge has been sacked before and the knives of her enemies are constantly sharpened in the hope of making a permanent end of her. In 2004 she was talking about Palestinian suicide bombers and said: “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.” Everyone went mad. A senior Conservative said her comments would “sicken those across the world who have lost loved ones to suicide bombers”.

Charles Kennedy, the then party leader, dismissed her as children’s spokesperson, saying: “Her recent remarks… are completely unacceptable. They are not compatible with Liberal Democrat party policies and principles. There can be no justification, under any circumstances for taking innocent lives through terrorism.”

Agreed. But Kennedy, it seems, couldn’t bring himself to mention the casualties and terror inflicted by Israel’s daily high-tech military strikes on an occupied civilian population.

No knives are sharper than those of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. The stated purpose of this organization is to maximize support for the State of Israel within Parliament, influence the party’s Middle East policy so that it favours Israel, and rebut attacks on Israel in the media, Parliament and the party.

In 2006, Jenny Tonge told a fringe meeting at her party’s conference: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party.” As if to prove her point, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel immediately issued a press release saying: “In the coming days and weeks we will work closely with colleagues inside the party to ensure every avenue is explored towards removing Baroness Tonge from the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords.”

“Many will question why Clegg deemed it necessary to grovel to Zionist opinion and take such savage action against Jenny Tonge when Israel is known for its lawlessness and apparently has form with regard to organ-stealing.”

The Liberal Democrat leader at the time, Menzies Campbell, said he dissociated himself from her “offensive remarks” and “their clear anti-Semitic connotations”. However, as people are beginning to realize, what she said was patently true and the pro-Israel lobby’s infiltration of Parliament and public life is a serious threat to us all.

For example, our most important security bodies – the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defence Committee – are all headed by senior Friends of Israel. How can that be in our national interest?

The Liberal Democrats are good with words. The party’s website claims:”Liberal Democrats will put British values of decency and the rule of law back at the heart of our foreign policy… We want to see rules upheld and international law observed.”

The party’s constitution says Liberal Democrats believe that “human rights represent fundamental standards of humanity and that all states have a duty to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms…” It says: “We are supporters of international law… Liberal Democrats welcome the extension of international law to hold individuals to account for crimes against humanity. If governments engage in large-scale violations of human rights, or are unable or unwilling to protect their populations from catastrophes, then this responsibility must be fulfilled by the international community…”

The preamble to the constitution makes even better reading:

We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full… We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely… Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation, and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. Recognizing that the quest for freedom and justice can never end, we promote human rights and open government…

Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.

Is it a question of collective amnesia? Have these fine principles been deleted to accommodate the pro-Israel lobby? If neither, why on earth do the party’s leaders get so upset when a colleague criticizes a rogue state that believes in none of those things that the Liberal Democrats are supposed to hold precious?

You would think they’d pat Jenny Tonge on the back and say, “Good for you, girl, we’re right behind you.” But no. They prefer to let an Israel fan club flourish under the Liberal Democrat banner.

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit

Surrender policy

February 15, 2010

JKCHR – Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights

Would the generation sleeping in graveyards have an equal opportunity to express their desire to return to life and be with their families?

Dr Syed Nazir Gilani

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Nasir Aslam Wani, has claimed that the ‘surrender policy’ approved by Government of India under which a safe passage would be granted to Kashmiri youth who had crossed the LoC was the “brain child” of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who had discussed it with Pakistan government in 2005. This disclosure creates a constituency of criminal and civil liability of all manners on both sides of LoC. The offer is people and period specific. It could not be availed by a generation which is sleeping deep in the graves and this “brain child” of Omar Abdullah does not sit well with his principle constitutional duties embedded in article 48 of the J & K Constitution, which enshrines the right of return of all since 1947. Many moral, political and legal questions remain embedded in the grant of amnesty by the Government and the acceptance of the ‘surrender policy’ by the militants.

Its spill over would be far reaching and on the increase, for the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Government of India and the militants. From the early 15th century surrender has meant to declare to an opponent that he or she has won so that fighting or conflict can cease. In this case our leaders have to explain this metamorphosis in political character to a generation of nearly 100,000 (one lakh) martyred as militants and other civilians, who were clubbed with them as associates. Would this generation sleeping in our grave yards have an equal opportunity to express their desire to return to life and be with their families? And how would our leaders compensate the living who became the sitting collateral targets of the security forces on suspicion of their association with these militants and how would militant leaders console those civilians (men and women) who have been aggrieved by the actions of many militants and then by renegades.

It would have been in the best interests of people, habitat and cause of Kashmir if our leaders had taken up the 1996 offer of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao that ‘sky is the limit’. This policy would have been less rigorous than the present ‘surrender policy’ which would entail identification, screening, travel, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration. Militants would be returning to a habitat and people harmed and hurt beyond repair.

Unfortunately our political and militant leaders were blinded by private interests and missed a historic opportunity where the Government of India was about to recognise Kashmiri militants as an independent army, if the June/July 2000 ceasefire declared by Hizb chief commander had succeeded and a few rounds of talks had been held across the table. The ceasefire was frustrated and Majid Dar was unceremoniously killed.

Vested interests of various kind as exposed in a diligent manner by Zahir ud Din in his article “Be bold like Kanna” stepped in and frustrated all the three ceasefire announcements including the two made by PM Vajpayee in Ramzan of November 2000 and the third ceasefire announced by Hurriyat chairman Prof. Ghani Bhat in November 2001.

One should not suspect the concern of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir expressed for the good of these militants stranded in Azad Kashmir for the last 20 years. These militants as State Subjects are also a moral and legal responsibility of the Government of Azad Kashmir and the Government of Pakistan. However, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has to act in equity and in good faith towards all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Just 800 militants who have crossed into Azad Kashmir cannot overshadow the interests of five generations of Kashmiri refugees displaced since 1947.

J & K Government has been avoiding discharging its Constitutional duty towards these people under article 48 of the Constitution for the last 54 years. Government of India which has approved the return of these militants under a ‘surrender policy’ has to discharge its duties towards all people of the State. It has been charged with a duty by the United Nations Security Council resolution of 21 April 1948 in para 14 (a) “All citizens of the State who have left it on account of disturbances are invited, and are free, to return to their homes and to exercise their rights as such citizens”.

It would be unfair if one does not admit that the CPI (M) State Secretary, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami was the first MLA who brought the resolution on September 28, 2005 in the Assembly, during its session in Srinagar and pressed for the return of youth who had crossed the LoC and wanted to return to their homes to live a peaceful life. Unfortunately it was rejected by the then Congress-PDP coalition government through voice vote. It is strange that when the minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Nasir Aslam Wani, was asked whether the policy will also apply to the people who had migrated to ‘PaK’ in 1947, he has said that the policy is meant for the youth, who went to the other side of LoC in 1990s.

Government of Jammu and Kashmir can’t make a period and person specific policy, if the same policy violates the rights of the people guaranteed under the Constitution. More so the Government of India has to explain its position if it decides to adopt a discriminatory policy at variance with the rights of the people guaranteed under the J & K Constitution and guaranteed in UN Security Council Resolutions.
Militants are more than welcome in their homes. If they return to normal life and satisfy the criterion laid down under the ‘surrender policy’, their acceptance back in the community would not be that simple. Rehabilitation and reintegration back in the much harmed habitat and disturbed people has its own moral restraints. They shall have to account for the high tide of militancy which has not only resulted in the death of a generation but the numerical deficit has caused the death of self determination as well.

Some militants and almost a majority of politicians on either side of LoC have made a profit of all manners during the last 20 years. This benefit has to account for itself in a transparent manner and every Kashmiri has to be satisfied that there were no mala fides embedded during the period when the gains were made. Our politicians and the returnee militants owe an explanation to the 100,000 (one lakh) youth sleeping in the graves and have to convince them as to why they can’t exercise their desire to return and live with their families in the same manner. Surrender policy has its own moral conundrum.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and cam be emailed at

Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
Secretary General – JKCHR

Kashmiris, Nagas and Sikhs demand end to Indian Imperialism

February 2, 2010

Indian Eagle

India’s Republic Day, a powerful joint appeal to the international community by key Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh leaders has highlighted the fundamental conflicts and contradictions at the heart of the Indian state, as well as the unwavering intent of their nations to secure freedom in accordance with their right to self-determination as enshrined in international law.

They issued a call to the international community to play a constructive role in dismantling India’s unlawful hold on their territories, which has been maintained purely by military means at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives since 1947, and to restore fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the most volatile region of the world. The leaders included Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chair of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, Naga leader Th.

Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN-IM and Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa in Punjab. Their message was endorsed by leading organisations based in the respective Diaspora communities which are today holding demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London and elsewhere to once again publicly reject the Indian constitution as being applicable to their territories (India’s annual Republic Day marks the imposition of that constitution in 1950).

Rubbishing India’s claims to be a democratic, secular, peaceable state which complies with its international obligations, they pointed to the reality of a belligerent, militaristic state which oppresses the minorities and nations under its control, which has become a serial violator of international law and human rights. They said Indian armed forces chief Deepak Kapoor’s recent public comments about bringing both China and Pakistan to their knees within 96 hours of a war betrays the dangerous and aggressive mindset of the Indian establishment which has already conducted undeclared wars on the Naga, Sikh, Kashmiri and other nations using brutal means, systematically violating basic human rights, as routinely pointed out by the world’s leading human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.

Specifically they urged the United Nations to:-

1. Establish tribunals to conduct criminal prosecutions of Indian politicians and security personnel who have, over recent decades, committed genocide in order to silence, by force, lawful and legitimate struggles for national

self-determination. The body of evidence held against the perpetrators of systematic mass murder, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, and torture is substantial and the failure of India’s judicial system to punish the guilty remains a scandal. The recent 25th anniversary of the anti-Sikh pogroms of November 1984, in which 10,000 Sikhs were massacred, was marked by a full scale shut down of Punjab by Sikhs but no action on the part of Indian politicians who instead simply insist that the episode should now be forgotten. The perpetrators of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 remain unpunished. The UN should now step in to administer justice.

2. Impose sanctions on India to force it to withdraw the formal ‘reservation’ it has lodged with the United Nations which states that the right of self-determination does not apply to the nations and peoples within Indian occupied territory. Article 1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Human and Political Rights states that all peoples have the right to self-determination and India’s rejection of this basic tenet of international law is the direct cause of the conflicts which have caused and will continue to cause untold death and destruction. The UN’s own Human Rights Committee has required India to withdraw that reservation but to date India has refused to do so. India must recognise the right of self-determination and, under UN supervision, immediately engage with the people of these disputed territories and respect their democratic voice. UN Security Council Resolutions demanding a plebiscite in Kashmir continue to be brazenly ignored even though that is the only credible way forward; India’s obvious lack of seriousness in its talks with the Naga leadership despite the sincere efforts of the Nagas to engage in meaningful dialogue; the criminalisation under sedition laws of Sikh leaders who stand for an independent Khalistan, which the Sarbat Khalsa (national assembly) freely determined to be the Sikh response to India’s aggression in 1984: all of these policies betray India’s true intentions and it is time the world community took action to bring India in to line with international moral and legal standards. Colonialism has long been consigned to the dustbin of history and so must India’s attempt to impose its Hindu nationalist agenda on nations that will never surrender their sovereignty and dignity.

3. Eject India from all the UN’s humanitarian bodies until it improves its appalling record of mistreating its religious minorities. In August 2009, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms put India on its ‘watchlist’ of states that fail to protect such groups. Recent years have seen mass violence directed towards Christians, Muslims and Sikhs with the connivance of security forces, disinterest of the courts and blatant instigation from Indian politicians who continue to hold high office. Article 25 of the Constitution outrageously deems Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus for the purposes of religious and personal law and Hindu fundamentalists are now campaigning for their set of religious laws to be imposed uniformly over Muslims and Christians as well. Mosques, Gurdwaras and Churches have been destroyed by state and non-state actors but somehow no one is ever punished by the legal system.
Pending India’s compliance with the international standards the Naga, Kashmiri and Sikh leadership urged the international community to robustly dismiss India’s pretensions to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. It would be the height of folly indeed to reward a serial violator of basic international norms by giving it the means to frustrate the one international body that can hold it to account.

They pledged to work together, along with their friends in the region and beyond, in order to promote a peaceful transition from the current unjust framework of Indian colonialism to a new order in South Asia where freedom, peace and security and justice would prevail. The withdrawal of Indian forces from these occupied territories would be a pre-requisite for that transformation. Instead of indulging itself in Republic Day posturing, India would do better to reflect on the crimes it has committed and its own inherent contradictions. Threatening its neighbours and inhumanly oppressing minorities may have become the raison d’etre for ‘Hindutva,’ but these policies offend the very notion of religion and will surely ultimately prove suicidal for the Indian state.

In the UK, Muhammad Ghalib, Chair of the All Party Kashmir Co-ordination Committee, Amrik Singh Sahota OBE, President of the Council of Khalistan, and the Naga Support Centre all pledged to continue their campaign to enlist international support for the peaceable implementation of their national rights.

Lord Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination’, the cross party group at the Westminster parliament which promotes national self-determination, endorsed these demands. Having been recently denied a visa to visit India specifically because of his support for these causes, he castigated the ongoing oppression of these freedom loving nations and urged the international community to hold India to account for its crimes. Reflecting on India’s refusal to grant him a visa, he noted the move was consistent with India’s attempts to conceal its record by denying human rights groups, UN officials and independent observers access to conflict zones. He remarked that all this was futile – the true picture is becoming ever more apparent to the global community which will be forced to act sooner or later.

India: Minorities’ Rights

December 22, 2009

By Moulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi

The kind of reflection of the word ‘Right’ and ‘Rights’ that comes in our minds nowadays, was never found in the olden ages. In the past many civilizations emerged and collapsed; many kingdoms came into existence, rose to power, declined and disappeared. Among those civilizations and kingdoms, natural rights were found but not human rights among the relationships. The biggest reason for this was, there was lack of human equality among those civilizations; Human beings and their own citizens were divided into different groups, in the past, few groups were totally denied of rights. In Greek civilization the slaves were treated in par with animals, they did not have any rights. In Egyptian civilization those people who did not have any relation with the ruling class were the victims of every kind of torture, and they were not entitled to any kind of protest. The situation was some what better in Roman Empire, but with the expansion of Roman Empire, differences arose between Roman citizens and general people of Rome, and a number of those type of people emerged who were denied all kinds of rights.

From the history, one more thing that comes before us is the thought of rights for human beings, emerged with the propagation and preaching of Christianity in Roman Empire. With the spread of Christianity, the interest for the study of Bible emerged and restriction on the killing of human beings written in Ten Commandments, which were given to Prophet Moses, brought great changes. The order “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”, invoke a sense of respect towards human beings and human life. The Christian courts which were established under the churches and the rules established by them, created a sense of dignity and respect towards human life. During this process, the churches underwent tremendous difficulties and pressure by the ruling class and landlords and some times had to bow their heads before the privileges of these people. Even then, the concept of respect for human life became the part of civil society. But, the feeling of high and low class among the society was not able to overcome.

Whenever there is discussion on the rights of human beings, the declaration of Britain’s Magna Carta is presented as a historical event and milestone; whereas neither any right has been given to common citizen of Britain nor said anything about them in this declaration. This declaration protects the rights of landlords and elites and limits the customary rights of British kings. The subject of this declaration is neither the human being nor the common citizen; but the landlords, elites and kings. For the emergence of the concept of human rights and human beings, human history had to travel a long journey, between two great world wars and after this, the question of human rights and the concept of these thoughts arose.

In the definition and formation of rights, those rights are also talked about which are now called as ‘minority rights’. Here the word minority does not mean political minority but the group of people who are permanently in the status of minority. Between this minority and majority, there is such a kind of difference, which is permanent, and this base of difference becomes their identity. This difference may be in the shape of race, colour, and religion, which becomes the unique culture and their life style. Therefore for the existence of their identity, culture and life style, they need constitutional and legal protection. With the development of theory of human rights, they were allowed to continue and develop their language, racial identity, religion and culture, which were accepted as rights of minorities and these rights are called as minority rights. Now that the period has almost changed, where it was necessary to adopt the majority culture, language, religion and belief of a particular country for the sake of citizenship. Even in USA, only the Anglo-Saxons of Europe were permitted to land, settle and get citizenship, whereas even the whites of Europe were not allowed, later this type of thinking slowly erased. USA declared itself as ‘melting pot’ and opened the doors for non- Saxons; in Canada, in the region of Cuba where French culture and language existed, they adopted the policies of cultural pluralism. Even though after these changes, non-whites such as Africans and Asians are still prohibited in different parts of the world and in the colonies of Europe; In Australia and Europe, whites have permission to settle, whereas quota is allotted for non- Europeans. Still the whole world has not accepted cultural pluralism and discrimination based on race, colour, language and religion exists. Generally, it is thought that the minority rights will be completely respected and imposed when the world state is established which would respect these rights. This is a kind of dream that is impossible to be fulfilled.

In case of minority rights one thing should be kept in mind that the rights are not for a single man, it is for the whole community. These rights are nothing but assurances and safeguards. The trend to accept their rights and to give capacity for their laws and to include sections is developing, and it is considered as a quality of a civilized state. For the practical implementation of minority rights the atmosphere of tolerance and mutual co-existence is necessary. If the tolerance does not exist, then all the assurances will go in vain. To promote the tolerance of race, colour, creed, sex, language, religion, culture and faith, to live with the minority groups, to respect their rights, and to work together for the development of the country and its people, it is necessary to improve the sensitivity, emotions, theories and practical implementation. Without creating this type of atmosphere, the practical implementation of minority rights is very difficult. For this it is necessary to take strict action against those who are promoting intolerance so that the tolerance and the indifferences among the race, colour, language, culture, religion, faith, and nature becomes the important properties of culture. Every state, society and group should try to achieve this target; only then, the world will see the complete respect of minority rights in practical manner. It should always be kept in mind that the minority rights is the obligation of the majority; where the majority fulfills these responsibilities and practically shows the tolerance and co- existence, only then positive circumstances of minority rights could be created.

For practically applying minority rights, one more thing is worth considering that the human rights which are called as fundamental freedoms and fundamental rights, without them this right cannot take practical shape. Without fundamental rights and fundamental freedom, which all the citizens and individuals possess, without those minorities rights are totally meaningless. Among these fundamental rights, first right is the right to life. There is a saying that “If there is life, there is world”; lots of meaning and explanation is hidden in it. From the core of this right, another right i.e. Right to security comes in. without this right, is getting minorities rights possible? Where right to life has not been accepted and where security and development is not guaranteed, there minorities and people relating to minority community will always have sword hanging on their heads and they will live in the shadow of fear. Right to life also includes that every person should be given fair chance of developing their personalities and talents by developing, preserving and protecting their present culture. Right to life is not just to keep relation between body and life but also to make life aim full till the end, develop physical personality and give every possible chance to enjoy life, in this right one can live a descent life as a member of civil society and also chance should be there to take life to the suitable standard and make it independent. Because of being first among all rights and the base of other rights and to assure the right to life, proper security and safeguards are needed. To give meaning to minority rights, all should be benefited by these rights including minorities.

The same thing can also be said of right to equality where it is first condition for system of justice and compulsory condition to develop the human personality. Here the explanation is important that, right to equality is not just equality in the eyes of law and before the court, but also includes equality in expressing and developing personality. To get the benefits of these chances no conditions and restrictions should be implemented on the basis of caste, creed, colour, language, religion and sex, including minorities, all should be given the chance.

In case of minority rights basic rights and independence cannot be neglected. Minorities will find good atmosphere to maintain their culture, religion and belief where every one including minorities will have basic rights and basic independence. In this movement it becomes important to check basic rights and independence at world level.

Moulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi is Secretary, AIMPLB

Rural poverty and India’s Maoist revolt

November 17, 2009

The Indian government has ordered hundreds of paramilitary troops into eastern parts of the country where Maoist rebels have increasingly been taking control.

By Mark Tully
Former BBC Delhi Correspondent

A massive security operation has been launched against the rebels

This year, 669 people have died in violent incidents involving the Maoists.

October was a particularly humiliating month for the Indian police.

First, members of the Communist Party of India [Maoist] captured an Inspector and beheaded him. Then, a police station was attacked and two policemen killed.

The officer in charge was abducted and only freed after the government of West Bengal released 24 Maoists it had arrested – a humiliating climb-down.

In two other attacks, 21 policemen were killed. Then came the hijacking of one of India’s prestigious express trains running from the capital of the east coast state of Orissa to Delhi.

Maoists and supporters of a group known as The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, most of them armed just with bows and arrows, halted the train and overcame its staff.

When the police eventually arrived, the hijackers, numbering some 1500, dispersed without putting up any resistance. There were no casualties.

Decades of conflict

The Maoists are often known as Naxalites because of the Maoist uprising in 1967, which started from the Eastern village of Naxalbari. That was put down by the police.

But over the years, the Naxalites have established effective control over vast forests stretching across six states in the heart of India.

The villagers who live in the forests, are known in India as tribals.

The Maoists are driven by the grievances of India’s rural poor

They come from tribes who, under the British Raj, led their traditional ways of life isolated in the forests, although India has changed dramatically since then.

The government is officially committed to bringing tribals into the mainstream – few schools, health centres and other facilities have reached them.

Whenever I have travelled in tribal areas, I have been shocked by the resentment the tribals feel at their neglect by successive governments.

The train hijacking occurred on the day that India’s Home Minister, P Chidambaram, told a parliamentary committee that the police needed urgent reform.

The central forces are not exactly known for their softly, softly approach.

Chidambaram told the parliamentarians he had ordered a massive expansion of the paramilitary police forces controlled by the central government.

But they could well become part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Being central government forces and recruited from all over India they will be strangers, not speaking the tribal languages or understanding their ways.

The central forces are not exactly known for their softly, softly approach.

When they were very active in Kashmir, I remember having several conversations with the governor about the failure to punish police responsible for human rights abuses.

Bitter criticism

The governor was a humane man himself, and he had the honesty to admit the government feared the forces would be demoralised if action was taken against them every time they went too far.

Although the Naxalites operate in remote areas, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has described them as “the single largest internal security threat.”

A government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have – their land - Arundhati Roy

But many Indians question whether Chidambaram’s campaign is the right way to deal with this threat.

One of his most vocal opponents is the Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy.

Writing in a very recent edition of the Indian weekly magazine, Outlook, Arundhati Roy said: “If the tribals have taken up arms they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have – their land.”

She bitterly criticised the plans of multinational companies to mine the forest’s bauxite and other rich mineral reserves.

The national daily The Indian Express, put the case for Mr Chidambaram’s operation Green Hunt as it is called: “The ultimate and foolproof solution to the Maoist threat is to end it. The Indian state must progressively reclaim territory currently in Maoist control and establish the rule of law therein.”

But it is unlikely to be as simple as that. India now faces the prospects of a brutal campaign which could last four or five years according to the home minister.


The tribal people, who both sides claim to be representing, will be crushed between security forces demanding they provide information about Maoist movements, and the Maoists themselves who have already shown how brutally they treat anyone they believe has betrayed them.

Once again, the root of the problem is the Indian government’s inability to provide what those they govern rightly feel is their entitlement.

Nowhere is this more manifest than in the callous handling of tribals who have been dispossessed of their land.

Reading Arundhati Roy, I was reminded of a visit I made to a resettlement villages for tribals, who had twice been evicted in order to make way for power stations.

When they complained to the official accompanying me that they were not being provided with electricity, he shot back: “Well you cannot afford it, can you?”

With that sort of callousness all too common amongst officials, is it any wonder that tribals support Maoists who promise to protect their lands?

Green Hunt for Reds

November 10, 2009


In line with its policy of using force to resolve situations India has embarked on what it calls ‘operation Green Hunt’ to hunt down and kill the Naxalites fighting for their rights in India’s insurgency dominated north east. A little known fact is that almost one third of India has some form of insurgent activity—almost all of it triggered by oppression, caste discrimination, poverty, corrupt exploitative administrations, brute force, rape, extortion and an unresponsive flawed local political system in cahoots with local police forces.

Left-wing extremist affected areas in India

The ‘green hunt’ with Para-military forces began early November after the insurgents had established a parallel administration that was welcomed by the local population as a good alternative to the oppressive and corrupt government machinery. The militant wings of the ‘naxalites’ had carried out abductions, beheadings, bomb blasts and armed attacks almost always on government agencies and those seen as collaborating with them. The situation had moved well away from the marginal capability of local police forces who were either colluding with the insurgents or cowering in mortal fear of reprisals if the did anything to rein them in. This was also true of the local politicians and the state administration. The situation had evolved over a period of almost forty years of neglect and compromises.

Read Complete Article :

India: Illegal detention of 11 year old girl in Manipur must be investigated

September 18, 2009

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is calling for the government of India to launch an independent investigation into allegations that an 11 year old girl was illegally detained by police in the state of Manipur to force her parents – suspected of links with local armed opposition groups to give themselves up.

Bidyarani Devi Salam was taken from her home by security forces on the morning of 14 August and held in police custody for five days. Her illegal detention triggered hundreds of protestors to take to the streets and call for her release.

Local human rights organizations have demanded that legal action be taken against the police for illegally detaining Bidyarani Devi Salam. They have alleged that the police kidnapped the girl to make her parents – who were suspected for helping local armed opposition groups – give themselves up.

“A minor being targeted by armed forces to justify their action against armed opposition groups is a shameful act and should not be tolerated under any circumstance, ” said Madhu Malhotra Deputy Program Director Asia Pacific Amnesty International.

Bidyarani Devi Salam was released and handed over to relatives on Thursday, after police had arrested her parents, on suspicion of helping the Manipur People’s Liberation Army.

The police maintain that they had taken the girl for medical treatment after she fainted during their visit to her house to search for her parents. However, the police could not explain why she was not sent to a children’s home or to a hospital for treatment.

This is the second time in a month that Manipur has come under sharp focus for gross violations of human rights. On 23 July, Manipur police and security forces shot dead a 27-year-old unarmed former insurgent, Chungkam Sanjit, and a pregnant woman bystander in the main market of Manipur.

Manipur chief minister, Ibobi Singh, has ordered a judicial inquiry into the 23 July killings and suspended six policemen. However, the policemen are yet to be formally charged with murder. A court has given the state government until 25 August to file formal charges

On 4 and 5 August, police detained seven human rights activists including three women after they led protestors to the state governor’s residence, seeking the dismissal of the policemen for the murders and the filing of formal charges against them.

“Instead of taking legal action against the security forces committing gross human rights violations the state has chosen to punish local activists for peacefully raising their voices to seek justice, ” said Madhu Malhotra

Manipur has witnessed recurrent protests against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which gives immunity to security and paramilitary forces in conflict with armed opposition groups.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have repeatedly demanded the repeal of this legislation which went against India’s international obligations to protect human rights.


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