News Alerts - India

India: Human Rights organisation demands withdrawal of UAPA

Criticising the Central government for framing the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a human rights organisation today demanded immediate withdrawal of the law on the ground that it violated basic human rights.

“We want immediate withdrawal of the UAPA. This is much more dangerous than POTA, TADA or the Rowlatt Act of the British colonial rule. It denies basic human rights and legal immunity to those who are tried under it,” Association for Protection of Human Rights president Sujato Bhadra said.

Bhadra said it was regrettable that the Congress, which claimed to be a believer in the ideals of Mahatama Gandhi who had once denounced the Rowlatt Act, should pass such a law which is much more draconian and anti-human.

Bhadra also took a swipe at the ruling Trinamool Congress and the previous Left regime for agreeing to put the law into effect. (more…)

India: Landmark Supreme Court decision upholds rights of death row prisoners – Amnesty International

A historic decision by India’s Supreme Court commuting the death sentences of 15 prisoners and setting out guidelines to safeguard the rights of prisoners on death row and their families is a positive step for human rights in the country, Amnesty International India said today.

The Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Suresh, Ramji, Bilavendran, Simon, Gnanprakasham, Meesekar Madaiah, Praveen Kumar, Gurmeet Singh, Sonia Chaudhury, Sanjeev Chaudhury, Jafar Ali, Shivu and Jadeswamy, on the ground of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President ranging between 5 and 12 years.

The Court commuted the death sentences of Sundar Singh and Magan Lal Barela on the ground that they suffer from mental illness.

“While acknowledging the need to strike a balance between the rights of the accused as well as the victims, this momentous decision reaffirms the rights guaranteed to death row prisoners under the Constitution of India and international law and standards” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

“The verdict places a strong emphasis on the human rights of all persons, and should steer the country towards completely doing away with the death penalty.”

Yug Mohit Chaudhry, one of the lawyers representing prisoners affected by the decision, told Amnesty International India, “This judgment is a tribute to Indian constitutional values and the independence of the judiciary. It recognizes that death row prisoners have rights that the court will protect.” (more…)

India: End Violence Against Women, Children, Minorities – HRW

The Indian government’s inability to protect women and children from rape and sexual violence undermines its commitment to uphold the rights of all Indians, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014. During 2013 the authorities also failed to enforce laws that protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, religious minorities, and tribal groups. Government efforts to increase mass surveillance raised concerns over rights to privacy and free speech.

“International attention to sexual attacks in India led to a new law, but should have spurred the government towards systemic changes to make real progress on this issue,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has also failed to keep its promises of reforms to create a responsive police force, and to repeal laws that protect the armed forces from prosecution.”

In the 667-page World Report 2014, its 24th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. Syria’s widespread killings of civilians elicited horror but few steps by world leaders to stop it, Human Rights Watch said. A reinvigorated doctrine of “responsibility to protect” seems to have prevented some mass atrocities in Africa.  Majorities in power in Egypt and other countries have suppressed dissent and minority rights. And Edward Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance programs reverberated around the globe. (more…)

India: Dismaying top court ruling re-criminalizes homosexuality

A ruling by India’s Supreme Court making consensual same-sex conduct between adults a criminal offence marks a black day for freedom in India, Amnesty International India said today.

“This decision is a body blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India. “It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights.”

The Supreme Court overturned a historic ruling by the Delhi High Court in 2009 which had decriminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults. The Supreme Court said that Section 377 – which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”- was constitutionally valid, and said that the Government could take legislative steps to repeal the law. (more…)

UN women’s rights resolution passed despite backlash

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – A UN General Assembly committee has agreed a landmark first resolution on women’s rights defenders such as Malala Yousafzai, despite a hard fought campaign by an alliance including the Vatican to weaken the measure.

A Norwegian-led coalition, which has prepared the resolution for months, had to delete language that condemned “all forms of violence against women” to get the text passed by consensus late Wednesday.

African nations, the Vatican, Iran, Russia, China and conservative Muslim states had sought to weaken the resolution passed by the assembly’s human rights committee, diplomats and activists said.

The campaign for women’s rights defenders has been given a huge boost in recent months by the likes of Malala, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for her battle for girls’ education, and Denis Mukwege, the Democratic Republic of Congo doctor briefly forced into exile for his work helping rape victims. (more…)

Human rights and foreign policy

By Anuradha M Chenoy

Human rights has always been a contested issue in foreign policy matters. Strategic experts advise that human rights should play no role in foreign policy. They believe that states have only interests and power has no ethics. This is patently wrong. Apart from interests, the power of the state has to have norms if it has to have any legitimacy. For this, a state has to believe in rights.

Recently, India has taken a somewhat different stand with the prime minister pressured not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting in Sri Lanka on account of human rights violation. India took the soft option of sending the foreign minister. So, what is the relation of human rights with foreign policy?

States and those who govern them feel that state sovereignty is absolute and indivisible and whatever happens within a country should not be questioned by outsiders. For example, Sri Lanka currently feels that no other country, especially India, should question their record in war crimes during the recently concluded civil war. They take umbrage in the belief that talking of human rights is a threat to their national security. The argument is that as an elected regime they can legitimately use as much violence that they deem necessary to protect their nation from threat and disintegration. The question then is should the world community at large forget about human rights and each state stick to their concept of state sovereignty, allowing each other to deal with their own citizens with as much violence as they wish? This is where the human rights and foreign policy debate come in. (more…)

Sexual, Reproductive Rights Urged for All in S Asia

Forty parliamentarians from the nine South Asian countries came together to support the need to highlight sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in a two day consultation organised by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global service provider and leading advocate of SRHR.

The parliamentarians discussed avenues of providing impetus to sensitise the policy makers, religious leaders and the society on SRHR.

Speaking on the occasion Tewodros Melesse, Director General of IPPF said, “The hypocrisy of humanity is to deny sexuality, the most basic aspect of human nature. It has existed from the dawn of time, yet we find it difficult to come to terms and address it. When we view it through political, religious and cultural lenses we begin to withhold dignity, respect and rights of one half of the population- women and girls.

The concerns about upholding the rights for women and the rising religious and cultural extremism in the region were expressed in the consultation. The Parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka supported the need for governments to take greater ownership of the SRHR agenda and to promote progressive policies for women and disadvantaged sections of the society. They supported women’s and young peoples’ participation in decision making at all levels – individual, community and policy level.

“The issue of SRHR has two levels – one is ensuring legislation for penalising and second level is to change mindset of people to reclaim dignity of women, girls and young people. I believe that discussion on violence against women and girls rights and empowerment should start from the intimacy of the bedroom where instances of marital rape are common. Giving dignity in such intimate spaces should be our starting point,” said Ibrahim Zuhuree, from the Secretary-General’s Office in the SAARC Secretariat. (more…)

India LGBTQ Community Want Guidelines for Media Reporting

The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenders, queer) community in the country is about to approach the state human rights commission to set up guidelines about reporting issues related to them. This has come about in the wake of a newspaper in a small town in the state writing a story that equated their lifestyle to sex trade.

In the week following the said article being published, gay right activists from all over the state had assembled in the town for a dialogue with the editor of the newspaper. The meeting was arranged in the local police headquarters. However, after making the activists wait for a considerable time, the editor slipped out saying he had some urgent work outside the city. Numerous letters to the newspaper and the owners of the media group were answered by means of a follow up article, which also did not help the cause.

“It is difficult for most gay people to ‘come out’. With such discriminatory articles, not only would they be discouraged from revealing themselves but the society would never have a positive opinion of our community,” said Sonal Giani, advocacy officer of Mumbai-based NGO Humsafar Trust, one of the first organizations to promote gay rights in the country. She was among the activists waiting in the police commissioner’s office for a meeting that never happened. The activists also staged a sit-in protest later.


Pakistani and Indian Intellectuals Call for Talks Between the Two Countries

Participants at an intellectual dialogue between India and Pakistan, organized by the South Asian Free Media Association, called on their countries to show restraint on the border, and to hold talks. Due to heightened tension between the two countries, only 12 Indian delegates were able to make the journey to Islamabad, out of the 45 plus invited.

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said a strong Pakistan would augur well for India, which should strengthen Pakistan’s democratically elected government by shunning the jingoism spread by certain parties for their political exigency and by the media for their commercial interests. He urged the prime ministers of both countries to restart the dialogue process.

Baraj Mohan, an Indian newspaper and television journalist, said both India and Pakistan were ignoring basic issues of their people.

Economist Pervez Tahir said India and Pakistan needed to show flexibility and open trade building upon the complementarities the two countries had.

Columnist Kamran Shafi lamented that India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers, lack basic infrastructure and stressed that peace is the only way forward.

Indian journalist Jasdeep Singh Malhotra called for efforts to remove misconceptions in people on both sides of the border about each other through information and people exchanges.

Noted journalist and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary-General I. A. Rehman said both the countries were celebrating their independence on August 14 and 15 as 40 per cent of their peoples were living below poverty line. The countries that had got freedom after India and Pakistan had progressed much more, giving respect and prosperity to their peoples. He said both countries recently talked of easing visa regime but it had become more difficult than ever.


India offers another investigation to calm Kashmir

The Indian government has lifted a curfew and an Internet shutdown imposed to keep a lid on protests after Indian soldiers killed four unarmed civilians last week in the Ramban district of Kashmir. India has also promised to investigate the Ramban shootings in a familiar effort to calm tensions.

On Thursday, during a protest over the alleged desecration of the Quran by Indian Border Security Forces, the soldiers opened fire on civilian protesters, killing four people and injuring 48. The BSF claimed that there were “terrorists” within the crowd and that the soldiers had shot only in self-defense. As protests spread in response, the Indian government raised the compensation for the dead from $3,400 to $8,400, and assured a job to a kin of each of the slain.

India has maintained over half a million soldiers in the Himalayan region of Kashmir and grew a 100,000-strong local police force to deal with a popular rebellion that cropped up in 1990 against Indian rule. Military shootings of civilians like those in Ramban are familiar to Kashmiris – as are the Indian government’s subsequent probes. Kashmiris, however, have learned to put little stock in the exercises, since they are never followed with prosecutions.

“All Indian probes in Kashmir are farcical. They are an end in itself,” says Hameeda Nayeem, a professor of English at the University of Kashmir.

Three weeks ago, two young men from Bandipore in north Kashmir were shot dead by the Indian Army. The Army later said it was “a mistake” and a similar probe was ordered.



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