Saturday, February 20, 2016

HRW: Why is Modi govt "less willing" to investigate BJP men committing violence in the name of nationalism?

By Our Representative
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement issued in New York, has demanded that the Indian authorities should stop charging “peaceful activists with sedition for alleged anti-national speech.”
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is promoting Indian democracy around the world as an attractive market, yet back home, his administration is cracking down on peaceful dissent,” it said.
Referring to police arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, and former teacher SAR Geelani in mid-February, it said these are “politically motivated cases”, adding, “Failing to uphold basic human rights is not a good global message.”
“The BJP government seems eager to punish peaceful speech – but less willing to investigate supporters who commit violence in the name of nationalism”, the HRW said.
Suggesting that the arrest of Kumar on February 12 and of Geelani on February 16 were not isolated evenings, the HRW noted, “The police reportedly began conducting search operations in several Indian cities for other students they say were ‘ring leaders’ after the minister for home affairs warned that those who shouted anti-India slogans and challenged India’s sovereignty and integrity during these meetings would not be tolerated.”
Referring to the attack on Kumar, journalists and political activists on February 15 and 16 at the Patiala court in Delhi by several men led by BJP leader Om Prakash Sharma, the HRW said, how “If I had a gun I would have opened fire. If someone abuses our mother, won’t I hit him?”
“The authorities not only need to find out why BJP supporters were apparently involved in an assault inside a court, but also why the police did nothing”, the top advocacy group, which has branches all over the world, said.
“The government should undertake an independent investigation into the police response to the violence”, the HRW said, adding, “Strong disciplinary measures should be taken against police personnel found negligent.”
Referring to how “Kumar’s arrest has led to protests by students and academics in universities across India and has prompted condemnation from scholars around the world”, the HRW said, “The case has highlighted the urgent need for India’s parliament to repeal the country’s sedition law.”
HRW has especially taking exception to the “Section 124A of the Indian penal code” which “prohibits any words, spoken or written, or any signs or visible representation that can cause ‘hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection’ toward the government.”
HRW said, though “India’s Supreme Court has imposed limits on the use of the sedition law, making incitement to violence a necessary element, police continue to file sedition charges even in cases where this requirement is not met.”
“Repeated use of the law to silence peaceful speech is a violation of India’s international human rights obligations”, HRW insisted.
It added, “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India ratified in 1979, prohibits restrictions on freedom of expression on national security grounds unless they are provided by law, strictly construed, and necessary and proportionate to address a legitimate threat. Such laws cannot put the right itself in jeopardy.”

No comments: