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Patidar leader Hardik Patel, activist Teesta Setalvad targeted thru "overbroad, vague" laws: Human Rights Watch

Hardik Patel
By Rajiv Shah
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government using “overbroad and vaguely worded sedition, criminal defamation, and hate speech laws” for “arresting Hardik Patel, who is spearheading protests to demand quotas in education and government jobs for his community, and charged him with sedition in two separate cases.”
Pointing out that the sedition laws are being used across India to “harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views”, the just released "World Report 2016: Facts of 2015" notes, another law, Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), has been used to target human rights activist Teesta Setelvad.
Qualifying action against Setalvad as “politically-motivated intimidation”, the HRW recalls that she “well-known for her work supporting victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots and for seeking criminal charges against scores of officials, including Prime Minister Modi”, who was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002.
The report underscores, “Authorities labeled activists ‘anti-national’ when they questioned government infrastructure and development projects or sought justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.”
Teesta Setalvad
At the same time, the report regrets how the Gujarat government went so far as to help tainted cops: “In 2014 and 2015, several police officials were reinstated in Gujarat despite having been implicated in the alleged 2004 ‘encounter’ killing of 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan and three others, raising concerns about the government’s commitment to police accountability.”
The report, which also gives instances of how the Government of India similarly targeted Greenpeace India and Ford Foundation, using FCRA for alleged foreign funding violations, says, the Indian authorities in 2015, in fact, “intensified their crackdown on civil society”, harassing those who “questioned or criticized government policies.”
Giving these instances, the HRW report criticizes the Government of India for doing little in 2015 to “implement promises by newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve respect for religious freedom, protect the rights of women and children, and end abuses against marginalized communities.”
The HRW report states, “Even as the prime minister celebrated Indian democracy abroad, back home civil society groups faced increased harassment and government critics faced intimidation and lawsuits.”
It adds, “Officials warned media against making what they called unsubstantiated allegations against the government, saying it weakened democracy. In several cases, courts reprimanded the government for restricting free expression.”
The report
Especially criticizing “some leaders” of the ruling BJP for making “inflammatory remarks against minorities”, the HRW report puts the blame on what it calls “right-wing Hindu fringe groups”, who “threatened and harassed them”, and in some cases “even attacking them.”
It gives the instance, in this context, of how “four Muslim men were killed by Hindu vigilante groups in separate incidents across the country in 2015 over suspicions that they had killed or stolen cows for beef”.
As for the authorities, the HRW report notes, they “did not press robustly for prosecution of those responsible for violent attacks on minorities, and impunity for the assailants contributed to a sense of government indifference to growing religious intolerance.”
Appreciating Tripura revoking the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), citing a decline in insurgency, the HRW report regrets, “It remains in force in Jammu and Kashmir and in other northeastern states.” AFSPA and similar such laws, it emphasizes, “provide public officials and security forces immunity from prosecution for abuses without prior authorization.”
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Download HRW report HERE

Comments

Anonymous said…
Typical how this comes out hours before the Hon Supreme Court is to hear Teesta Setalvad's case. Such reports smack of intellectual dishonesty & perhaps the Ms. Setalvad has been urging or even writing these herself ...
Megan Wilson said…
Just read your post, "Patidar leader Hardik Patel, activist Teesta Setalvad targeted thru "overbroad, vague" laws: Human Rights Watch". I thought your post had some fantastic insights into a tragedy against Hardik!

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