Skip to main content

Why is India evading ratification of UN Convention against torture, other cruel, inhuman treatments

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
June 26th is designated by the UN General Assembly as the ‘International Day in Support of Victims of Torture’, with a view ‘to the total eradication of torture and for the effective functioning of the ‘Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’(UNCAT).
According to the UN “torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings. Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity”.
Strangely enough June 26th is infamous in India. Exactly forty years ago on the night of June 25th/26th the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had a ‘state of emergency’ declared all over the country. Thousands were incarcerated, many were tortured in prison, freedom of speech and expression was banned, civil liberties were curtailed and human rights violations took centre-stage including a mass-sterilisation programme. The emergency which lasted for twenty- one months (till 21st March 1977) was surely a dark chapter of India’s history.
Today forty years after that terrible period, India is currently witnessing another ‘state of emergency’. This ‘emergency’ is perhaps much more dangerous: there is no official ‘proclamation’, the moves are subtle and seemingly innocuous. Efforts are made to destroy the sanctity, the spirit and the letter of the Indian Constitution. Rights and freedom guaranteed to citizens are systematically curbed or denied. Propaganda complete with lies, half-truths and false promises, (which could put even Hitler’s Goebbels into the shadow!) is dished out by the Prime Minister and his coterie,
The media is gagged; most are coopted and those who protest against the Government in any way (as with NDTV) are denigrated and have false cases foisted on them. Intellectuals who speak out, Human Rights Defenders and social activists are subject to constant intimidation and harassment. NGOs who side with the poor and marginalized are denied the possibility of receiving foreign funds. Minorities particularly the Muslims and Christians are subject to attacks, hate speeches and demonization. Fascists have the upper hand in deciding what people can read and write; dress and see; drink and eat. Cow vigilantes and lynch-mobs have no problem in assaulting and even killing so-called ‘beef-eaters.’ The powerful, the rich and the corrupt are favoured as clear seen in the ‘demonetization’ fiasco.
India has always taken great pride in an independent judiciary. Several recent appointments to the courts smack of partiality and prejudice; those who toe the line, subscribe to their ideology are favoured. Some of the recent decisions from the courts are a clear indication that the judges are compromised: they want to be on the good books of their political masters.
There is an obvious break-down of law and order in several parts of the country; the police are clearly after the dissenters and protesters (like the farmers who are protesting all over the country). It is common knowledge that torture is used extensively and on the rise in India. According to a report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an estimated 1,203 custodial deaths take place every year. 
Fascists in India have the upper hand in deciding what people can read and write; dress and see; drink and eat
Another study by the ‘National Project on Preventing Torture in India’ has estimated about 1.8 million cases of torture, ill treatment and inhuman behavior recorded annually. Instances of torture continue to rise and thousands of citizens are subjected to inhuman treatment in custody, resulting in grave infraction of their fundamental human rights and dignity.
Victims of torture who are able to come out of the clutches of the torturers have terrible tales to share. Several Muslim youth in Gujarat were arrested during Modi’s reign as Chief Minister and subject to the most horrendous type of torture. One does not need to be too intelligent to realise that when the current BJP Supremo Amit Shah was the Home Minister of Gujarat many Muslim youth were brutally killed in what is referred to as ‘fake encounters.’
Recently, ‘People’s Watch’, the well –known human rights organization, launched a National Campaign ‘Make Torture Alien to our Culture’, “to show solidarity with the thousands of victims of torture in India, many of whom have also lost their lives”. This timely Campaign which was addressed to the Prime Minister, had among other things this to say, “Democracy and freedom can no longer be considered a jewel when the survival of its citizens it is in question;” and urged the Government of India immediately:
1. to swiftly ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and its optional protocol;
2. to ensure that domestic legislation defines torture in line with international standards;
3. to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for an official visit.
The Campaign goes on to state that “the Attorney General of India Mr. Mukhul Rohatgi at the 3rd UPR process stated that, “India remains committed to ratify the Convention against Torture. We believe in peace, non-violence and upholding human dignity. As such the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance.” Dear Mr. Prime Minister, we can only hope that the government will listen to its own Attorney General and truly make torture a completely alien concept to our Indian culture of ahimsa.”
On June 26th however, the Prime Minister will be shopping in the United States for more arms and ammunition at the cost of the ordinary Indian citizen. Most probably he will not realise the global significance of the day; and even if he does, whether he has the courage to mainstream ahimsa and eradicate torture in India now!
---
*Indian juman rights activist, currently based in Lebanon, engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.