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India's top human rights defenders are facing reprisal for cooperating with United Nations: UN annual report

By Rajiv Shah
The United Nations (UN) secretary-general’s annual report to the ongoing 39th session of the Human Rights Council has taken strong exception to the manner the Government of India has been using “reprisals” against the human rights defenders who have been “cooperating” with the United Nations’ (UN’s) different panels.
Citing four major cases, the report says, one of them – reported by the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights this year – is of Khurram Parvez, who was detained under the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Public Safety Act, 1978, because his activities were allegedly “prejudicial to public order.”
The report recalls, in 2017, too, the secretary-general, had referred to “intimidation and reprisals” against Parvez, chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, and programme coordinator of Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), in relation to his cooperation with the Human Rights Council, the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the Universal Periodic Review.”
The report asserts, “These reprisals took the form of a travel ban and arbitrary arrest and detention, reportedly because Parvez was fomenting an ‘anti-India narrative’, propagating separatism, and inciting others to violence.”
It adds, “Reprisals were apparently taken against him for documenting and sharing information with the UN on human rights violations in J&K, including on behalf of victims.”
Kartik Murukutla
“At the time of his preventive detention of 76 days in 2016, he was accused in four criminal cases, which were subsequently dropped by the J&K High Court who held that he had been detained arbitrarily”, the report says, adding, “However, the police have still filed First Information Reports before a court in Srinagar for three cases, for which he is awaiting hearings.”
Praising Parvez to be “a source of information collected from June 2016 to April 2018 for an OHCHR report published in June 2018 on the human rights situation in J&K and has reportedly suffered reprisals for his assistance”, the report believes, “Defaming content against the JKCCS and Parvez is reportedly being circulated by a group that claims to have ISIS affiliation.”
This group, says the report, “has publicly incited death threats against Parvez and his family, and used slanderous language against the work of the JKCCS.”
Yet another human rights defender who is facing “state reprisal”, believes the report, is a JKCCS member Kartik Murukutla, who “represents victims of human rights violations before local courts and engages with UN human rights mechanisms.”
The report states, “In September 2016, while traveling to Geneva, Murukutla was informed that he was subject to a ‘Look Out Circular’, a measure taken where a case has been registered against an individual by a police authority in order to verify whether a travelling person is wanted by the police.”
The ‘Look Out Circular’ is used by the police authorities “to prevent and monitor the entry or exit of persons who may be required by law enforcement agencies”, the report asserts, adding, “There is concern that this measure was taken against Murukutla as a reprisal for his cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms in Geneva.”
The report adds, “It was reported in May 2018 Murukutla was not subject to restrictions during his most recent travels, but he had not been informed about the status of the Look Out Circular nor its implications for his future travel.”
Henri Tiphagne
A third case the report refers to is that of Henri Tiphagne, a well-known human rights defender, who head the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC).
Pointing out that it is a clear case where India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, is being misused “to restrict the work of NGOs cooperating with UN”, the report says, CPSC, also known as People’s Watch, the report says, was “refused to renew the organization’s license to receive foreign funding under Article 6 of the FCRA and CPSC’s bank accounts were frozen.”
While this happened in October 2016 at the behest of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the report regrets, “The refusal was subsequently upheld by the High Court of New Delhi in January 2017.” Best that as it may, the report thinks, non-renewal of CPSC’s license is “a clear case of reprisal for his cooperation with the UN.”
Pointing out that “the case is still pending before the court following a April 13, 2018 hearing, and has been adjourned to August 31”, the report notes, Tiphagne “was accused of using foreign contributions in his international advocacy ‘to the detriment of India’s image’, including in his engagement with UN special rapporteurs to whom he submitted information ‘portraying India’s human rights record in negative light’.”
Yet another case cited in the report is that of the Centre for Social Development (CSD), “which promotes the land and resource rights of indigenous peoples in Manipur.” It says, the suspension of CSD’s FCRA license was “on claims that CSD violated FCRA by using foreign funding for purposes other than intended by the law, including drawing attention to uranium mining in Meghalaya at ‘several global platforms’.”
Nobokishore Urikhimbam
According to the report, CSD “submitted a report in October 2017 to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which included inquiries related to uranium mining and cement factories in Meghalaya.”
CSD, the report notes, has in all submitted nine reports to the United Nations since 2006 concerning violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in northeast India in relation to large-scale development projects, mining operations, and implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. They have requested the Committee’s action under its early warning procedure.
CSD, says the report, include is being “targeted by Indian authorities since August 2017, when surveillance of its premises and staff’s movements began. The offices of the organization were reportedly visited by the Central Reserve Policy Force and others to question the staff about their work, and staff have been harassed.”
It adds, “One staff member was physically attacked on 18 August 2017. In November 2017, one staff member and two volunteers of the organization were called in for questioning by the police.”
The report adds, “CSD secretary Nobokishore Urikhimbam has been surveyed by military intelligence officials from the State of Manipur as well as those outside of the state at his office premises and at his home in Imphal, Manipur. When he travelled to Shillong, State of Meghalaya in January 2018, the Intelligence Department of Meghalaya contacted the hotel and interrogated its staff about his actions and contacts.”

Comments

Urvashi Devi said…
Am very suspicious of these NGOs. In the name of human rights the misuse the money donated to them. I had a personal experiences, when I was Minister and went to Washington. There was a lady collecting money saying it was for mothers and babies dying in Rajpipla; I confronted her on stage; she didn't even know where Rajpipla was in Gujarat ��. Take the case of Teesta ��.They only do this Natak to get funds. Have also seen Medha Patkar. They don't help anyone except themselves.

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