Skip to main content

India to observe human rights day amidst threats, coercion, false cases on dissidents

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
This past year from December 2018 had two significant 70th anniversaries: first, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948) and then, of the promulgation of the Constitution of India (November 26, 2019). It is quite certain that the makers of the Indian Constitution took inspiration from the UDHR.
Strangely enough, as if on cue, everything possible is done by the powers that control the destiny of the nation, to demolish human rights and the values enshrined in the Constitution! There is perhaps not a day in the recent past, when the country has not witnessed violations of human rights be it the gang rape and murder of an innocent woman, the lynching of a Muslim and for that matter, a carefully-orchestrated and manipulative initiative to render people , ‘stateless!’
As the world observes the 71st Human Rights Day on December 10, there is perhaps just one conclusion that emerges: for the vast majority of the people of India, where human rights are concerned, it has been a truly horrendous year!
Ever since the BJP-led NDA Government seized the reins of power in May 2014, there has been a steady deterioration, violation and now the demolition of human rights in the country.In the Human Development Index 2018, India reached an all-time low of 130 out of 189 countries. In several other objective and unbiased international analysis and studies, India has touched, on all parameters, abysmal depths.
India has acquired the awful and dubious distinction of being regarded as the ‘rape capital’ of the world. In a society which has consistently treated women as second class citizens, the discrimination that women have been subjected to, was accepted in several quarters as ‘normal’. Ever since, the Gujarat carnage of 2002, raping and murdering women, has been occurring with a frightening regularity.
The recent gang-rape in Hyderabad sent shock waves through the nation. The chilling aspect of these sordid acts, is that if you are rich and powerful you can get away with rape and molesting women. You can even become a law maker.
In May 2019, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) released a report according to which, nearly half of the newly elected Lok Sabha members have criminal charges against them, a 26% increase as compared to 2014 and a 44% increase when compared to 2009. Out of the 539 winners analysed in Lok Sabha 2019, 233 MPs or43% have declared criminal cases against themselves.
After analysing data of state Assemblies and Lok Sabha, ADR found that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has the most number of MPs/MLAs with cases of crimes against women. About 30% of them face very serious charges, like those related to rape and other crimes against women, murder, kidnapping.
Then are the ‘fake encounter’ killings! Four alleged rapists were arrested in the aftermath the Hyderabad gang-rape and murder; a couple of days’ later, all four of them were murdered in cold blood! The ‘justification’ of this act hardly finds any takers.
A macabre ‘fairy tale’ which one cannot fool a five-year old kid with. All this, is a painful reminder of the ‘fake encounters’ in Gujarat; of how one of the powerful men of this country was responsible for it and of the ‘untimely’ and ‘unnatural’ death of Justice Loya who refused to be compromised or bought up.
Strangely enough in the case of the rapes and murder of women, if the accused are poor then they are ‘done away with’; however, if the accused are rich and powerful then the victim or the witnesses are done away with, as we have seen in the Unnao case!
On December 6, the nation remembered the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid. This year that ‘black day’ was shades darker for many! The recent Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya took a strong stand against the demolition; but then its decision to give the ‘disputed’ land to the majority community has rankled many. Sections of Muslims are already planning to file a review petition.
Writing in ‘The Wire’ (November 9, 2019), well-known writer and political analyst Siddharth Varadarajan says:
“The court acknowledged the manner in which Ram idols were planted in the mosque was illegal and that the mosque’s demolition in 1992 was 'an egregious violation of the rule of law'. Yet, the forces responsible for the demolition now find themselves in legal possession of the land. The site will be managed by a trust that the government will now set up. And the government and ruling party have in their ranks individuals who have actually been charge sheeted for conspiring to demolish the mosque”.
For more than 125 days now Kashmir has been in a state of siege! On August 5, the State was overrun in a swift, unethical and undemocratic way! In a patently unconstitutional and anti-people act, the BJP-led NDA Government abrogated Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution.
The draconian and secretive manner in which the Government pushed a sensitive bill, steam-rolling all opposition, without consulting Parliament, without taking the people of Kashmir into confidence, is clear betrayal of the values embedded in the hearts and minds of most Indians. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) states, “The fact that hardly any information is currently coming out from the region is of great concern.”
The spokesperson pointed to the UNHRC’s July 8 report on the human rights conditions in Kashmir, which documented how authorities in India have “repeatedly blocked telecommunications networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detention to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force when dealing with protestors leading to extrajudicial killings and serious injuries;” adding that the latest restrictions “will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region.”
Freedom of speech and expression in the country has almost become a ‘reality of the past’. In April 2019, when the World Press Freedom Index was released, India had fallen to a miserable 140 out of 180 countries. Media has been compromised, bought up, made to toe the line. This is obvious when one reads the headlines of most national dailies or listens to the electronic media.
The Government now blatantly snoops into computers, taps telephones and monitors WhatsApp messages; they have also begun controlling other forms of social media. The recent exposure that at the behest of the Government, an Israeli firm hacked into the WhatsApp messages of human rights activists, lawyers, academics, political opponents – has made it clear that this regime will destroy even the right to privacy in order to realise their anti-Constitutional agenda.
Government no longer cares about right to information, right to food, right to a clean environment and to safe drinking water
It has also been bad for human rights defenders. One hears about threats, coercion, intimidation, arrests, foisting of false cases and even death for all those who take a stand for human rights, justice and peace. Some months ago, five well known human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj (Faridabad), Arun Ferreira (Thane), Vernon Gonsalves (Mumbai), Gautam Navlakha (Delhi) and writer P Varavara Rao (Hyderabad) were arrested on absolutely fictitious charges (most of them are still languishing in jail after repeated denial of bail); 80-year-old Jesuit Stan Swamy was searched, hounded and his meagre personal belongings attached. There are several others who have to bear the brunt of a very repressive political system.
The ‘sedition law’ is both archaic and draconian and is still being used by the ‘powers’ to quell dissent and even to muzzle citizens when they ask questions! The amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has now become an instrument to terrorise the citizens.
The National Register of Citizenship (NRC) is downright negation of the human rights of a citizen. Initiated in Assam, it has already ‘declared’ almost two million people stateless.
The NRC together with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, assuring citizenship to all undocumented persons except those of Muslim faith, risks tearing the country apart, reopening the wounds of partition, and ultimately destroying the secular and democratic tenets of the Constitution.
A few days ago campaigning in Jharkhand, the Home Minister Amit Shah said that “2024 is the deadline for completing the National Register of Citizenship across the country.“ This is an extremely dangerous step and the country today stands at the brink of catastrophic human suffering and injustice, if the government as it plans to do, begins implementing it nation-wide. There have been several protests all over on this sensitive issue.
The Assam Land Policy- 2019, which mentions land allocation only for “indigenous peoples”, is another anti-people step. The definition of indigenous people has not been, so far, finalised (excluding toiling populations of Muslim/Hindu and Bengali origin). Without this definition in place, the Land Policy-2019 has been repeatedly made mention of the fact that the ownership of land will be exclusively reserved for the indigenous people; again a blatant violation of the Constitution.
Freedom of religion or belief is on the back foot. The latest data with intelligence agencies shows a rise in communal incidents in nine states, led by Uttar Pradesh which has witnessed 457 communal incidents this year, between January and October. There were almost five hundred reported attacks on Christians in various parts of the country.
In Gujarat, police are knocking at the doors of Churches to extract details from Baptism and marriage registers. The fundamentalists thrive on hate speech. Lynching has become the new normal as right-wing forces are ready to kill anyone not like them and without any provocation! The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister tries to introduce English medium in government-run schools; the votaries of Hindutva see it as a ‘ploy to convert people to Christianity!’
The rights of children are violated with impunity! Millions of children still labour in hazardous occupations in several parts of the country; besides being denied their right to education, they are also deprived of their childhood. Innumerable women and children are trapped in the web of human trafficking.
The Government of India’s stand on the Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution from Myanmar – besides violating the rights of refugees, goes totally against the basic spirit of compassion and hospitality. Millions are still displaced by mega –projects as we see in the Narmada Dam area. Powerful vested interests continue to destroy the environment and displace thousands of poor people everywhere. The LGBT community is still looked down upon and treated very unjustly in India.
In mid-October, when the Global Hunger Index (GHI) was released, India was placed at an abysmal 102 out of the 117 countries ranked. The annual index is designed to measure and track hunger at the global, national and regional levels and to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.
India is now ranked below Pakistan (94), Bangladesh (88) and Sri Lanka (66) among South Asian nations. According to the report prepared by the Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, India is among the 45 countries that have serious levels of hunger. The report said:
"In India, just 9.6 per cent of all children between six to 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. As of 2015-2016, 90 per cent of Indian households used an improved drinking water source while 39 per cent of households had no sanitation facilities (IIPS and ICF 2017)."
The economy is in a shambles; ‘demonetisation’ has had an extremely negative impact on the common person (in a new book the former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramaniam refers to it as “a massive, draconian monetary shock”). Banks have gone bust and many have lost their hard-earned savings; corruption has been totally institutionalised by the Government and their ilk.
The poor and the vulnerable find it impossible to make both ends meet due to the escalation of prices on essential commodities. Unemployment in the country has reached an all-time high. Industries are closing down rendering thousands jobless overnight.
Farmers continue to commit suicide. Even the ‘humble onion’ which is (with the chilly) indispensable to the poor has sky-rocketed to more than Rs 100 a kilo! There is a growing gap between the rich and poor. Those who are rich continue profiteering at the expense of the poor.
The country is being dragged into unmitigated disaster by the Government and its unholy nexus with small group of anti-national forces consisting of fundamentalists, fascists, fanatics and other fringe elements. These are the people who legitimise the role of Godse -- the man who murdered Mahatma Gandhi.
The government no longer cares about the right to information, the right to food, the right to a clean environment and to safe drinking water
They have abdicated their role and responsibility to protect and promote the rights guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution: the right to life and liberty; to dignity and equality; to freedom of speech and expression; to freedom to preach, practise and propagate one’s religion; the right to livelihood, to eat, to dress and to see and to read what one chooses to; and all the other fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens.
The government no longer cares about the right to information, the right to food, the right to a clean environment and to safe drinking water. Human rights in India are systematically being demolished.
The Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2018 is relevant today as it succinctly states:
Vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government -- often carried out by groups claiming to support the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—became an increasing threat in India in 2017. The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence.
"Dissent was labelled anti-national, and activists, journalists, and academics were targeted for their views, chilling free expression. Foreign funding regulations were used to target nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) critical of government actions or policies. Lack of accountability for past abuses committed by security forces persisted even as there were new allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings, including in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu and Kashmir”.

In a hard-hitting article entitled ‘ Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India’ in the prestigious ‘The New Yorker’ (December 9, 2019 issue) author Dexter Filkins writes:
“A feeling of despair has settled in among many Indians who remain committed to the secular, inclusive vision of the country’s founders. 'Gandhi and Nehru were great, historic figures, but I think they were an aberration', Prasad, the former Outlook editor, told me. It’s very different now. The institutions have crumbled—universities, investigative agencies, the courts, the media, the administrative agencies, public services.
"And I think there is no rational answer for what has happened, except that we pretended to be what we were for fifty, sixty years. But we are now reverting to what we always wanted to be, which is to pummel minorities, to push them into a corner, to show them their places, to conquer Kashmir, to ruin the media, and to make corporations servants of the state. And all of this under a heavy resurgence of Hinduism. India is becoming the country it has always wanted to be.”

There is a feeling of ‘déjà vu!’ But the people of India must not give up: though human rights are being demolished, there is still strength and resilience in the people: an undying conviction that “we shall overcome”; that justice and truth will finally triumph. This December 10, is a fitting day for all to commit themselves to and ensure “human rights for all and for always!”
---
*Indian human rights and peace activist/writer. Contact:cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w