Skip to main content

Jamia, Aligarh, Assam: Police using excessive, unnecessary force, says US rights body

Counterview Desk
Asking the Government of India to "show restraint at demonstrations" referring to what called "possible excessive use of police force against citizenship law protesters", the Human Rights Watch, in a statement from New York, has apprehended that "international standards" should be observed in "policing assemblies".
"The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that law enforcement officials may only use force if other means remain ineffective or have no promise of achieving the intended result", the top human rights organization says, referring to international "outrage" over the citizenship law.

Text:

The Indian authorities should immediately order all police to abide by international standards on policing assemblies, Human Rights Watch said today. The police may have used excessive force against demonstrators across the country who have been protesting against the enactment of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act on December 12, 2019.
The government should establish a credible independent investigation into allegations of excessive force, brutality, and vandalism by law enforcement officials against demonstrators.
“The Indian government should address the concerns raised about the citizenship law instead of trying to shut down the protests with excessive force,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The police should have learned by now that responding to protesters with brutality only encourages more violence.”
The newly amended law grants citizenship only to non-Muslim irregular immigrants from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Protesters, including many university students, called for the law’s repeal, saying it was unconstitutional and divisive.
Six people have been killed since the protests began soon after parliament passed the law on December 11. The protests started in India’s northeast state of Assam, where police fatally shot four people, according to reports. In West Bengal state, the law sparked violent protests in some places. At the same time, peaceful protests were held all over the country, including in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
Police in Assam have arrested 175 people and held 1,460 others in preventive detention, and dozens of people have been injured, including police officials.
On December 15, police in Delhi fired teargas shells against protesting students inside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university. The university’s vice chancellor said the police entered the university without permission and targeted students in the university library and hostels, beating up students and some staff.
A video of police brutally beating a man as female students try to defend him and chase police away from a residential neighborhood close to the university have also raised concerns over police actions.
The police assert they acted with maximum restraint and were forced to respond after students turned violent, throwing stones and damaging public vehicles. The university’s vice chancellor has sought a high-level inquiry into the violence. The university students also dissociated themselves from the violence in a statement, saying: “We have maintained calm even when students have been lathi-charged [attacked with batons] and women protesters have been badly beaten up.”
Nearly 60 people, including students and police, were injured at the Jamia Millia Islamia protests. Hundreds of people also protested outside the city’s police headquarters in Delhi demanding action against Delhi police. Many students across Indian cities came out in support of the Jamia Millia Islamia protesters.
At Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of students clashed with police on December 15, and police fired teargas shells and lathi-charged protesting students. Police officers were also injured in the clashes. Police were seen vandalizing motorcycles outside the university gates at night in apparent retaliation.
The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental right protected under international law, and one of the cornerstones of a society built on respect for human rights and rule of law. International human rights standards provide that law enforcement agencies should protect and facilitate that right, and should as far as possible apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force.
Internet shutdowns have been disproportionate, unnecessary, and in violation of India’s international legal obligations
Human Rights Watch is concerned about the police using unnecessary or excessive force against protesters. While some protester action may warrant police use of force, international human rights standards limit the use of force to situations in which it is strictly necessary.
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that law enforcement officials may only use force if other means remain ineffective or have no promise of achieving the intended result. When using force, law enforcement officials should exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and to the legitimate objective to be achieved. Lethal force may only be used when there is an imminent threat to life.
Indian authorities shut down the internet in several districts including in West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh states, contending it was necessary to maintain law and order. India has frequently used internet shutdowns in response to protests, and, as Human Rights Watch and others have documented, these shutdowns have largely been disproportionate, unnecessary, and in violation of India’s international legal obligations including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
The shutdowns also affect access to essential activities and services, including emergency services and health information, mobile banking and e-commerce, transportation, school classes, reporting on major crises and events, and human rights investigations.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has prompted international condemnation, including from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which urged the Indian authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and to abide by international norms and standards on the use of force when responding to protests. 
The Act was passed amid the government’s push for the National Register of Citizens, a nationwide citizenship verification process that would identify irregular immigrants, which government statements indicate is aimed at disenfranchising and stripping Muslims of their citizenship rights.
“The Indian government failed to grasp the extent of public opposition over erosion of basic rights evident in these protests,” Ganguly said. “The government’s strongest response to the protests would be to repeal the citizenship law and withdraw its plan for citizenship verification that threatens marginalized communities.”

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.