Since February 5, there have been a series of large protests across Bangladesh coupled with violent counter-demonstrations. The protests were in response to the sentences given to Abdul Quader Mollah, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. He received life in prison for his role in “beheading a poet, raping an 11-year old girl and shooting 344 people” during the 1971 Liberation War. The protesters are demanding that Mollah be executed for his role in the 1971 massacres. We are calling for the government to resist such pressure. Meanwhile the Jamaat-e-Islami has been implicated in acts of violence against minority religious shrines in the southern part of the country.
This week brought a rare bit of good news for human rights in the poor, rural, tribal districts of eastern India. After spending over two years in jail on false charges, human rights activist Kartam Joga was finally acquitted of all charges. Like Binayak Sen, TG Ajay, Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agrawal, and Harihar Patel before him, the government of Chhattisgarh tried to silence Kartam Joga for daring to demand that human rights and democratic principles be respected in Chhattisgarh. And once again, the courts found that the state had no case.
But that hasn’t stopped Chhattisgarh from continuing to imprison peaceful critics. Journalist Lingaram Kodopi and activist Soni Sori – both tortured by police – remain in custody after over a year in jail (Act here to demand their release).
In recent weeks tensions have flared up between between India and Pakistan over recent killings of soldiers on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Historically, the neighboring countries have fought three wars over Kashmir (although recent years have seen a peace process).
Whenever there is a clash between the countries’ armed forces, Kashmiris themselves tend to be ignored while sabers rattle. So it’s a good time to tout some of the activists and ordinary people on the ground who are living their lives and seeking justice for the decades of brutal war in their homeland. In particular, what of Kashmiris economic, social and cultural rights?
For one perspective, I had a chance to talk with two Indian activists who are helping to bring the lives of Kashmiris to the foreground. For the filmmakers Madhuri Mohindar and Vaishali Sinha,
Every 21 minutes, a woman is raped in India. Most rapes go unreported and even those rapes that are reported often goes unpunished. However, one horrific rape in particular has galvanized activists and has the potential to change India’s attitude towards rape.
By now, many have heard of the horrific rape and murder of a young college student in the heart of India’s capital– New Delhi. She was attacked in a speeding private minibus with iron rods which punctured her intestines. She and her friend were then tossed from the minibus. And despite being dumped on a crowded street, it took 40 minutes for a passerby to contact the police. The lack of intervention by passers-by was likely due to the poor police treatment of Good Samaritans. The victim later died after being airlifted to Singapore for further treatment. The alleged attackers have been charged with murder.
“Hot smoke filled the air within minute as soon as fire alarm rang and electricity supply became off. We were running to escape death through the dark. Many died inhaling smoke”
Sri Lanka’s human rights record doesn’t get much international attention these days. But that’s going to change on November 1 in Geneva, when the U.N. Human Rights Council examines Sri Lanka’s record as part of the Council’s “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) procedure.
Sri Lanka has a lot to account for, especially its continuing use of security laws against peaceful, outspoken critics, including journalists. Hundreds are being detained with no charge or trial. Many detainees have been tortured while in custody, and some have even been killed. No one has been held accountable for these crimes; impunity reigns.
Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist for prominent anti-internet censorship and anti-corruption groups, was arrested on charges of “sedition” for his caricatures of various government institutions in India. The arrest comes on top of a ham-handed but chilling crackdown on social media and freedom of expression in India in the weeks following violence between tribals and Muslims in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
The charges of “sedition” in theory carry quite a high penalty if someone is convicted. But when you hear the charges against Trivedi, you have to wonder what the fuss is all about. In fact, I’d argue that his arrest will do more damage to India’s institutions than his cartoons. Just have a read of what C. Bhosale, senior inspector of police had to say as to why he was arrested:
“The cartoons by Trivedi depicted Parliament as a commode and showed the national emblem with wolves instead of lions. The cartoons were obviously aimed at creating unrest in the society.”
This August 15, India will celebrate its 65th year of independence from the British Empire. Since then, the country has seen some improvements in the livelihoods of the poorest of its citizens. However, India still has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.
Millions lack adequate sanitation and die of easily preventable diseases such as diarrhea (the satirical newspaper The Onion did a hilarious take on this during India’s recent electricity blackout). In many parts of northern India, maternal mortality rates exceed those of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Right now, hundreds of people are languishing in detention in Sri Lanka. They haven’t been convicted of any crime; indeed, they haven’t even been charged with any crime. Their detentions violate international law. Many of them are tortured while in custody. Some detainees have been killed.
More than three years after the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war, security laws enacted to combat armed opposition groups continue to be used against outspoken, peaceful critics, including journalists, and others.
No one has been held accountable for these crimes. Impunity for human rights violations is the norm in Sri Lanka.
Retired Indian Army Major Avtar Singh, wanted for the murder of human rights activist Jalil Andrabi, shot and killed at least three members of his family before turning the gun on himself outside of Fresno, California on June 9th.
He was arrested in 2011 for alleged domestic violence incident where he was accused of choking of wife. He was then released from custody mainly because the Indian government could not be bothered to seek his extradition despite being wanted for murder charges in Jammu and Kashmir.
The head of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists, Jalil Andrabi was killed at the height of protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in the disputed region. Andrabi disappeared in March 1996 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. His body was recovered 19 days later in the Jhelum River. He had been shot in the head, and his eyes were gouged out.
A police investigation blamed Maj. Singh and his men for that killing and also accused Maj. Singh of involvement in the killings of six other Kashmiri men.