About Govind Acharya

Govind Acharya is a Country Specialist in the South Asia Coordination Group. He has been a country specialist for India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan and Afghanistan at various times over the past decade. Govind also served on AIUSA's terrorism task force, which looked developing campaigning on terrorism. He's a former staffer at the International Secretariat, serving as the interim Head of the Afghanistan Office shortly after the Taliban was evicted from power in 2002. He was also on the Amnesty USA Board of Directors from 2004 - 2007. Govind is an economist by training who has done graduate work at Cornell University on the economic basis for the right to food in India.
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Proposed Nuclear Power Plant Spurs Protests and Repression in India

Indian activists protest nuclear power. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

The struggle for the right to information, local consent, and a healthy environment has gone on for years at the site of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant – at India’s far southern tip. Now, after the disastrous failure of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, and with the Kudankulam plant nearing completion, the protests have intensified.

And so has the repression of over 100,000 protesters’ rights to gather peacefully and speak up against the plant.

On one side are opponents of the plant, mostly local, who fear that proper safety precautions have not been taken at a site affected by tsunamis and earthquakes. They would surely bear the heaviest burden should anything go wrong at the plant.

Some have asked why the plant is being built in remote rural Tamil Nadu instead of near Delhi. They have not been properly informed or consulted by authorities about the plant and its risks, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of these fishing communities. Protesters have peacefully demonstrated, carried out extended hunger strikes, and surrendered their voter IDs in protest. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalists Killed for Doing Their Jobs in Pakistan

Pakistani Journalists Protest

Pakistani journalists stage a demonstration during a protest in Karachi on June 3, 2011, against the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

A year after the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, little has been done to investigate the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and their possible involvement in the murder. Meanwhile another journalist, Murtaza Razvi, was killed in April 2012, and numerous other journalists in Pakistan have reported death threats.

The death threats continue.

A government inquiry into Shahzad’s murder said it was unable to identify his killers. It speculated that any of a number of state, non-state or foreign actors, including al-Qaeda or the Taliban, could have been responsible.

True, but why no mention of the ISI? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Less Report Writing and More Action Needed in Kashmir

Kashmir Protests

Protests in Kashmir © AP GraphicsBank

A group of “interlocutors” were appointed in the fall of 2010 by the Indian central government after an outbreak of violence that left over 100 dead in Jammu and Kashmir. The interlocutors called their mandate “broad,” but only insofar as it is within the Indian constitutional framework. They met with a fairly broad section of Kashmiri society. Most separatists chose not to meet with the interlocutors, with one calling it a “sham”.

I can’t read the minds of the interlocutors but I tend to think that the report would not have been too different, even if the separatists had met with the interlocutors. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Battle for the Future of India

Jagatsinghpur district in the eastern Indian state of Orissa is a poor rural place. But it is at the crucible of a battle for the future of India.

In 2005, state and national governments approved a massive steel plant here, and the South Korean steel company POSCO prepared to sink $12 billion into the project. Yet from the beginning, local residents objected to this top-down development, which would push them from their farmland and fishing spots, depriving them of their homes, land, and livelihoods (if history is any guide, they were likely to end up in distant urban slums).

After hundreds of villagers were forcibly evicted last summer opposition stiffened locally, across India and around the world. By late 2011, the Orissa government began resorting to jailing peaceful protest leaders on false charges. First it was Abhay Sahoo – who had also been jailed for 10 months in 2008-9. Then, it was Narayan Reddy.


Exploitation of Nepal’s Migrant Workers

Nepal migrant workers

Families of migrant workers in Morang district, Nepal, 2011, who were interviewed by Amnesty International.

 “Migrant workers from Nepal and other countries are like cattle in Kuwait.  Actually, cattle are probably more expensive than migrant workers there.  No one cares whether we die or are killed. Our lives have no value.” –N.R., domestic worker from Ilam district, Nepal

Anyone who has waited for a flight at Kathmandu, Nepal’s international airport has seen the large groups of men and women quietly lining up to board flights for Qatar or Malaysia, many appearing nervous, clutching only their papers or a small bag of belongings.

But the men and women boarding these flights have reason to be nervous. While some Nepalese migrant workers arrive in the destination country and earn decent wages, others end up in forced labor or exploitative conditions.

These are some of the estimated 25,000 people a month who leave Nepal for work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families in Nepal.


Is the US Abandoning Afghan Women?

afghan women protest

Afghan Young Women for Change (YWC) activists, holding placards which read "where is justice?", take part in a protest denouncing violence against women in Afghanistan in Kabul on April 14, 2012.

President Obama made an announced visit to Afghanistan on May 1 to sign an agreement intended to lead to a pullback of US troops from Afghanistan by 2014. The document is very specific on issues around the arrangements related to security and interestingly, trade and commerce but inadequate when talk to turns to human rights in general and specifically women’s rights.

Amnesty will continue to urge the US government to implement an action plan to protect and promote women’s rights in Afghanistan as they pull back from the country.

Women in Afghanistan, however, aren’t waiting around for vague assurances by the US and Afghan governments. They are taking matters into their own hands and demanding justice for the victims of past human rights violations and the promotion of human rights for all in their country.


Punishing "Moral Crimes" in Afghanistan

afghan women protest

Afghan Young Women for Change (YWC) activists, holding placards which read "where is justice?", take part in a protest denouncing violence against women in Afghanistan in Kabul on April 14, 2012.

Despite enormous improvements to women’s livelihoods in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, much action is needed by the Afghan government and the international community.

For example, women in Afghanistan face some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, more than half of all girls in the country do not attend school, and many women are forced into marriage shortly after puberty.

To make matter worse, women can face the prospect of being jailed for reporting violence perpetrated against them as reported in Human Rights Watch’s new report, detailing the detention of 400 women and girls imprisoned in the country for “moral crimes”.


Flames of Despair in Tibetan Protest for Human Rights

Lhamo Tso wife imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen

Lhamo Tso, the wife of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, in New York, March 9, 2012. (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Tibetan exile Jampa Yeshi committed the ultimate act of protest Monday by setting himself on fire in New Delhi on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India.  Horrific photographs of his self-immolation [warning: graphic image] quickly spread around the world via the Internet and India’s dynamic press, galvanizing the cause of Tibetans fighting to draw international attention to human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in Tibet.

Although Yeshi was one of nearly 30 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves over the past year to protest Chinese government policies, outsiders have rarely seen such agonizingly clear documentation of the immolations before now. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

India's Cynical Sri Lanka Vote

India’s foreign policy is acombination of realpolitik and old-school “nonaligned” mumbo-jumbo that made little sense even when it was more relevant during the Cold War. In any case, they definitely don’t want to talk about country-specific human rights issues (lest Kashmir might get more play). Yet, they joined the majority to support a human rights resolution on Sri Lanka.

India has refused to condemn Syria’s brutal crackdown on its own citizens. There, it was pure cynicism on the part of South Block (India’s Ministry of External Affairs) knowing that India won’t take a hit for not condemning Syria’s war against its people.

For Sri Lanka, it’s infinitely more complicated.


Fear and Injustice Continues 10 Years After Gujarat Riots

Gujarat Riots India

Rafatjhan Meiuddin Shaikh looks on at the refugee settlement 'Citizen Nagar' for Muslims affected by the Gujarat riots near a landfill in the Dani Limda area of Ahmedabad on February 26, 2012. (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

The image of Qutubuddin Ansari is seared into my memory of one of the darkest days in India’s history. Mr. Ansari’s pleading to be spared from the vicious mobs is a reminder of the injustice that continues after the month-long outbreak of violence that resulted in the killing of at least 2,000 women, men and children, mostly Muslims, and the rape of significant numbers of women and girls, in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The photographer, Arko Datta of Reuters, remembered that moment: “There were youths armed with swords, knifes and spears from Hindu neighborhoods crossing over, setting fire to Muslim homes and shops. I just looked back at for a moment and saw him standing in the first floor of a building, just a few hundred feet away from me. He was pleading, pleading for help.” Ten years after the riots, the families of the murdered victims, the victims of the rape and sexual violence and the 21,000 people still in “relief camps” still plead for justice.