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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Vedanta Corp: Creating Happiness or Creating Misery?

vedanta ad india

By Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed, used by permission

Vedanta, a UK-based corporation that mostly operates in India, has a big PR problem of its own making. For example, it has been implicated in creating a toxic red mud pond that threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of tribal people in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

You would think that Vedanta should do what’s right and take steps to ensure that the environment and livelihood of the neighboring villages are protected. Vedanta might have taken steps to apologize, compensate and clean up the mess that they’ve already made in those communities.

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More Peaceful Protesters in World's Largest Democracy's Jails

In recent weeks, human rights and environmental activists have celebrated a court ruling rejecting a massive expansion of the Vedanta Mining Company’s hazardous alumina refinery and toxic red mud pond located in India’s eastern state of Orissa.

However, peaceful protesters continue to face police violence at the site, and 47 villagers have been jailed on false charges, signaling that the saga of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery is not yet over.

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Maldives President (and Former Prisoner of Conscience) Resigns

maldives

President Mohamed Nasheeds (photo: Mauroof Khaleel)

Mohammad Nasheed, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, resigned today as President of Maldives. He was the first democratically elected President of the country, following decades of dictatorship in the country. He was instrumental in highlighting the case for action against climate change, going so far as to hold a cabinet meeting underwater.

His supporters and media reports are stating that it was basically a coup by the military and opposition supporters.

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Nuclear Power Plant Protesters Charged With Sedition

Tamil Nadu Nuclear Plant Protes

courtesy of the Indian Muslim Observer

You would think that after the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and last year’s nuclear calamity at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, Indian authorities might consider more closely the potential threats posed by the country’s many nuclear power plants.

But unlike some countries that have spurned the aggressive pursuit of nuclear power post-Fukushima, India presses on full speed ahead. Barely five months after the Fukushima disaster and despite serious concerns about India’s readiness for a similar accident, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said:
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Let’s Not Forget the Injustice in Punjab

disappeared punjab india

Family member holding photo of disappeared in the Punjab in the 1980s. (Photos by Ensaaf)

On January 16, 1995 Jaswant Singh Khalra and Jaspal Singh Dhillon revealed thousands of secret cremation records of “unidentified” bodies.  It quickly became clear that Indian security forces were killing people without regard for rule of law or basic legal processes.  On September 6th, 1995, Jaswant Singh Khalra was abducted by Punjab police – soon after he too was killed.

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40 Years After Horror, Bangladesh Is Free

bangladesh

via UNHCR

I get very squeamish over military intervention. Often it results in more human rights violations that it was intended to stop. But the case of Bangladesh makes me less cynical about military-led humanitarian interventions than I would otherwise be. Bangladesh is better off than it could possibly have been under the brutal military rule of Pakistan.

On December 16, 1971, a dramatic ceremony took place at the Rama Race Course in what was then East Pakistan. The picture was beamed across the world showing Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi signing an “instrument of surrender” with Indian General J.S. Aurora watching. Forever more, Bangladeshis know this day Bijoy Dibosh or Liberation Day.

As George Harrison put it succinctly in his song during the now iconic Concert for Bangladesh in the summer of 1971, something needed to be done:
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Listen to the Silent Cries of the Disappeared in Kashmir

soldiers kashmir india

Soldiers in Kashmir

I’ve been following the debate about whether India’s Jammu & Kashmir government (called J&K or Kashmir interchangeably) will lift the draconian impunity legislation (called the AFSPA) for soldiers now in place over large swathes of Kashmir Valley.

The Indian Army, for its part, makes the rather astounding claim that if they are not allowed to continue to operate in the Kashmir Valley without impunity then Kashmir will secede. I often hear this type of stuff as well—oh if we don’t continue to abuse human rights with legal cover, then the terrorists win!

The irony is that opponents of lifting legal immunity are admitting that the security forces have been responsible for widespread human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley and that is the only way to keep Kashmir in India.

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Attack on Afghan Minority Group Leaves Over 60 Dead

Suicide bombers struck Shiite (mostly Hazara) pilgrims on December 6, killing over 60 people in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif during holy holiday of Ashura. I was moved by a photo of a woman crying out in horror at the carnage around her. It was also a cry of helplessness and a cry of sorrow. I couldn’t help but feeling that sense of helplessness and sorrow.

The attack seemed timed to coincide with the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan 10 years after the first conference held in the same city. Amnesty International has a delegation in the city monitoring the conference. We have been arguing that human rights must not be sacrificed as the US winds down its security presence in the country. This bombing is an example of need for the international community to maintain its commitment to protect human rights in Afghanistan.

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Olympics Denigrate Suffering of Bhopal Survivors

The International Olympic Committee loves to think of their event as a not just a sporting event, but as a tool for furthering peace and social justice around the world. Furthermore, The Olympic Committee’s guidelines on sourcing are meant to place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when contracting for the Games.

india bhopalThat sounds awesome!

But how then can London’s 2012 Olympic Games justify giving chemical giant Dow Chemical a high profile contract in light of Dow’s failure to address one of the worst corporate related human rights disasters of the 20th century? You can tell the Olympics’ leadership about the legacy of Bhopal that Dow Chemical refuses to address and ask them why they ignored this tragedy when giving this juicy contract to Dow Chemical.

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Justice Is Exception Not Rule in India

Biliqis Yakoob Rasool

During the large scale violence in Gujarat, India in 2002, Biliqis Yakoob Rasool was gang-raped and saw her entire family, including her daugher, killed in front of her.

A recent report by the New Delhi-based organization, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), documents India’s the sordid record when it comes to custodial and extrajudicial deaths. They report that since 2001, 14,231 people died in police or judicial custody in India. Some of the cases may not be due to misconduct, but according to the ACHR, “a large majority of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody.”

Amnesty International has been demanding a thorough investigation into 31 unlawful killings by police in the state of Gujarat during 2002-2006. This is not to mention coming to grips with the massacres of minorities in the state that left hundreds dead.

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