Changing Hearts and Minds in India

Amnesty staff in India speak to Gnanapragasam, one of the four men sentenced to death in 2002 in south India. All four had their sentences commuted to life on January 21, 2014 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Amnesty staff in India speak to Gnanapragasam, one of the four men sentenced to death in 2002 in south India. All four had their sentences commuted to life on January 21, 2014 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Wednesday, Amnesty International will release its 2014 global Death Penalty report. Some believe that using the death penalty is fine as long as the public supports it. But history is littered with human rights violations that were supported by the majority, but were subsequently looked upon with horror, such as slavery, racial segregation and lynching. Here, independent filmmaker and Amnesty India Campaigner Kadambari Gladding, discusses turning the tide of public option in India, where public option increasingly favors the death penalty. 

“A murder for murder cannot be justice,” Mani told me as we walked down the corridor of the school he went to with his friend Simon some four decades ago. Mani still lives in the same village, while Simon has been on death row for nearly 10 years. Mani is a quiet person, but some things – like the death penalty – move him to rare, long conversations.

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Why Executing the New Delhi Rapists Won’t Help the Women of India

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

By Tara Rao, Director of Amnesty International India

Today, a New Delhi court found four Indian men guilty of a December 2012 gang-rape and murder and sentenced them to death. A 17-year old convicted in the same case was sentenced to three years detention in a juvenile home on August 31. Another accused was found dead in his prison cell in March.

The rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi last year was a horrific crime and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s family. Those responsible must be punished, but the death penalty is never the answer.

Far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India.

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Demanding Justice: How An Indian Court Took on a U.S. Chemical Giant – And Won

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

The survivors of 1984′s Bhopal gas disaster have won a significant step toward justice.

An Indian court ruled this week that Dow Chemical must explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” for over 20,000 deaths.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Human Rights in Eastern India

Kartam Joga

Former prisoner of conscience and Adivasi rights activist Kartam Joga has been released in India.© Private

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).

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Not a Billion More

One Billion Rising

I was in Delhi on December 17 when tens of thousands marched in solidarity to support a young victim of rape.

On the evening of December 16, this young woman and her friend boarded a bus to return home after watching a movie. Her friend was attacked, while she was assaulted and raped by five men on the bus. Both were then left to die on the side of a busy street. Her injuries were so severe, that she succumbed to them a few weeks later.

Angered by her plight, thousands took to the streets to demand justice and accountability from a system that they think routinely ignores issues around women’s safety. Subsequently, the Indian government showed uncharacteristic speed in apprehending and trying the suspects. And now substantial efforts are under way to overhaul the country’s legal, social, and cultural response to violence against women.

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Kashmiris to the Foreground

Tension Heightens Between Indian And Pakistan On Kashmir Border

Indian soldiers patrol through about five feet snow in Churunda village on January 12, 2013. The village has been bearing the brunt of cross-fire between India and Pakistan. People living along the Line of Control have continually been at risk due to hostility between the armies of the two rival nations. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

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,

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Will Anger Over Rape Spur Action?

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013.

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013. (Photo credit: NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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Cartoonist Arrested for “Sedition” in India

Aseem Trivedi

Aseem Trivedi

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.”

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