Memo to Former Governor Sarah Palin regarding her upcoming visit to India…
To: Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin
From: Govind Acharya, South Asia Co-Group, Amnesty International USA
Subject: Your upcoming trip to India
Dear Governor Palin,
I understand that you will be travelling to India to deliver a speech to the India Today Conclave. This conclave is a a group of extremely wealthy and self-declared important people in India, talking about how awesome India is while pretending not to see all of the poverty and hardship faced by hundreds of millions every day. OK, there are some good people speaking at the event and I shouldn’t be so cynical. But, I digress…
Keep in mind that there are lots of vegetarians in India, Gov. Palin.
I realize that we need not worry too much about your expertise on India. India is pretty darn close to Russia and as you told us when asked about your foreign policy experience, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” But despite that, I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a suggested itinerary to give you a more well-rounded picture of the country:
1. Gujarat: I’m sure that Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who will also be at the India Today Conclave, will tell you all about how much economic growth and development has occurred in his state during his rule. He’ll tell you about the factories, the roads and the GDP growth. But, I’m sure he’ll omit the fact that nine years ago, he presided over the worst communal pogroms since Indian independence, which left over 1,000 dead. His former Home Minister (sort of like a state Attorney-General) is currently facing charges for his involvement in a “fake encounter”. He will also fail to inform you that malnutrition indicators have deteriorated since Modi took office. But, when you visit, I’m sure you will get a sense of the problems in the state.
2. Kashmir: It’s great you’ll be there right around the time that Amnesty International is planning to release its report on indefinite detentions in Kashmir. The report entitled A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, documents how authorities are using the Public Safety Act to secure the long-term detention of political activists, suspected members or supporters of armed groups and a range of other individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial or conviction to ‘keep them out of circulation’. I can send you a link over twitter if you’d like, Governor Palin (by the way, my twitter feed is at twitter.com/acharya_dude in case you’d like to follow it).
3. Chhattisgarh: This rural eastern Indian state has been the center of Maoist violence. And while I doubt that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh will be at the India Today Conclave, I’d recommend heading over just the same to get a look at the violence wrought by the Maoists and by the government-backed Salwa Judum. It’s a horrible situation for the tribal peoples in the area because they are caught between the two militias. The result has been widespread human rights violations. This state is also the place where Dr. Binayak Sen has been imprisoned (take action here) for speaking out for the rights of the indigenous people in the area. Kartam Joga, a political activist, has also been arrested in the same state. While there, Gov. Palin, I hope you will get a chance to ask the Chief Minister to arrest all those involved in human rights violations and to see that there are no more prosecutions of human rights defenders such as Dr. Binayak Sen and Kartam Joga (take action here).
Well, Governor Palin, I could list other human rights concerns in other parts of India, but I’ll stop there since I know that your time is limited. But, I’d urge you (and others of course!) to check out AIUSA’s webpage on India. And, again, I encourage you and others to follow me on my twitter feed, twitter.com/acharya_dude as I’ll be posting lots and lots of stuff on the upcoming Kashmir report in the coming days.