World’s Largest Democracy Really Good at Detaining Kids without Charge

Protests Against Indian Rule in Kashmir - copyright Majid Pandit, used by permission

Take action to free 14-year old boy from jail in Kashmir

US President Barack Obama hailed the total awesomeness of India during his state visit to the country last week.  While it certainly didn’t cost the $200 million per day that the tabloids in the US and India made up, it was certainly worth its weight in lofty rhetoric except in the realm of human rights.  Not only did he NOT mention any human rights concerns that the US ought to have regarding India (nor did India mention any human rights concerns that India ought to have about the US), he also went out of his way to extol India’s place on the center stage (including when he was talking about the human rights situation in Burma).  As if to highlight all the bling that India has to offer (and boy does it have the bling), he dragged (kicking and screaming presumably since Obama’s opponents allege that he is anti-business) 200 business executives to ink various weapons deals mainly to pump up American Empire’s gigantic military-industrial complex on the backs of the 380 million Indians still living on $1 per day (more than the entire population of the United States).  What better way to end malnutrition than to have really awesome chest-thumping parades in New Delhi with all that fancy weaponry!  Yummy, tanks.

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Obama: India Ain't Just About Gandhi and Outsourcing

As an Indian-American, anytime the US President visits India, I get excited about the possibilities of a stronger relationship between the two gigantic countries.  And, tomorrow, US President Barack Obama is off to India, stopping in Mumbai and Delhi, among other places.  It also happens to coincide with Diwali, the closest equivalent to Christmas in the Hindu calendar.

The Indian media as usual is going completely bonkers about the trip highlighting every aspect of the trip from the security issues related to a US presidential visit to whether a visit to the Sikh holy site in Amritar might be bad for Obama politically back home.

There is also WAY too much coverage of Obama’s views of Mahatma Gandhi and what it means for him to be visiting India.  Of course, there’s the obligatory stuff about India’s booming outsourcing industry and their high tech sector.

What I haven’t seen much of was whether there will be a discussion of human rights.  It’s probably because there won’t be much of a discussion.  But, there is a LOT to talk about:

  1. Bhopal: 24 years almost to the day was when the world heard the horror of the victims of the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) gas release.  There is still little accountability for allowing these deaths to occur and both President Obama and Prime Minister Singh must take steps in each of their countries to prosecute the perpetrators of this human rights catastrophe.
  2. Kashmir: Obama is walking a tightrope on getting involved in the human rights violations in Kashmir, but he must insist that the human rights violations stop and that peace and justice return to the valley as a way to begin discussions on the status of the area.  I recently did a chat on Twitter about Kashmir and we have an action on Kashmir as well.  Things are incredibly grim in the Kashmir Valley and if it’s ignored, the US will have certainly lost credibility on human rights.
  3. Myanmar (aka Burma): Both the US and India must publicly call for the release of all prisoner’s of conscience and an end to human rights violations.
  4. Sri Lanka: Both the US and India must call upon the Sri Lankan government to address human rights violations that had occurred during the civil war.
  5. Terrorism: Both India and the US must take steps to ensure that all prosecutions of terrorism suspects be conducted fairly.  Victims of terrorism are victims of human rights violations and the perpetrators of these violations need to be prosecuted.
  6. Both countries need to abolish the death penalty.

If India and the United States work to incorporate human rights into their relationship, then this could be the start of a great relationship!

Interested in Kashmir Human Rights? Then, #askai

Protests Against Indian Rule in Kashmir - copyright Majid Pandit, used by permission

WHEN: Thursday, October 14, 10am – 11am Eastern US Time (19:30 in India/Kashmir)

WHERE: Follow Govind on Twitter @acharya_dude

HOW: Submit questions on Twitter any time from now through October 14 using hashtag #AskAI (adding @acharya_dude is helpful but not necessary).  See below for other ways of getting in touch.  Example: Is there a consensus in the Indian political spectrum about what’s happening in Kashmir? #askai

Kashmir has been convulsed by violent clashes between protesters and security forces.  The current violence has left over 100 people dead and has raised concerns over the widespread human rights violations committed by Indian security forces in their efforts to tamp down the violence.  The litany of abuses are long—heavy restrictions on Kashmiri media, heavy-handed curfews and outright killings of protesters.  Worst of all, most of these human rights violations can occur with complete impunity because of the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in parts of Kashmir.

With India in the spotlight over 2010 Commonwealth Games and the violence not garnering the same attention in the media, it’s even more important for us to highlight the human rights concerns in Kashmir and to urge the Indian government and the Jammu and Kashmir state government to take immediate steps to prosecute security forces.  India is also supposedly one of the new great powers taking over from US hegemony; therefore, it’s more important than ever to publicize human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

On Thursday, October 14 from 10am – 11am eastern US time, I’ll be holding a live chat over twitter from my twitter handle @acharya_dude (feel free to follow with your twitter account).  It’s a way to get a new audience engaged on human rights in Kashmir.  It doesn’t mean that you actually have to have a twitter account to see the questions and answers (but you do need one to ask a question on  twitter)– just type in twitter.com/acharya_dude.  The easiest way to get me a question is to include the following in a twitter message: @acharya_dude #askai.

You can ask me a question in the comments of this blog, you can email them to me at [email protected] and you could probably ask them on Facebook as well if you like the Amnesty USA page and if this post appears on the Facebook page.  I’ll monitor those places and post them to twitter as I get questions.  I’ll then respond to them between 10am and 11am eastern US time this Thursday, October 14.  I will then post the twitter transcript to this blog afterwards!  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Update:  Read a transcript of this chat here.

Kashmir's "Abu Ghraib Video"

Several people have been killed during recent protests in Kashmir © AP GraphicsBank

Indian authorities must carry out an investigation immediately into a video clip that appears to show detainees in Kashmir being stripped and humiliated by security forces.

The three-minute clip, described on social networking sites as “Kashmir’s Abu Ghraib video”, apparently shows Jammu and Kashmir police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel herding at least four naked young men to a nearby police station.

This behaviour is in clear violation of the universal and absolute right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The video, apparently recorded by one of the security personnel, has since been removed from social networking sites, including Facebook and YouTube, after the Jammu and Kashmir police reportedly began legal action against the publishers of what it termed a “baseless and malicious clip”.

It is unclear when the clip was recorded, although it was reportedly taken in the north-western town of Sopore.

The recorded conversation in Hindi-Urdu suggests that the security force personnel suspected the young men of being involved in throwing stones at the security forces, and that they had been caught after a long chase.

Amnesty International has consistently received reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in various police stations and interrogation centres in Jammu and Kashmir. Such accounts have often included men being stripped naked and humiliated by security force personnel.

The Indian Parliament is currently debating new legislation criminalizing torture and the Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram has said the video will be investigated.

However, a statement by Jammu and Kashmir Police to local media indicated that a formal case had been registered against the clip’s distributors.

“The approach of the local police raises serious concerns. Instead of investigating and identifying the perpetrators of the humiliating treatment, the police appear to be more concerned about who uploaded and circulated the video clip,” said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific program.

“The Indian and Jammu and Kashmir authorities must ensure that the content of the clip is subjected to an independent, impartial and effective investigation. Any officials who are suspected of offences involving human rights violations should be prosecuted in fair trials.”

Security and Human Rights in the Kashmir Valley

Violence has escalated in the Kashmir Valley yet again, leaving 9 people dead, including at least one woman.  This comes after violence a couple of weeks ago left 14 dead.  The valley has been under a curfew, but anger has boiled over against Indian security forces and government institutions.  The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, has called for calm.  That’s a good idea, but I’m more than a little concerned at the ham-handed way the Kashmiri police, the state government and the central government are dealing with the protests.

It’s certainly understandable for the government to want to prevent damage to government buildings, but shooting people who are protesting is not only a violation of human rights standards, but it also pisses people off and makes them even less inclined to see India as anything but a foreign occupier who does not care about the security and human rights of Kashmiris.  Given Kashmir’s history within India since 1947, you would think that the Government of India will do everything it can to prevent civilian deaths, but it seems that they can never learn their lesson.

Breaking News! Human Rights Violations Piss People Off

There has been a flare up in violence in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in the past few weeks, mainly due to the recent killing of a Kashmiri youth, Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, in the state’s capital of Srinagar and an incident where the police opened fire on stone throwers in Anantnag, killing three.

The killing of Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat in Srinagar is the latest string of deaths attributed to Indian security forces.  The killings have triggered renewed fears that Kashmir will return to the dark days of an insurgency that killed thousands in the 1990s and early 2000s.  More immediately, the continued human rights violations have triggered large scale protests that has led to more deaths.

The J&K state government and lately the central government in Delhi have made all sorts of pathetic excuses as to why it might be that there have been protests going on in the weeks, blaming it on Lashkar-i-Toiba or some other terrorist group.  But, if you think about it, why wouldn’t people be upset and protest if there were alleged killings by security forces?  Why does have to be “instigated” by Lashkar-i-Toiba?

The Kashmiri government then issued a mostly ignored set of media restrictions aimed at controlling information.  Now, the Indian Army has stepped in following a curfew in the entire Kashmir Valley.  That seems to have stemmed the immediate violence, but seems troubling in the long term.

Instead of making excuses, the Kashmir state government and the Government of India must take immediate steps to arrest and prosecute those that are accused of perpetrating the violence against civilians.  Doing so will go some way to easing the tensions in the Kashmir Valley.  It’s not the only thing, but when security forces commit human rights violations, people get pissed off.

India Needs to Repeal Armed Forces Act NOW


Street scene in Imphal, the capital of Manipur

Street scene in Imphal, the capital of Manipur

Now is the time for Members of Parliament (called the Lok Sabha) to act to repeal the 1958 Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (aka: AFSPA) and its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart.  This law allows the Indian security forces to operate in the northeastern part of the country as well as Jammu and Kashmir by declaring an area “disturbed.”  This “disturbed” designation has been in effect for upwards of five decades in some parts of the northeast (Assam and Manipur in particular).  This law gives security forces a licence to operate with virtual impunity with no fear of prosecution except in the rarest of circumstances.  How would you feel if you knew that the Army could come into your house without a warrant and if they abused your human rights you would have no recourse for justice?

It’s not like this law is uncontroversial in India.  On the contrary, it is very controversial indeed.  In 2005, the Central Government appointed a former Supreme Court judge, Jeevan Reddy, to look into the law after widespread protests in Manipur.  Judge Reddy’s committee recommended repeal of the AFSPA, saying that it had become “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”  Oh, by the way, this law is also in violation of international law, specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

So, let’s see– a government committee said it should be abolished, it’s in violation of international law and has been used to commit widespread human rights violations. Doesn’t it seem like these would be reasons enough to abolish this law?