Each year, on 10th December, the United Nations observes international human rights day. When the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms to which all of us are entitled. It guarantees the rights of every individual everywhere, without distinction based on nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other status.
Kashmir, a prison
The day comes and goes by without any tangible effect on the lives of the people deprived of human rights. Aside from the legal rigmarole about the Kashmir dispute, there is a human rights dimension to the dispute. Kashmir has been reduced to a prison. Even Mehbooba Mufti, a former BJP ally, was compelled to call Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay prison, claiming that “Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred”.
India’s dismal human-rights profile
India’s crackdowns and cordon-and-search operations continued in the occupied Kashmir even the Human Rights Day. Amnesty International has urged unconditional and unconstrained access to news and information from the valley.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 1,250 Kashmiris have been blinded by metal pellets used by Indian security forces from mid 2016 to the end of 2018.
Indian troops martyred 95,917 innocent Kashmiris including 7,215 in custody, widowed 22,939, orphaned 107, and 855 and molested 11,245 women since January 1989. India actions violate the UNSC resolutions and international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council Resolution 122.
India’s crackdown on rights activists and journalists
They did not spare even peaceful protesters likethe 62-year-old Parveena Ahanger and the families of hundreds of victims of enforced disappearances. They had reportedly gathered at a park to seek the whereabouts of their children or spouses who disappeared during decades of conflict.
Last month, prominent rights activist Khurram Parvez was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government”. Parvez, 44, is programme coordinator at Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society a leading group documenting and campaigning against rights abuses by the Indian forces in the occupied Kashmir for the last 20 years.
The Society has published extensive reports on torture, civilian killings, rapes and illegal detentions, and detaied the impunity given to by the armed forces in the disputed region. In 2008, a disclosure about the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked graves shocked the people.
Parvez had earlier been arrested in 2016 under the Public Safety Act. This is another draconian law like the UAPA under which a person can be detained for a year or more without trial.
In its 2018 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) extensively quoted the Society’s findings. In another report in 2019, the UN called for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the allegations of rights violations in the region.
The reports irked the Modi government so much that it cracked down on journalists and ordinary people on the Rights Day. India has, practically, “criminalised human rights work” in the occupied Kashmir.
India ranks among the most dangerous countries for the journalists, according to Reporters without Borders, which published its 2021 World Press Freedom Index. The coordinated hate campaign against journalist’s calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. From May 2019 to August 2021, 256 journalists were attacked.
Journalism has become a crime in India. In 2017, prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her outspoken criticism, was shot dead in Bangalore. Moreover, Rana Ayyub a famous journalist who had exposed Modi and CM of Gujarat in “Gujarat Files” was victim of a campaign of intimidation. Indian government was annoyed at her interview in BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur. She alleged the Indian government had “tried every tool in the book to silence her voice and journalism”. Even UN has exposed India’s true face by publishing a report on the use of excessive force by police on public roads against Journalists and human-rights defenders.
Social posts about Rawat’s death criminalised
India has declared it an offence to post comments about Rawat’s death shrouded in mystery on social media. The mysterious death of India’s chief of defence staff has raised eyebrows in India. People in general raised questions about the super-safe Mi-17V5helicopter flew so low as to crash head on against a tree.The people reminisce about the previous accidents, including a fire on India’s aircraft carrier in 2019 and an explosion on an Indian submarine in 2013. They attribute the accidents to rampant incompetence and lack of adherence to Standing Operating procedure.
The gung- ho general was criticised in media for his intemperate statements. For instance he had vowed to change the DNA of Kashmiris. He awarded a commendation certificate to Major Leetul Gogoi who tied a Kashmir to bonnet of his jeep and paraded him around several villages. Gogoi was later caught with her paramour in a Srinagar hotel. But, Rawat set him free with slap on his wrist. He justified lynching of anyone suspected to be a militant. He opposed recruitment of the women in the forces.The controversial general had embarked upon a reform programme which involved readjustment of the three services.
In YouTube interviews, Rawat vehemently defended the integrated theatres of commands. But, the IAF chief expressed reservations about it. It was speculated that the crash might be upshot of the interservice rivalry, reflecting poor coordination between the army and IAF.
Attack on the Christian school
The condition of the other minorities also is miserable. According to a report by human rights groups, more than 300 attacks on Christians took place in first nine months of this year across India, including at least 30 in Karnataka.
Recently, at least 100 members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal vandalized a missionary school in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district, Ganj Bedosa. Hindutva violence took place while the students of Class 12 were sitting for an exam. School principal Brother Anthony Tynumkal told that mob was armed with iron rods and shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and “bharat mata ki jai” slogans.
In a cataclysmic development, several parties including Dal Khalsa, the Sikh representative organization, convened a conclave of leadership and delegates of struggling minority communities (Kashmiris, Sikhs, Tamils, Nagas, Twiprassa and others) in Amritsar on the World Human Rights Day. They discussed worsening human rights situation in India and occupied Kashmir, and persecution of minorities.
The conclave is construed as emergence of All-India Oppressed People’s Movement.
The conclave inter alia criticised police excesses, growing intolerance, and expressed solidarity with struggling nationalities, peoples and regional identities.
The participants denounced the recent killing of 15 innocent civilians in Nagaland and held the Indian government responsible for such tragic incidents. They called for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act under which the Indian army has been carrying on its reign of terror in various states. They alleged that India is a democracy only in name but actually a totalitarian and Hindu majoritarian state.
They said the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A in the occupied Kashmir followed by curbing of civil liberties and fake encounters proves how totalitarianism and majoritarian regimes distort civil liberties. They also condemned the recent arrest of noted Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvaiz, by India’s notorious National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The speakers said the apathy of the Indian government towards the anti-CAA movement continues, political prisoners continue to languish in jails across the country, Muslims and Dalits continue to live in a climate of fear due to a sustained hate narrative against them.
The speakers criticized the Modi regime for refusing to recognize the deaths of 700 farmers and Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which 3 farmers and a journalist were crushed to death.
Addressing on the occasion, Atif Gilani, the son of noted Kashmiri intellectual, Professor Syed Abdur Rahman Gilani (late), said that the minority communities will have to struggle together for securing their rights. He said that the fight was on and will definitely succeed.
Neingulo Krome, Secretary of the Nagaland organisation, said though the New Delhi had termed the Nagaland civilian killings by Indian Army as a case of mistaken identity, it was a totally fabricated operation that claimed innocent lives. “The ones who lost lives were local labourers who used to take the same route to reach their work place. After killing them, the forces also tried to brand some civilians as militants by planting weapons and dressing them in camouflage and boots,” he added.
The former secretary general of the organization, Dr Veenuh said after the abolition of Article 370 and 35A in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government had turned a blind eye to the rights of Nagaland residents. He criticised Modi government for reneging the 2015 agreement that recognises Naga people’s separate identity and promises to share the sovereign power.
UN should compel India to allow free access to special procedure mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council for independent investigations of human rights violations. The Amritsar conclave augurs well for protection of human rights of the minorities as enshrined in Indian constitution. The conclave is Modi’s nightmare. The BJP bagged 31 per cent of the votes cast in 2014 and over 37 per cent in 2019, thanks to the Modi-magic wave. India’s population is 121 crore as per Census 2011. Of it, now the 41.73 per cent `oppressed-movement’ wave appears to have turned against him (Muslim 14.23%, Christians 2.3%, the Scheduled castes (numbering 1108)16.6%, and Scheduled Tribes (744) 8.6%.