The Human Rights Situation in the Indian Sub Continent

An unabridged version of the Presentation made in the 36th session of UNHRC



I come from a Tamil culture which proclaims to the world யா A ஊேர

யாவ¶A ேகளnJ “Yaadhum Oore Yavarum KeLir”, meaning “the world is one and all are my kith and kin”.

I also come from a sub continent which is proud of its diversity. Diversity in languages, cultures, nationalities, faiths, regions and religions.

Whereas, the present ruling establishment in India has indulged in forceful homogenisation, rather Hinduisation of culture, education and religious faiths. This is against the rights of religious, linguistic and other minorities.

The indiscriminate centralisation of the administration has eroded the federal structure of the polity. Further, corporatisation and privatisation of every social domains like education, health, drinking water etc have destroyed the sustenance of the marginalised.

Corporatisation has also led to the indiscriminate exploitation of the resources and destruction of Nature and thus threatening the very existence of vulnerable communities like indigenous people, and the socially and economically oppressed.

All those who resist corporatization are dubbed as the enemy of the State and literally war is waged against the people who resist, thus entailing in large scale displacement, disappearances, fake encounters, torture, rape, sexual violation, custodial deaths and denial of their livelihood. This is the stark reality in the large part of Central India, North Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir. The recent report of terror unleashed on the people of Burkapal and Planar, including sexual harassment is disquieting.

The North Eastern States and J&K are still reeling under the atrocities and terror perpetrated with immunity by the Armed Forces, emboldened by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The legendary human rights defender Irom Sharmila went on an indefinite fast for fourteen years, to repeal this draconian law, but of no avail.

The right to dissent, the core and hall mark of democracy, is obliterated by liquidating the very personalities who express their dissent. You would be wondering whether this is possible in a democracy!

Well, while the civil society knows the lineage of the assailants, they go scot free as “unknown assailants”. The recent martyrdom of Gowri Lankesh (55), a renowned woman journalist and a social activist from Karnataka is a case in point. She was a great critique of the right wing hindutva politics and was a valiant defender of human rights.

Prof.M.M.Kalburgi, another progressive writer from Karnataka, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a renowned rationalist and Communist leader Govind Pansare of Maharashtra were similarly gunned down. A BJP MLA from Chickmangalur has gone on record stating that “Had not Gowri criticised BJP, she would have been alive today”. They were assassinated for ventilating their conscience. All the four opposed the undemocratic trait of the ruling Hindutva ideology. The assassination manifest the intolerance and hate campaign harboured by the right wing political groups. It also manifests the crude culture of communal fascism nurtured directly and/or indirectly by the present ruling establishment.

Human Rights defenders are being jailed under draconian laws. Dr.G.N.Saibaba, a professor from Delhi University and who is at the mercy of wheelchair for his basic mobility, is branded as a dreadful Maoist and callously incarcerated for life with three other students from JNU

for “waging war against the state”. Earlier, Dr. Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and Vice President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, incarcerated for similar charges, and let free on bail after a protracted legal battle.

Mr.President, India is a signatory of ICCPR and CAT. Whereas, the vital covenants of these protocols are observed in breach.

Goondas Act, was originally conceived to prevent and punish Bootleggers, drug offenders, immoral tragic offenders, forest offenders, sand offenders, slum grabbers and video pirates and such, habitual economic and social offenders. But this is being wielded against social and political activists and human rights defenders. Goondas Act was clamped against Thirumurugan Gandhi of May 17th Movement and three others for holding Candle light vigil to commemorate civilian victims in the last phase of the Eelam War. Similarly Valarmathi, a student of journalism and social activist was arrested under goondas act. She was the first woman and student activist to be arrested under the draconian law, for distribution of awareness pamphlets among students. She was discharged recently after 58 days of imprisonment. This is a blatant denial of freedom of expression and abuse of draconian law against political activists. Unlawful Assembly Prevention Act, (UAPA) and National Security Act are a couple of other draconian laws used unreasonably against social movements. It may be noted that as per the National Crime Records Prison status for the year 2015, more than 55 percent of the under trials across the country are either Muslims, Dalits or Tribals, who together constitute 39% of the total population. This only reveals how the police and judicial system is skewed against the marginalised.

While we are proud of our traditions, we are also ashamed of having inherited social apartheid, which runs into several centuries. While untouchability have been outlawed, and transitional justice has been guaranteed by the founders of the constitution, there are attempts to belittle social justice, under the garb of uniformity and merit through administrative means, which serves only the corporate interest.

The proposed New Education Policy and NEET, National Eligibility Entrance Test is one such instance. The system which is inherently unfair is being imposed on all the medical aspirants denying the spirit of federalism and social justice enshrined in the constitution. Ariyalur Anitha, a medical aspirant from the most oppressed community, committed suicide. In fact, the unjust system killed her, despite her excellent performance in the qualifying examination, failed to make it in NEET, as she could not afford to catch up with the expensive coaching required for it. The imposition of NEET is only an intrusion into the governance of the State governments and thus jeopardising the self determination and eventually the social justice.

People’s movement against environmentally destructive programmes like Nuclear reactors, extraction of methane and hydrocarbon gases , indiscriminate quarrying of sand, and minerals are put down heavily invoking oppressive laws entailing in indefinite incarceration of large section of protestors, thus denying their liberties and freedom of expression. The independent India has incarcerated its own citizens under the laws of sedition more than what British Raj did during the Indian freedom movement!

The continuing farmers suicide, owing to the monsoon failure and lack of adequate support price manifests the rulers’ indifference and neglect of the plight of the farmers. More than 160 farmers committed suicide and died of acute stress, in Tamil Nadu alone, during the last six months, caused because of failure of crops and insurmountable debts.

The right of Tamil fisher folks for fishing near international waters are under threat and are being arrested and their fishing boats and nets seized and sometimes the fisher folks are killed by Srilankan Navy. More than 600 Tamil fishermen have been killed by the Srilankan Navy during the last decade without any justice.

The plight of the Srilankan Tamil refugees in India is pathetic. When the Tibetan refugees get relatively a favourable treatment, the Tamil refugees are discriminated against denying basic amenities, under the guise that India is not a signatory of UN convention on refugees.

Custodial deaths continues unabated. Dinesh Kumar, 20, S/o Nagaraj, Kumbakonam Taluk, Tamil Nadu was arrested by Tirupur north Police station on 22nd Aug, and was admitted in a private hospital on 23rd night reportedly in a critical condition after interrogation, perhaps using third degree methods. He was declared dead on 26th Aug. With the intervention of human rights organisations, inquest by a Judicial Magistrate was ordered. The State Human Rights Commission suo motu took cognisance of the ‘custodial death’ and ordered for a thorough probe. This came to surface owing to the intervention of the human rights bodies, whereas one is constrained to believe that many such custodial deaths are buried silently.

The growing vigilante groups not only determine what one should speak, but also dictate what to eat, what to wear and what to see with whom to be and whom to love. Pehlu Khan was lynched to death by Gau Rakshaks when he was transporting Bullocks bought from cattle market. The BJP Chief Minister of Chattisgarh Raman Singh has threatened to “hang anyone who harms a cow”! Consenting to cow slaughter, in India today, is a bigger crime than causing death to humans! The amendment to Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA) is not only unconstitutional, violating Article 48 of the Constitution, but also un-Hindu and against the cultural and sustainable practices of religious minorities and Dalits.

Those convicted for Rajiv’s murder are languishing in the jail, for the past 26 years, despite Supreme Court discharging them from death sentence and the Tamil Nadu government’s resolve to free them, exercising its lawful discretion. The socalled high profile case is denying justice due for seven prisoners, including Nalini, the woman prisoner, whose death sentence was commuted to Life Sentence.

The cliche, justice delayed is justice denied, is still haunting the Srilankan Tamils more than eight years after the end of the genocidal war. Neither the objective of Self Determination for which the Eelam Tamils were constrained to launch their struggle nor justice done against the genocide, war crimes and the crimes against the humanity the Eelam Tamils had to undergo during the last several decades. The continuing structural genocide against the Eelam Tamils is a cause for concern. Sinhalisation, Budhistisation, militarisation of Tamil areas continue unabated. The genocidal war rendered more than 80000 as young war widows, “disappearance” of over 146000 people, orphaning several thousand children several thousands wounded. Despite this, the Sri Lankan Govt has been denying to accept any credible international investigation, under some pretext or the other.

Similarly there are several prisoners, particularly Muslims, who are serving life sentence in Coimbatore prison, without getting the benefit of remission. What is permitted for others is being denied to these prisoners stating that they are imprisoned in the “bomb blast case”! Instead of granting remission to the prisoners based on their behaviour during their tenure in the prison, these prisoners are denied the advantage of remission referring to the crime for which they were lodged in the jail. Thus these prisoners are awarded double punishment, which is unconstitutional and against natural justice.

Finally, when one third of the Indian population live below the poverty line, who cannot afford one square meal a day, the Central Government is thrusting on the mass of people, projects, under the guise of ‘Science, modernisation and development’, which are neither nature centric nor human centric. The Bullet train project is one such, which is a drain on the tax payer’s money and which could have been augmented for providing amenities like health and education, which are the basic rights.

In conclusion we will have to reiterate that the denial of Environmental justice, social, cultural and economic justice and self determination of various nationalities, as enshrined in the UN Human Rights Charter, have led to the denial of human rights and human dignity. Similarly denial of civil rights by the State tantamount to denial of inalienable human rights. Hence the need for the urgent intervention of the international community invoking the principle of Right to Protect.

Thank you

Pon Chandran Joint Secretary PUCL, Tamil Nadu.

[email protected]

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