Amnesty blasts India on rights record

The Amnesty International’s annual report for 2016-17, which was released last week, has drawn attention to the widespread human rights violations in India. These abuses have taken place in many parts of the country and in most fields of life where citizens have enjoyed a constitutional guarantee of basic rights. Amnesty is the world’s human rights watchdog and its reports have regularly given a credible picture of the state of human rights in the world. The situation in India, described in the report, is a matter of serious concern because it recounts the attacks on and the threats to the basic rights of citizens from both the state and non-state agencies. These attacks are in the form of abuse of existing laws, creation of new oppressive laws, excessive and unjustifiable executive action and plain illegalities and covert actions against people. Those who fight for the rights of people, especially the weaker sections, are targeted. Those at the lowest rungs of society become victims more than others.

The report has cited many types of rights violations and assaults like the use of laws such as the Foreign Currency Regulation Act and sedition laws to silence critics of the government and to harass civil society organisations like NGOs, intimidation of human rights activists and journalists, and many cases of attacks on Dalits, adivasis and minorities. The suicide of Rohith Vemula, the attack on Dalits by cow vigilante groups and the killing of two journalists in UP and Bihar have been mentioned in the report. Freedom of expression and association and even the right to life are routinely denied. Custodial deaths and encounter killings are not uncommon and the culprits are shielded by governments. In Maoist-affected and insurgency-hit areas, normal laws are given the go-by. Undemocratic laws are enforced and atrocities and repression are regularly resorted to. The report makes a special mention of Kashmir where excessive force is used by the armed faces against protesters, civilians including children are held in illegal detention and freedoms are regularly curbed.

The suppression of rights, threats and violence are increasing steadily too. Human rights have become a bad word and those who advocate and support the rights of people become anti-nationals. Amnesty’s reports are documents which should increase awareness about the need to respect basic human rights. They should inspire and lead people to fight for their own and others’ rights, and to resist attempts to suppress them.

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