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Amnesty International India
Bengaluru/ New Delhi: 15 March 2019 4:04 pm
Pressure from the international community is mounting on the Indian government to put an end to the crackdown on human rights work in India, Amnesty India today said.
“From USA to South Korea- thousands of people across the world have supported Amnesty International’s appeal to Indian authorities to stop crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in the country. Concerns have also been raised by UN agencies and EU parliamentarians over the deteriorating state of human rights work in India. This goes to show that the world is watching and the authorities can no longer imprison, attack, or harass human right workers with impunity,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India.
On 15 March, Amnesty India submitted a petition signed by people from across the world from 12 countries urging Indian authorities, specifically Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to end the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and civil society organisations, and to using repressive laws against them. The petition, launched on 15 November, 2018 was submitted to representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi. The international community has increased its questioning of the Indian government’s attitude towards its civil society that has led to shrinking environment for human rights work in the country. Raids against and subsequent freezing of bank accounts of Amnesty India and Greenpeace India by the Enforcement Directorate, a financial investigation agency under the Ministry of Finance are the most recent examples of the crackdown on civil society organisations.
Earlier this month, 20 Members of the European Parliament wrote to Indian authoritiesexpressing concern and urging action. The letter states, ‘India is the largest democracy in the world, and an important strategic partner of the European Union, whereas the relationship between the two is based on shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This is why we are deeply concerned at the recent crackdowns on human rights defenders and organizations across the country.’
Last December, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs (the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders) wrote to the Indian government seeking information and expressing concerns about the raids against Amnesty India and Greenpeace India.
“With the elections around the corner, Amnesty India urges all political parties to put human rights at the center of the election agenda. We will continue to urge this government and the subsequent government to implement our demands. As the world’s largest democracy, it is imperative that a global power like India walks the talk and heeds appeals from the international community. Authorities must ensure that India remains a place where dissent is encouraged and human rights workers are able to work freely and without fear”, said Aakar Patel.
There has been an increasing crackdown on civil society organizations and human rights defenders by the Government of India. In the past one year, the civil society has witnessed an increasing pattern of demonizing and criminalizing organizations and individuals, who have raised their voices against human rights violations of the poorest and most marginalized communities in India.
In October 2018, the offices of Amnesty India and Greenpeace India were raided by the Enforcement Directorate, a financial investigation agency under the Ministry of Finance, and subsequently their accounts were frozen. Amnesty India and Greenpeace India are not the only targets of the Indian government’s assault on civil society. In a series of brutal crackdowns on human rights defenders in the country from June to August 2018, ten prominent activists were arrested under a draconian counter-terrorism law—the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)—that is often used to silence government critics. Moreover, organizations like Lawyers Collective, People’s Watch, Sabrang Trust and Navsarjan Trust, have been targeted using the draconian Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act with their licenses getting suspended or cancelled.
Amnesty International India
Bengaluru/ New Delhi: 21 February 2019 1:28 pm
Responding to a ruling by India’s Supreme Court ordering several state governments to evict indigenous people whose claims over their traditional lands have been rejected, Aakar Patel of Amnesty India said:
“This ruling is a body blow to Adivasi rights in India. It would be unconscionable for Adivasi people to be evicted from their homes and lands merely because their claims were rejected in a process that is known to be severely flawed.
“Many civil society organizations, including Amnesty India, have pointed out for years that the Forest Rights Act is poorly implemented. Adivasi people claiming legal recognition of their rights over their traditional lands often have to face corruption, overly bureaucratic procedures, and government apathy. State governments have themselves admitted that claims are often incorrectly rejected.
“Even where claims have been rightly rejected, the government must consider alternatives to evictions. The Forest Rights Act was enacted to correct the historical injustice faced by Adivasi communities in India. But this ruling, if implemented, could itself lead to catastrophic consequences.
“It is also outrageous that the central government did not adequately defend the Forest Rights Act at the hearings before the Supreme Court, and did not present its lawyers on 13 February, when the order was passed. The government has abjectly failed in its duty to respect and protect Adivasi rights.
“Forced evictions are explicitly prohibited under international human rights law and standards. The government must ensure that they explore all feasible alternatives and conduct genuine consultations with people who could be affected. No one should be rendered homeless or vulnerable to other human rights violations because of an eviction.”
The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed by wildlife NGOs who contend that the Forest Rights Act has led to deforestation and encroachment of forests. The Court directed the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana,Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to explain why they had not evicted people whose claims under the Forests Rights Act had been rejected. Over 1.12 million forest rights claims have been rejected in these states.
The Court also directed the governments of these states – and of Goa, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which have not yet provided claim rejection numbers – to evict people whose claims had been rejected, on or before the next hearing of the case, scheduled on 24 July 2019. The order was passed on 13 February, but was published on the Court’s website only on 20 February.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forest rights) Act, popularly called the Forest Rights Act, was enacted in 2006. It recognizes the customary rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other ‘traditional forest-dwellers’ to land and other resources. Members of these communities can claim individual rights over forest land they depend on or have made cultivable. Communities can also file for rights over common property resources, including community or village forests, religious and cultural sites, and water bodies.
India is party to a number of international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit forced evictions.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights defines a forced evictions as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”
Forced evictions constitute gross violations of a range of internationally recognised human rights, including the human rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, security of the home, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has emphasized that evictions may be carried out only as a last resort once all feasible alternatives have been explored and only after appropriate procedural and legal safeguards are in place.
Many CVE observers in the South East Asia are not cognizant enough of the various violent extremist narratives that are being widely disseminated. To many government leaders and citizens in the region, the narratives they hear are about peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and conflict intervention. But the followers of the ISIS/al-Qaeda ideology strongly believe that the conflict there is lumped together with Rohingya (Myanmar) and Kashmir. The narratives they tell are about oppression of Muslims, which is either portrayed as being ignored by the governments or worse still, carried out by them.
To counter such narratives, it is critical to know which aspects of al-Qaeda’s ideological appeals are working. It has been demonstrated in both extensive empirical research and first-hand experience in investigations, these themes and concepts are persistently recurring. The ideology can be outlined, as below, in some recurring themes that need to be addressed.
There are two main religious narratives utilized by violent extremists that have particular application to South East Asia. Each is described below, followed by examples from the region.
1. jihad and hijrah as fard-ul-ayn coupled with the victimhood narrative
The concept of jihad and hijrah is often coupled with the narrative of victimhood: that Muslims are being victimized “at the hands of a perceived global war on Islam.” Jihad, according to violent extremists, is a necessary and obligatory fight to defend fellow Muslims from injustice. For example, former JI member Ali Imron stated in his memoir that the most persuasive narrative was that of religious duty, and that jihad was necessarily violent.
Similarly, Daesh narratives emphasize agency of the average Muslim to participate in violent jihad as an individual and civic duty. When it comes to Daesh narratives, another common theme is to highlight the victory or success of their violent war campaigns as proof of their “divinely sanctioned authenticity.”
1. The ideologies of takfir and al-wala wa’l-bara which polarize the world between Muslims and non-Muslims
In similar fashion, extremist narratives emphasize the urgency of the situations in Palestine, Kashmir, Syria and Iraq, arguing that Muslims are being slaughtered there, and that the Crusaders, Jews and the kuffar (infidels) and the rafida (apostates, referring to Shi’a Muslims) and their “tyrannical puppet regimes” are to blame.
Similarly, the brother of the of the Abu Sayef Group (ASG) in the Philippines, Qadhafy Janjalani, references Surat At-Tawbah (29) and Surat Al-Anfal (39) to justify the concept of violent jihad, including against non-Muslims as well as those who “Claimed themselves to be Muslims” and civilians.
Associated with this concept is the idea of takfir, or declaring someone an “apostate” or non-Muslim. For example, according to Imron’s memoir, the Bali attacks were “directed at the perpetrators of disobedience and the kafirs, so they would quit bad habits and stop damaging human morals.”
Internet radicalization in South East Asia
The extremist religious narratives are perhaps the most common when it comes to the context of South East Asia. According to a report on internet radicalization in South East Asia, the primary Bahasa Indonesia and Malay language websites propagating Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI) and Al-Qaeda material include “carefully selected Quranic verses, as well as academic articles and news reports… bearing messages that revolve around the theme of a victimised global Muslim community that is under attack, urging the necessity to fight back.”
Similarly, the Mujahidin Syura Council in Thailand has utilized their online media platform Khattab Media Publication to translate religious opinion of Abdullah Azzam (Palestinian intellectual behind Al Qaeda), and has significantly contributed to the mass dissemination of this religious justification of violence and terrorism to the Malay-speaking communities.
These types of narratives utilize religious or ideological concepts or elements to justify the terrorist organization’s end goal as well as the use of violence to achieve that goal. Religious components of the narrative ascribe divine legitimacy to the story, which in turn reinforce the narrative for those receiving it. Included in this categorization of narrative, for example, is a moral narrative by which democratic system of governance is corrupt, and the only rightful path is the ‘Islamic state’.
Ghulam Rasool Delhvi