Resolutions Passed in the two-day “National Conference on Human Rights”
Held on 28, 29 October 2017 at New Delhi.
1. Enact Law against Torture
It is quite unfortunate that India has not signed or ratified many UN conventions, treaties, agreements and optional protocols related to the protection of human and labour rights. The country waited for fourteen years to sign the UN Convention against Torture and done it only in 1997.Still the country has not ratified it.
It should be noted that the Convention defines torture as a criminal offence. Most of the States had no objection for a special law on torture and the NHRC itself had strongly recommended the enactment of such a law. The Supreme Court also had advised the government to enact such a law since the absence of it makes prosecutions difficult.
The number of complaints against custodial torture is on the increase in the country and the current institutions for its redress are toothless and pliant in the absence of stringent law. This conference calls up on the central government to expeditiously enact the law against torture.
2. Repeal UAPA
There are thousands of Indian youths behind the bars under Unlawful Activities (Protection) Act – (UAPA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or other security laws on the allegation that they are involved in unlawful activities. Almost all the people are Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis or members of poor and downtrodden communities.
The new provisions in the UAPA in 2008 and 2012 give arbitrary powers to the central government to restrict civil or human rights, to ban organizations or associations and suppress even legitimate political protests.
Banning associations involved in peaceful and legal activities is unconstitutional as our constitution defines freedom to assemble, organize and form associations as part of fundamental rights. When UPA-1 (United Progressive Alliance) came to power in 2004, it had to repeal the infamous POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) as it was one of its electoral promises. But it simultaneously amended UAPA on the sly by including all the draconian provisions of earlier special laws in the UAPA. In this way a special but temporary acts have been made permanent through. No wonder the number of cases under the act is increasing day by day.
Since this is an unconstitutional act and is used to harass people and ruin their lives, we demand that UAPA should be immediately repealed and all those arrested under this law released forthwith.
3. Withdraw Citizenship Amendment Bill
The BJP their election manifesto in 2014 promised that once they came to power they would grant citizenship to Non-Muslim refugees from neighbouring countries and make India “a natural home for persecuted Hindus”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill introduced in 2016 is aimed to achieve the objective which goes against the principles of the constitution and natural justice. The bill is also patently discriminatory. The BJP government clearly draws its ideology from Israel’s law of return which gives citizenship to any Jew coming to Palestine while refusing to grant basic human rights to the Palestinians.
This policy is contrary to the ideals of secularism and pluralism and thus unconstitutional. BJP is using Citizenship Act Amendment Bill to reinforce and spread Hindutva ideology in the country. In Assam especially the BJP regime which has come to power by default is trying to deny citizenship to the so called D Voters who have been living in the state for more than 100 years.
This conference condemns such racist approach of the present government and urges it to withdraw this bill or make necessary amendments in the bill to include all refugees irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
4. Rohingyan Refugees
Indian Government is seems to be unusually determined in deporting the 40,000 odd Rohingya Muslim refugees stationed in India. They had come to India in the wake of genocidal violence unleashed by the Myanmar Army.International laws on the refugees direct the host countries to help them “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation. Sending back refugees using force is against customary international law which is binding on all states whether they have signed the refugee convention or not. But the NDA regime which offers red carpet welcome to non-Muslim people from the neighbourhoods says that the Rohingya Muslims are not refugees but only “illegal immigrants”.
The government ignores the fact that nearly 5,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since 2012 and living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Only India is so adamant in sending them back. Though it cites security reasons for this stand the real reason behind the attitude is inherent anti-Muslim bias of the present ruling dispensation. This conference expresses great concern about the approach of the government and urges political parties, civil rights groups and human rights organization to express their opposition to this blatantly sectarian policy and put pressure on the administration to sign the UN treaty of non–refoulement.
5. Murder of Gauri Lankesh
The delegates of this conference condemn in no uncertain terms the dastardly killing of the eminent journalist and rights activist Gauri Lankesh on 5th September in Bengaluru. She was closely associated with NCHRO and was an Exco member of the Confederation for some time. As a fire brand rights activist and journalist, she fought saffron terror groups, cow vigilantes and mining and real estate mafias. She also exposed the mutts and orthodox outfits.
The way in which she was killed closely resembles the killings of Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dhabolkar. This kind of elimination of political adversaries, civil activists, scribes, writers, thinkers and student leaders has increased after the BJP government came to power in Delhi.
We demand that the brutal killers of Gouri Lankesh brought to justice immediately. We also call up on the concerned authorities to appoint a commission headed by a sitting SC judge to inquire about the killings of writers, intellectuals, civil activists and student activists in the past four years.
6. Fake Encounter Killings.
It is with great dismay that the delegates of this conference view the increase of fake encounter killings and custodial murders in the country.
- On April 7, 2015 five under trial Muslim prisoners were killed in Alair near Hyderabad by the police who were taking them handcuffed to the court. On April 7, 2015 20 wood cutters were massacred by the Andhra Pradesh’s “Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force” in Seshasalam forest area near Tirupati in Chittoor District.
- On 31st August 2016 eight Muslim under trial prisoners were brutally gunned down by the Madhya Pradesh police at a village near Bhopal. On October 24, 2016 24 Maoists were killed by the security forces in Malkangiri on Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border.
- The next day four more were killed in another fake encounter in the same area. In Chokkad Village of Malappuaram Dist, Kerala one couple was brutally killed in the fake encounter in September 2010. On November 28, 2016 two Maoists including a woman in police custody were killed in Nilambur forest by the Kerala police.
Almost all of these incidents were non judicial murders as per the instructions given by higher ups and they follow a general pattern copied down from police states. After the incidents the police rarely follow the specific instructions given by either the Supreme Court or NHRC.
This conference demands that that in all such cases the security personal involved in the killings should be suspended forthwith and charged for murder till it is proved beyond doubt that the encounters were genuine.
7. Crackdown on Academic Dissent
This conference calls for thorough inquiry about the violent incidents in university campuses including that of Rohit Vemula’s suicide in CUH and Najib’s disappearance in JNU and also demands immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all the cases against the students.
Since Modi Government came to power fascist elements are trying to intimidate and suppress dissent in the campuses. The dividing line between nationalism and fascism is very thin and the main defining characteristic of fascism is the constant use of patriotic motives, mottos and symbols. Disdain for the recognition of human rights violations, defining and targeting liberals and secularists as enemies of the nation, emphasize on the supremacy of military, obsession with national security, giving more powers to police, protecting corporate power, weakening of labour organizations are other defining characteristics of extreme right. The present BJP regime satisfies all these criteria to be termed as fascist.
The university administrations including the vice chancellors now act just like government agents. They lack moral courage to withstand the external pressures. The fascist elements infiltrate the campuses under the guise of student leaders to teach a lesson to the liberal students. The growing intolerance nurtured by the BJP regime is behind Rohit’s death as well Najib’s disappearance. It is high time that intellectuals, academics and rights activist rally up for the protection of university autonomy and academic freedom.
8. Stop the Harassment of Human Rights Defenders.
The delegates attending this conference are dismayed, worried and shocked over the way in which Human Rights Defenders are harassed, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned by the BJP Government in Chhattisgarh.
1) On 23 January 2017, around 30 people went to the house of human rights defender and researcher Ms. Bela Bhatia in Pandripani village, Bastar district and accused her of being a “Maoist sympathizer” and threatened to burn the house down if she did not leave immediately. It might be noted that the cops were angry as she was instrumental in exposing sexual violence on the tribal women by them.
2) On Dec 25, 2016 a seven member Fact Finding Team from Telangana was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police.
3) In Nov 2016 New Delhi-based academics Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad, and political activists Vineet Tiwari and Sanjay Parate along with some Maoists, have been named as accused in the murder of a tribal villager, Shamnath Baghel in Nama village of the Adivasi-dominated Bastar region.
In all these three cases the people harassed, threatened, arrested and imprisoned are eminent persons, professors, writers and well known human rights defenders. It is not a mere coincidence that these people were harassed after they had engaged themselves in some fact finding missions to expose the brutalities of the law enforcing machinery of the state. This is a gross violation of the historic landmark resolution adopted on March 24, 2016 by UN Human Rights Council to protect Human Rights Defenders.
This conference strongly condemns the brutal, inhuman and unlawful activities of the Chhattisgarh police. The BJP government rulers in the centre and states should learn to respect the international covenants and resolutions in defence of Human Rights Defenders. All human rights activists should be allowed to function without the interference of the government. There is no place for rogue police or security forces in a democracy.
9. Go for Political Solution in Kashmir –
This conference is of the view that normalcy in Kashmir cannot be restored through military means nor by threatening the people using draconian laws like AFSPA. The Central Government should initiate sincere efforts to put an end to the horrific rights violations in the valley which has become one of the most militarized zones in the world.
The security forces enjoy total impunity in using the lethal arms at their command. Sops like appointment of an interlocutor or occasional forays by the central ministers to the valley are not going to solve the Kashmir problem. The government should take into confidence the real representatives of the Kashmiri people and withdraw the security laws that give impunity to the army and paramilitaries.
This conference calls up on the Centre 1) to appoint a commission to enquire about the rights violations and army excesses in the valley 2) to take immediate steps to reduce the number of armed battalions deployed there, and 3) to simultaneously start peace talks with the people with an assurance that Article 370 will be implemented without any deviation from the initial draft and that all later amendments in Article 370 withdrawn within an agreed timeframe.
10. Resist the Centralization of Powers
This conference is of the view that there are very dangerous signs of centralization of powers by the central government. Attempts are being made to poach up on the powers of the states on one excuse or other .For instance, the concerns raised by Tamil Nadu against the mandatory National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical courses were dismissed the BJP government on grounds of so called meritocracy. Such issues raise pertinent questions about state autonomy in a federal set up. When our constitution was drafted education was put in the state list for obvious reasons but the constitution was later amended and brought to the concurrent list. Likewise more and more powers are appropriated by day by day under Narendra Modi. For instance, the states are deprived of their financial powers in the name of GST. This conference condemns such acts of the present BJP government as they are against the spirit of federalism enshrined in our constitution.
11. Release Dr G N Saibaba immediately
This conference is of the view that the sentence handed down by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court in Maharashtra, imprisoning Dr G N Saibaba and others is an affront to justice and an attempt at making political capital at the expense of rule of law. Dr Saibaba is a paraplegic, wheel- chair bound intellectual and academic and he was given life imprisonment under UAPA for alleged connection with Maoists. There are reports that he is put in anda cell in Nagpur Central Jail under very severe conditions without assistance. Even though he suffers from many ailments no proper medical help is given to him.
It is all the more shocking that the trial court judge in his judgment concedes that Dr Saibaba is 90% disabled but does not consider it a ground to show him leniency. Such unimaginable cruelty is condemnable and we demand that the eminent professor with 90% disability should be released on bail immediately on humanitarian grounds.
12. Draconian Provisions in Anti- Conversion Laws
More and more draconian provisions are being added by the BJP ruled states in the anti conversion laws. Recently the Chhattisgarh government has amended its anti-conversion law to practically preventing any kind of conversions. At the same time the forced conversion programmes under the so called ‘Gharvapasi’ of the Sangh Parivar are going ahead without any break. Even in a liberal state in Kerala only recently the media exposed the existence of forced reconversion centre run by RSS in which physical and mental torture was used to change the minds of women who had taken non-Hindus as husbands.We strongly protest the use of non-constitutional laws to prevent conversions.
13. Fight Neo Liberal Economic Policies
In its very first budget the BJP government announced a concession of 5000 crore rupees in corporate tax per year. At the same time the budget allocations for education, health, agriculture, irrigation and rural development are drastically reduced. Year by year Modi government’s budget carries forward more aggressively the neo-liberal economic agenda by the UPA government. This conference condemns such corporate friendly approach at the cost of welfare activities that benefit ordinary people.
As part of the pro-capitalist development policies the government is planning to divest the profit making public sector units (PSU) and national wealth on a platter to corporate giants who in turn finance parties in power. Divestment always results in retrenchment of employees.
This conference condemns such corporate friendly neo liberal approaches of the present government.
14. Arrest of Human Rights Lawyer in Tamil Nadu
Advocate S. Murugan, prominent human rights lawayer in Madurai Bench of Madras High Court was arrested under UAPA on 6th January 2017. The petition challenging the remand and bail application before High Court have been reserved for orders months together. That apart, he was implicated in yet another UAPA Case pending in Durmapuri District Q branch case on similar charges. The discharge petition and bail applications were dismissed by the trial court even though the court observed that there is no incriminating materials aganist him as in the earlier case.The arrest of the Advt. Murugan is totally illegal and agaisnst the Constitution and Advocates Act.
This conference vehemently condemns the illegal arrest and remand of Advt.e Murugan who has been languishng behind bars for more than 10 months without trial despite final report has been filed which disclosed nothing incriminating on the alleged charges execpt defending the other accused in those cases. This conference calls up on the Government of Tamil Nadu to release him on bailso that he can defend the cases foisted on him falsely.
15. Accused in terrorist cases with Hindutva connections
NCHRO is worried to see those accused in terrorist cases with Hindutva connections are allowed to walk free one by one. In a just and democratic rule, innocents should not be punished while criminal offenders should not be shown any favour just because they are close to power. But this is what happens now in India. Lt. Col Srikant Prohit who was accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case as one who has brought RDX explosives from the army store is now granted bail. Swami Aseemanand and six others who have been accused of terrorist charges in Ajmer Sheriff Mausoleum blast were already acquitted. The investigation of about seven terrorist cases in which Hindutva elements are involved are now entrusted to the NIA, which has not been able to arrest any absconding accused in any of these seven cases, it has been investigating since 2014, in which year BJP came to power. In 2015 the NIA’s former public prosecutor Rohini Salian disclosed that she had been asked to go “soft” in the 2008 Malgaon investigations of the terror cases in which Hindutva elements are involved. Such things will make people to lose confidence in our investigation agencies and judiciary. This conference demands that these cases are to be transferred to a SIT and monitored by the Supreme Court. This conference also appeal to all Human Rights organizations and other individuals interested in rule of law to use section 24(8) of Cr.P.C. which permits the victims to appoint a senior lawyer, as the Special Public Prosecutor and fight against such efforts of the government to allow the accused to walk free without being punished.
YouTube Videos uploaded by Delegates:-
1) Prof. Nivedita Menon, JNU on Universities and Academic Freedom :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifv633-H_WM
2) Umar Khaild, JNU on Universities and Academic Freedom :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhwpC0BqRMc
3) Vasantha Kumari Wife of Prof. Saibaba :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYtm_gNOrKQ
4) Shadaf Mushraf (Sister of missing JNU scholar Najeeb) :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2-4OtJsyYY
5) Cultural Program by Sangwari Group :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTC_rjwu4h8