Posts Tagged ‘India’

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
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The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
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However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
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But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.

Magsaysay Awards 2019 honor 5 outstanding Asians

August 3, 2019

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, one of Asia’s best known prizes, celebrates transformative leadership. In the past five decades, the award has been bestowed on over three hundred men, women and organizations whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development. For more on this regional award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ramon-magsaysay-award-for-community-leadership] The trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation annually select the awardees. The Award is presented to them in formal ceremonies in Manila, Philippines on August 31st, the birth anniversary of the much-esteemed Philippine President whose ideals inspired the Award’s creation in 1957.

The winners for 2019 are:

Kim, Jong-ki, South Korea

  • In 1995, Kim Jong-ki was a highly successful businessman handling market operations in China for a giant Korean electronics company.  Married, with a son and daughter, he was at the height of his career when tragedy struck.
  • In the year his son died, Jong-ki established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence (FPYV), the first organized effort in South Korea to address school violence as a systemic social problem affecting students, families, schools, and the community-at-large.
  • The impact of Jong-ki and FPYV on Korean society has been profound, establishing a nationwide presence and creating collective action on a social problem hitherto neglected.
  • In electing Kim Jong-ki to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence, his unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect, and his effectively mobilising all sectors of the country in a nationwide drive that has transformed both policy and behaviours towards building a gentler, non-violent society.

Kumar, Ravish, India

  • In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from being a field reporter. After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, “Prime Time.”
  • As an anchor, Ravish is sober, incisive, and well-informed.  He does not dominate his guests but affords them the chance to express themselves.  He does not balk, however, at calling the highest officials to account or criticizing media and the state of public discourse in the country; for this reason, he has been harassed and threatened by rabid partisans of one kind or another.
  • Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice.
  • In electing Ravish Kumar to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.

Neelapaijit, Angkhana, Thailand

  • In 2006, with the help of non-government organizations and her own family, Angkhana founded Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), a network of human rights and peace advocates that has done important work in documenting the human rights situation in southern Thailand, thus raising public awareness and putting pressure on government to act on human rights cases, providing legal assistance to victims; and training women on human rights and the peace process.
  • In 2015, Angkhana was named commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand,  the only Commission member with grassroots human rights experience.
  • In her soft-spoken and measured tone she asserts: “Most women experience conflict and violence in a different way than men.
  • In electing Angkhana Neelapaijit to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand; her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.

Ko Swe Win, Myanmar

https://www.rmaward.asia/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/KSW-Official-2-300x300.png

  • Such a journalist is 41-year-old Ko Swe Win.  Born to a poor family in Yangon, he grew up in politically turbulent times and fell victim to state repression early on.
  • In 2017, he criticized a powerful, ultranationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, for purveying “hate speech” and publicly commending the killer of a Muslim human rights activist.  Wirathu, Swe Win wrote, had desecrated Buddhism and should be punished for endorsing assassination and fomenting hate.
  • Swe Win and Myanmar Now draw strength from the fact that they are making a difference.  With a current readership of 350,000, the news service is highly regarded for the quality, balance, and depth of its reporting on high-impact issues, including land grabbing, child labor, and abuse of domestic workers.
  • In electing Ko Swe Win to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar; his incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues; and his resolute insistence that it is in the quality and force of media’s truth-telling that we can convincingly protect human rights in the world. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

The fifth award winner is Mr Cayabyab, 65, who was recognised for “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations”.

http://festival.rmaf.org.ph/?page_id=35

Retired civil servants in India come out to support human rights defenders

July 22, 2019

After a group of NGOs [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/27/ngos-come-out-in-support-of-indias-lawyers-collective/], Scroll India reports on 22 July 2019 that former bureaucrats also condemn alleged intimidation of human rights defenders and dissidents and expressed concern over the CBI action against advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, and the case filed against 10 poets and activists in Assam.

Citing three recent cases, the former civil service officers condemned what they said “appears an attempt to govern by fear and intimidation”. One of the cases the former bureaucrats commented on in their open letter was the Central Bureau of Investigation’s action against advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. The searches at their homes and offices on July 11 were vindictive and the government had launched the “fresh attack” on the couple to silence them instead of following legal process, the signatories added. The group denounced “the abuse of authority in harassing human rights defenders”. The two advocates and their organisation Lawyers Collective have been “at the forefront in furthering women’s rights, gender equality, and environmental issues and have been committed to fighting over decades for the rule of law”, the open letter added. The writers pointed out that Jaising and Grover had been involved as lawyers in politically sensitive matters, especially a case in which Amit Shah, now the Union home minister, was an accused.

The former bureaucrats also referred to the labelling of social activists as “urban Naxals” by a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The wing is “certifying some of India’s most credible leaders of social movements such as Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh as ‘urban Naxals’,” they added. “These are respected persons who have given their life’s efforts in working for the common man.

The letter also mentioned the case filed by the Assam Police against 10 people, most of them Bengali Muslim poets and activists who are often pejoratively referred to as Miya and whose body of work is known as Miya poetry. “In the tradition of protest Black, Dalit and Queer poetry, these poets have created a new genre of poetry which they call Miya poetry, in which they lament and protest about the suffering of their people as a result of the NRC process,” the former bureaucrats said. “They now are charged with inciting hatred under sections which could keep them in jail for many years of their lives.”

They condemned these attacks on human rights defenders, dissenters and poets. “Dissent and freedom of expression are the life-blood of any democracy,” they added. “We find it intensely worrying that there are crude and ham-handed attempts to intimidate such voices into silence, using the institutions of state authority.”

https://scroll.in/latest/931355/former-bureaucrats-condemn-alleged-intimidation-of-human-rights-activists-and-dissidents

More on Neha Dixit, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

(Rajni George)

The Committee to Protect Journalists on 16 July gave one of its International Press Freedom Awards 2019 to Neha Dixit, an Indian freelance reporter, who has covered politics, gender, and social justice in print, TV, and online media for more than a decade. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/]

She began her career at Tehelka magazine and then joined the special investigation team at India Today. In 2019, Dixit spent months investigating and reporting stories that shed a light on important issues in the country, including extrajudicial killings by police. She also reported on the illegal detention of citizens under draconian laws that appeared to be motivated by political interests. In January 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a notice to the Indian government to express its concern about the detentions. In 2018, Dixit reported on the damage to the health of poor Indians who were being used as guinea pigs by pharmaceutical companies in illegal drug trials.

In 2016, she wrote a story for Outlook magazine that accused members of a right-wing nationalist group of trafficking more than 31 girls in Assam state to other parts of India in order to inculcate them with a nationalist ideology. After the story was published, members of the ruling party filed a criminal defamation suit against Dixit and Outlook, accusing both of violating Indian law. CPJ condemned the case, which continues today, and provided Dixit with support for its legal fees. CPJ’s research has found that section 153A of India’s colonial-era penal code, under which the suit was filed, has been used to silence journalists, writers, and academics in India. Dixit was also charged with “inciting communal hatred through writing,” for which she could face a five-year prison term.

After Dixit’s exposé on extrajudicial killings by the police, she said high-ranking police officials threatened her family’s safety if she continued to report on the issue. She is frequently harassed online as a result of her reporting, especially from alleged right-wing extremists. She has been threatened with physical attacks, rape, and death, and her personal information has been exposed online. She told CPJ in May 2019 that she faces up to 300 abusive messages a day.

Dixit’s work has been published in international outlets including The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, Caravan, and The Wire. She has received numerous awards, including the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize in 2011, the Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism in 2014, and the 2016 Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist.

https://cpj.org/awards/2019/neha-dixit-india.php

International Press Freedom Awards 2019

July 17, 2019

On 16 July 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that journalists from Brazil, India, Nicaragua, and Tanzania will receive the 2019 International Press Freedom Awards amid the erosion of press freedom in democracies around the globe. The journalists have faced online harassment, legal and physical threats, and imprisonment in their pursuit of the news

CPJ’s 2019 awardees are:

Patrícia Campos Mello, a reporter and columnist at Brazil’s daily Folha de S. Paulo. During the Brazilian presidential election campaign in 2018, Campos Mello was attacked online and doxxed in response to her coverage of supporters of then presidential-candidate Jair Bolsonaro allegedly sponsoring bulk messaging in WhatsApp.

Neha Dixit, a freelance investigative journalist in India who covers human rights. She has faced legal and physical threats, as well as online harassment, after reporting on alleged wrongdoing by right-wing nationalist groups and police.

Lucía Pineda Ubau, news director, and Miguel Mora, founder and editor, of Nicaraguan broadcaster 100% Noticias. The pair was imprisoned in December 2018 in relation to their coverage of political unrest. They were freed on June 11 after six months behind bars, under surveillance and in isolation most of the time.

Maxence Melo Mubyazi, champion of online freedom of expression in Tanzania, who co-founded and is the managing director of Jamii Forums, an online discussion site and source of breaking news. Melo has been charged under the country’s restrictive CyberCrimes Act and, in 2017, appeared in court 81 times.

For more on the International Press Freedom Awards and other media awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj

All of the winners will be honored at CPJ’s annual awards and benefit dinner, which will be chaired by Laurene Powell Jobs and Peter Lattman of the Emerson Collective. The event will be held at the Grand Hyatt New York in New York City on November 21, 2019.

Profile of Abirami Jotheeswaran, Dalit Human Rights Defender

July 17, 2019

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist
visiting Geneva to address the UN about issues faced by Dalit Women.

Abirami Jotheeswaran is a human rights defender and the National Program Coordinator of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights NCDHR. Most recently, she was part of a fact-finding team in Mirchpur to investigate a case of caste-based violence. Anagha Smrithi interviewed her for Feminism in India (FII) of 1 July 2019:

Anagha Smrithi: Can you describe your journey towards becoming the National Program Coordinator of the NCDHR?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Residing in Chennai, I experienced many forms of caste-discrimination throughout my lifetime. A striking incident was during my graduation, when a classmate asked me what caste I belonged to in front of all my other classmates. The question was irrelevant, more so because she was aware of my social background as she knew my family. I felt insulted in front of my classmates and realised that caste certainly exists in urban cities like Chennai. After my Masters in Computer Science, I got married and settled in Delhi. A few years later, I got the opportunity to sit for an interview with the NCDHR. Even though I didn’t have a social work or human rights background, as someone who witnessed caste discrimination during my college days, I excelled in the group discussion and interview about caste-based discrimination. NCDHR changed me as a Dalit Human Rights Defender. When I joined as a Monitoring Associate in 2005, the work was new to me and I learnt everything through trial and error. I had to work hard to improve my Hindi to be able to coordinate with the State Coordinators of Northern states. I also equipped myself with legal knowledge of various legislatures surrounding the question of Dalit human rights. I used to work more than 10 hours a day, sometimes even carrying home documents to meet my deadlines. At the same time, I was also a mother. But I persisted at work so that I could be on par with my colleagues, most of whom were men. The 14 years I have been associated with the NCDHR has deepened my understanding of caste, violence, human rights and Dalit perspectives and ideologies. Today I am the National Program Coordinator and my primary responsibilities are to keep track of human rights violations, torture and ill-treatment of Dalits, and to provide legal assistance to the victims and survivors of caste atrocities across 12 States in India.

As a National Program Coordinator, I have participated in conferences and consultations at the State, National and International level to highlight Dalit human right violations in India, and to hold the state accountable. ..My 14 years with NCDHR has taught me the importance of struggling for justice in the courtroom. Because of this, I decided to pursue my higher studies in law. Most importantly, my association with NCDHR built my Dalit ideology and my strength as a leader to deepen the struggle against the caste system.

Anagha Smrithi: You were part of a fact-finding team about caste atrocities in Haryana. How did you obtain facts when the information was hidden/ fudged by the police and administration?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: On 24 April 2010, the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Anhad facilitated a national fact-finding visit to Mirchpur in Haryana’s Hisar district, where a dominant-caste mob had attacked Dalits in the village. The team consisted of a diverse group of people of journalists, activists, publishers and human rights defenders, including myself. The NDMJ Haryana state team visited the site of violence the day after the incident took place. They identified active victims, witnesses and built trust and a relationship with them. During our fact-finding process, we held detailed interviews with the victims—this was crucial in obtaining information that the police otherwise would not reveal. Through the interviews we gained information about the social background of the victims, the occurrence of previous atrocities in the same village and the events leading up to the incident. We discovered how the mob had planned to commit the offence, which differed from the police claim that it was a spontaneous conflict. We surveyed the loss of property and investigated the collusion of the police, administration and the Khap panchayat in committing the crime and obstructing justice.

Anagha Smrithi: Was any action taken after the fact-finding report?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Soon after the fact-finding report, the NDMJ conducted a press conference to give visibility to the caste and build pressure on the government. We demanded appropriate sections of the SC & ST act be invoked for the immediate arrest of all those involved in the violence, along with resettling the affected Dalits in a secure place. We strove to register cases against the police and administration for the negligence of official duty, and demanded employment to all the members of the affected families, as well as a proper estimation of the damage inflicted upon the families. At the state level, we participated in protests, approached the Human Rights Law Network for legal interventions and took up advocacy with the Minister of Social Justice and other state authorities to ensure immediate arrest, complete investigation, the submission of a charge sheet, relief and rehabilitation for the affected and protection for the involved witnesses. As of today, we are still consistently engaging with the legal system and following up with the victims to achieve justice.

……
Anagha Smrithi: Even in cases of cruel atrocities & oppression, there is often still resistance and assertion from the community. What sort of resistance did you observe during your fact-finding process?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Before the incident, violence had taken place against Dalits, but no proper action was taken by the police administration. But when this carnage happened, the Dalit community lost 2 lives and immeasurable damage to the property and possessions. Despite the losses, they unanimously decided to fight for justice and not tolerate any more violence by the dominant caste. They left their houses in Mirchpur and moved towards Mini Secretariat, demanding for justice. Their journey took them to Delhi, and finally to a farmhouse in Tanwar, protesting for justice, security, rehabilitation and jobs all the way. The State Government, faced with renewed pressure finally took action against the accused and the negligent administration. Though the victims continue to live away from their homes, in difficult conditions, the spirit of resistance is still alive.

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist

NGOs come out in support of India’s Lawyers Collective

June 27, 2019

UPDATE 11 July: https://www.news18.com/news/india/cbi-raids-senior-lawyers-indira-jaising-anand-grovers-home-offices-for-violating-foreign-funding-norms-2225819.html
On 26 June 2019, a group of 10 major NGOs issued a joint statement to the Indian Government that it should withdraw criminal charges against the NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’ and its representatives.They strongly condemn the filing of criminal charges against Indian NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’, its President, Senior Advocate Anand Grover, and other representatives. Criminal charges were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 13, 2019, relying on an investigation report of January 2016 of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The MHA report has been challenged by Lawyers Collective in January 2017 and the case is under consideration by the High Court of Bombay.Lawyers Collective is a human rights organisation based in New Delhi with its registered office in Mumbai and was founded by noted Indian human rights defenders and lawyers Ms Indira Jaising and Mr Anand Grover. Ms Jaising and Mr Grover are senior advocates with an exceptional profile of public service, probity and personal and professional integrity as lawyers and as human rights defenders. Ms Jaising was an Additional Solicitor General of India between 2009 and 2014, and was also a member of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) between 2009 and 2012. Mr Grover held the mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health between 2008 and 2014. Ms Jaising and Mr Grover, through Lawyers Collective, have advocated for advancing the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of Indian society, thereby upholding constitutional values as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Lawyers Collective’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) was first suspended on May 31, 2016, and its bank accounts frozen. The FCRA license was not renewed on October 28, 2016, and was cancelled on November 27, 2016. Lawyers Collective petitioned the High Court of Bombay to challenge the FCRA cancellation and non-renewal in January 2017 and March 2017, respectively. In January 2017, its domestic accounts were unfrozen. Lawyers Collective’s challenge to the FCRA cancellation and non-renewal are currently pending before the High Court.

Filing of criminal charges while the matter is under consideration by the High Court is a blatant misuse of its agencies by the Indian Government to target critical human rights work undertaken by Lawyers Collective and its representatives, often involving sensitive cases against Indian ministers and senior officials of the ruling political party.

On May 15, 2019, the MHA wrote to CBI for ‘further investigation as per law’ into the matter relating to Lawyers Collective. On June 13, 2019, the CBI solely relying on the impugned MHA report registered a First Information Report under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, false statement made in declaration and various sections under the FCRA and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act 1988. Given that there has been no change in circumstances since 2016 and also no material or evidential basis to support the provisions invoked under the IPC and PC Act, the filing of criminal charges is a blatant act of reprisal against Lawyers Collective and its representatives.

Such actions by the Indian Government are contrary to its pledge at the UN Human Rights Council and its obligations and commitments under several international human rights treaties and declarations. The FCRA has been time and again criticised by human rights defenders and NGOs within and outside India for its regressive and unfair interference in the functioning of organisations. Indian human rights defenders have condemned the use of FCRA and the accusations of “foreign funding” to quash dissent and smear individuals and groups.

In his analysis of the FCRA in 2016, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kiai concluded that certain provisions of FCRA were not in conformity with international human rights law and noted that “access to resources, including foreign funding, is a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under international law, standards, and principles, and more particularly part of forming an association”. In June 2016 Kiai joined the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders calling on the Government of India to repeal the regressive FCRA, which was being used to “silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”

We strongly call upon the Indian Government to cease misusing the country’s laws, including the FCRA, against human rights defenders. In the specific case of Lawyers Collective, we urge the criminal charges be immediately withdrawn pending the decision of the High Court of Bombay. We appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India to take cognizance of this matter and take immediate actions under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 (PHRA) and to undertake a legal review of the FCRA under Section 12 (d) of the PHRA.

We further call upon the Indian Government to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Lawyers Collective and Mr Anand Grover, as well as against all human rights defenders in India and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance.

Signatory organizations:

Amnesty International
CIVICUS
Forum Asia
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Defenders Alert
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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Pamela Philipose in The Wire gives a more detailed report: Backstory: Shrinking Spaces Need Expanding of Awareness; First they come for the human rights activists, and then they come for the defenders of human rights activists…

The filing by the CBI of a criminal case against the Lawyers Collective, a prominent legal resource organisation with a national and international reputation, has a significance that goes beyond the hounding of two prominent legal personalities, Indira Jaising and Anand Grover (‘After CBI Files FIR, Lawyers Collective Calls It an Attack on Free Speech’, June 18). It may well be a foretaste of what the new government has in store for those who stand up against state repression, or seek to expose malfeasance within the political, corporate and personal spaces.

The message could not have been clearer: the crackdowns that we witnessed in the first tenure of the Modi government – from the cancellation of registrations of hundreds of thousands of civil rights organisations to the incarceration under a draconian law of those supposedly linked to the Bhima Koregaon violence through elaborate police chargesheets – could manifest themselves with redoubled force during the second.

Also Read: After CBI Files FIR, Lawyers Collective Calls It an Attack on Free Speech

Significantly, this attempt to silence Jaising and Grover comes at a time when the independence of the judiciary is under tremendous strain from an executive seeking to bend the bench to its will (‘Centre’s Refusal to Elevate Justice Kureshi Raises Troubling Questions’, June 21). We have already seen a whistle blower police officer, critical of Narendra Modi, getting life imprisonment in Gujarat (‘Sanjiv Bhatt Case: In 16 Years, Gujarat Saw 180 Custodial Deaths – and Zero Convictions‘, June 21). The Gujarat dimension is conspicuous in all these instances, but there have been others like a rapper being hauled up for ‘sedition’ for her social media posts (‘Rapper Hard Kaur Charged With Sedition for Posts Against Adityanath, Bhagwat’, June 20) and journalists being thrown into Adityanath’s jails like hardened criminals (‘Editorial: The Yogi as Commissar‘, June 11).

Taken together, these recent occurrences may seem disparate in nature but point in the direction of an increasingly repressive state. This move to crush Lawyers Collective, when taken together with the arrest of the human rights defenders implicated in the Bhima Koregoan case, seems powered by a drive to wipe out human rights activism in the country.

Just a cursory look at the numerous petitions expressing outrage over the CBI move indicates the broad swathe of human rights Lawyers Collective has been involved in. Jaising and Grover have contributed significantly to changing the architecture of law and justice delivery in this country.

A petition from People’s Union of Civil Liberties, unequivocally condemned the move as a “brazen abuse of the process of law”, and noted that the organisation had “taken up important cases throughout the 38 years of their existence. In a separate statement, women activists recalled how “Indira Jaising, since the 1980s, has unwaveringly stood by the Constitution’s Fundamental Rights”, whether involving herself in the changes made to rape laws in 1983, securing inheritance rights for women as in the Mary Roy case, securing guardianship for single women in the Githa Hariharan case, battling sexual harassment in the Rupan Deol Bajaj case and campaigning for the formulation and enactment of the Domestic Violence Act.

Anand Grover and Indira Jaising.

It also applauded the battle Anand Grover has waged for over for two decades on behalf of the LGBTQI+ community in 2001 when a Public Interest Litigation was filed against Section 377 (IPC) and the way he “represented the Cancer Patients Aid Association and individuals against the patenting and pricing of drugs”, playing a key role in the formulation of The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017.

LGBTQI+ citizens, groups, collectives, and organisations iterated that the Lawyers Collective has been central to “the very story of the movement against Section 377 of the IPC”; while the Bebaak Collective, representing a large section of Muslim women, underlined the fact that the “two most significant legal cases in recent times” involved the Lawyers Collective articulating the intrinsic rights of Muslim women in the triple talaq and female genital mutilation cases.

These petitions – and there were many others emerging from bodies of international human rights activists to national and international intellectuals – indicate that there is rising alarm over the way political elites in India are seeking to consolidate themselves through the capture and control of the institutions of power. But these petitions also indicate that information, such as the life’s work of Jaising and Grover, is not known beyond small professional and activist groups. Consequently, the dynamic to defend such work also remains confined to these circles.

This must change. The Jaising-Grover legacy needs to be taken to a new generation of Indians who may be unfamiliar with cases fought aeons ago, but needs to realise that their everyday rights have got strengthened because of stalwarts such as them. It is precisely in times of shrinking spaces that the attempt to build popular awareness on human rights and their defenders should take place.

The media has a major role in achieving this and that is why pieces such as ‘Documenting Anand Grover, Indira Jaising’s Fight for Human Rights Over the Years’ (June 20), are valuable. The point to remind ourselves as journalists is this: in many profound ways, the work of both journalists and lawyers, while having separate pathways, are both concerned with the investigation; argumentation on, and exposure of, wrong doing; and the delivery of justice. This makes it incumbent upon the media to closely follow the Lawyers Collective issue in the days and months ahead, because of the tremendous consequence it holds for justice delivery and human rights in India.

national human rights commission, nhrc, cbi, fcra, Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, fcra violations, india news, Indian ExpressNHRC said it had made it clear in the past that matters relating to FCRA violations are outside its purview.

The direction came on complaints filed by Henri Tiphagne, a human rights activist associated with Human Rights Defenders’ Alert and Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

https://thewire.in/media/backstory-shrinking-spaces-need-expanding-of-awareness

Express News Service

‘Access Now’ names Usha Ramanathan a ‘Human Rights Hero’ for her opposition to Aadhaar

June 11, 2019

Jahnavi Sen, writing in the Wire of 10 June 2019, reports Usha Ramanathan, a legal researcher and activist based in Delhi, has been declared a ‘human rights hero’ by international rights group Access Now for her criticism of the Aadhaar programme. Since the scheme was launched in 2009, Ramanathan has been raising the security and privacy risks associated with it, as well as the concerns on linking the programme to welfare schemes. While facilitating Ramanathan’s “tireless” efforts to highlight the issues related to Aadhaar, Access Now has said that it also wants to “recognise the entire community that has protested and litigated against Aadhaar”. In September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Aadhaar law, but placed strict restrictions on its scope. Before the final judgment, the court had passed a number of orders which were conveniently ignored by the administration, Ramanathan and others have pointed out. Ramanathan has written a number of articles on why the programme needs to be rebooted, and the risks it poses to people’s privacy. A number of her articles have been published in The Wire.

The award function will be held in Tunis between June 11 and 14, as a part of RightsCon. The awards will be handed out by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

Since 2014 Access Now issues the anual award “in celebration of…the work of people around the globe to protect human rights in the digital age, naming “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online, or worked to undermine them.”

There are a total of five winners this year. Other than Ramanathan, Bahraini activist and digital security consultant Mohammed Al-Maskati, Australian human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer Lizzie O’Shea, Tanzanian digital security trainer Zaituni Njovu and Venezuelan lawyer, writer and human rights activist Marianne Díaz Hernández have also been designated ‘heroes’.

https://thewire.in/rights/usha-ramanathan-aadhaar-opposition

Five Laureates of the Right Livelihood Foundation speak about woman human rights defenders

May 22, 2019

On 6 March 2019, two days before international women’s day, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation brought together 5 women Laureates from around the world to discuss ‘local realities and shared global challenges’ facing Women Human Rights Defenders. The side event, organised in parallel to the Human Rights Council’s fortieth session, was co-sponsored by CIVICUS, Human Rights House Foundation, International Network for Human Rights, and supported by the International Platform against impunity and the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

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Fabiana Leibl, Sima Samar, Mozn Hassan, Helen Mack Chang, Ruth Manorama, and Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth. Photo by: Amy Au

Here are a few takeaways from the discussion:

Fabiana Leibl, Head of Protection and Advocacy at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, opened the meeting by describing the worsening trend for women human rights defenders who are prevented from working, not only because they are advocating for human rights, but also because they are women. As the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders noted in his recent report, this trend is often fuelled by deeply rooted ideas about ‘who women are, and who they should be’. Nahla Haidar, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, remarked that women are frequently ‘targeted with charges of counter-terrorism’, which allows their oppressors to act with impunity.

Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and a leading women human rights defender in Afghanistan, emphasised that achieving parity in educating people of all genders was a key starting point. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she explained, “we need female human rights defenders in order to really change the environment on the ground, and to make the environment conducive for the women to exercise their basic human rights.” She called for an end to the misuse and misappropriation of culture, tradition, and religion as justifications for male dominance. Access to paid work, reproductive services, and justice mechanisms was also identified as crucial in the struggle for gender equality. Samar received the Right Livelihood Award in 2012 “for her longstanding and courageous dedication to human rights, especially the rights of women, in one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/31/major-piece-by-departing-high-commissioner-in-the-economist/ 

Mozn Hassan, founder of Nazra for Feminist studies, is one of the defendants in the well-known NGO Foreign Funding case targeting civil society organisations in Egypt. Her career’s focus on sexual and reproductive rights adds additional restrictions to her work. In July 2018, she was charged with, among other things, establishing an entity in violation of the law and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security. The charges – which are clearly politically motivated – could lead to life imprisonment. Hassan could not attend the event due to a travel ban imposed by the Egyptian government since 2016. However, via video message, she conveyed the serious dangers for human rights defenders, ranging from asset freezing to arrests, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances. On top of this, women must confront gender-specific threats from state and non-state actors. As Mozn noted, “women are facing various gender-based violence in their custodies from harassment to threats of rape.” Mozn Hassan received the Right Livelihood Award together with Nazra in 2016 “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/

Helen Mack Chang, who has persistently sought justice and an end to impunity in Guatemala as head of the Myrna Mack Foundation, emphasised that women often suffer multiple dimensions of discrimination. Indigenous women, for instance, “suffer double discrimination (…) when defending their land or territory against the claims of international corporations.” She noted that recent years have seen a resurgence of conservatism and of global threats to the rule of law and democracy. Corruption and impunity, she stressed, go to the heart of this challenge, in Guatemala and elsewhere. Helen Mack Chang received the Right Livelihood Award in 1992 “for her personal courage and persistence in seeking justice and an end to the impunity of political murderers.

Ruth Manorama is India’s most effective organiser of, and advocate for, Dalit women, belonging to the “scheduled castes” sometimes also called “untouchables.” She is, among other things, President of the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and National Convenor to the National Federation of Dalit Women. Ruth called for counter-narratives to combat the negative view of human rights defenders in the media. In India, for instance, activists are routinely called “enemies of the State,” “militants,” “anti-nationals,” “traitors,” and “terrorists.” She stated: “I am a patriot. I am an Indian citizen. I must enjoy my constitutional rights. (…) Protecting human rights defenders is a state obligation.” Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to systematic sexual abuse at work, forced sexual slavery such as the Devadasi system, and forced labour. Manorama received the Right Livelihood Award in 2006 “for her commitment over decades to achieving equality for Dalit women, building effective and committed women’s organisations and working for their rights at national and international levels.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/07/forum-asia-25th-anniversary-event-in-geneva-on-16-november-2016/

Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth is an Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish organisation working to strengthen and promote women’s organisations in several regions of the world. She presented the findings of their recent report, “Suffocating the movement – shrinking space for women’s rights”, which identifies the main effects of shrinking civic space for women. “A strong feminist movement is the single most important factor to advance women’s rights and gender equality”, she stated, adding that women often have limited access to formal decision-making processes. “This makes defending civil society space particularly crucial”, Dos Santos Pruth continued by saying. She suggested that addressing the lack of funding for women’s organisations would be an important first step.

The speakers brought together experiences from very different cultural contexts. Nevertheless, there were important parallels in their descriptions of defending human rights on the ground. The panellists all showed that the crackdown on women human rights defenders must be viewed within the context of other global trends including growing material inequality, counter-terrorism, corporate impunity, environmental degradation, and corruption. As Sima Samar pointed out, in this worrying global landscape, international solidarity must remain an important principle. In her words: “We don’t only need women in positions of power, we need feminist women; women who don’t support male domination in order to keep their own space and position”.

rewatch the event:

 

75 human rights defenders in India will monitor violence against Dalits during India elections

April 18, 2019

Caste violence, dalit

Representational Image. (File | EPS)
Ritwika Mitra  reports on 18 April that seventy-five ‘human rights defenders’ will be monitoring elections during elections in identified ‘sensitive’ constituencies across 20 states to monitor any form of violence against Dalits during the voting process, which takes place over the period 11 April to 19 May 2019.

The National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) — a coalition of Dalit rights organisations — is coordinating with volunteers the move. “If the volunteers notice any violence during the voting, they will immediately inform the electoral officer and the police. These defenders are trained and to spot any form of atrocity against Dalits…” said V A Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, NDMJ.

The focus would be on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat. The list, however, is not comprehensive. The coalition recently monitored the situation in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar during the first phase of the polling season. In Andhra Pradesh, there were cases where Dalits were not being allowed to vote, which were taken up by the volunteers and the issue was resolved, said Kamalchand Kispott, policy and advocacy officer, NDMJ.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/apr/18/lok-sabha-elections-2019-75-human-rights-defenders-to-monitor-violence-against-dalits-across-states-1965667.html