M. Waqas AbdullahSeptember 20, 2018


Muslim and Christian leaders in India are expressing concern over what they call a sudden rise in sectarian attacks against their communities across the Hindu-majority country.

The minority community leaders have said the hate attacks, for which they blame right-wing Hindu groups, spiked with recent assembly election victories in Uttar Pradesh state by India’s ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Noting that most of the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian attacks are taking place in the BJP-ruled states, the leaders accuse the local governments of not taking punitive actions against the perpetrators.

One such attack occurred this month in Uttar Pradesh when Hindu activists barged into a church in Maharajganj district, confronting a congregation of 150 people and accusing them of secretly converting Hindus. After threatening to kill the pastor and demolish the church, the group left when police arrived.

“There is a very sharp rise in violence against Christians and also Muslims in the days since Yogi Adityanath has become the chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh,” John Dayal, spokesman of United Christian Forum, a New Delhi human rights group, told VOA.

Zafarul Islam-Khan, a New Delhi Muslim community leader, said the hate attacks against minorities by Hindu right-wing groups were rising with the growth of the BJP in the country.

“BJP-led governments at the center and the states do not take action against the Hindutva groups because they are responsible for establishing the powerful Hindu vote bank for the party. People from these groups are becoming ministers and [legislators] in the party,” Khan told VOA. “So, they are part of the family, and that’s why BJP in different states cannot take any action against these Hindutva groups.”

Rights group critical

New York-based Human Rights Watch this week condemned India’s Hindutva group cow vigilantes — those who perpetrate violence in the name of protecting cows, which Hindus consider sacred — for targeting Muslims in attacks.

“Self-appointed cow protectors driven by irresponsible populism are killing people and terrorizing minority communities. The government should condemn this violence and take prompt action against those responsible for these attacks or face allegations of complicity, ” Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group’s South Asia director, was quoted saying in the report.

In India, where Muslims and Christians constitute 14.2 percent and 2.3 percent of country’s population, respectively, the two communities have long alleged varying levels of persecution.

The religious minority communities identify the right-wing Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); India’s largest Hindu religious group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP); and dozens of their offshoots as the perpetrators behind most of the persecution and violence.

These groups, which are pushing the Hindu-first policy and are aiming to turn constitutionally secular India into a Hindu nation, are known as Hindutva groups.

Muslim and Christian community leaders insist that although the Hindutva wave targeting the minorities began sweeping the country around the time Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014, the two communities have begun facing a new wave of sectarian attacks following BJP’s victory in three states, including Uttar Pradesh, last month.

Allegations have surfaced that, soon after Adityanath, a hard-line Hindu religious leader, was installed as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), a private Hindu militia set up by him, began attacking Muslims and Christians in the state.

“After Yogi became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Muslims were asked by the HYV activists to leave at least two Hindu-majority villages of the state to make them Hindu-only villages. In another Hindu-majority village in Hapur [in Uttar Pradesh], HYV men thrashed Muslims and warned against wearing Muslim skullcaps in public. Some village mosques were even warned not to give Azan [call for prayer],” Aziz Mubarki, national secretary of South Asia Ullema Council, a body of Islamic clergies, told VOA.

Reports denied

Rajesh Rai, chief of HYV in Adityanath’s hometown of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, said charges that the Hindutva groups are targeting minorities in hate attacks are false.

“All those charges are baseless. The church leaders visit the villages, gather the young people and entice them through many allurements. They also offer the poor people money for purposes like medical treatment and also to manage their families. This way gradually they make them change their faith,” Rai told VOA.

He also accused Christian missionaries of engaging in “deceitful and forcible conversions” across the country and said that their activists would continue action to stall all conversions to Christianity.

But Bhopal church leader Father Anand Muttungal rejected such assertions.

“Christians live as a very microscopic minority in the villages dominated by the Hindu community,” he said. “It’s impossible to deceitfully or forcibly convert any Hindu to Christianity. The charges against the churches by the RSS and other Hindu outfits have been there for 25 or 30 years. But till today, not even in a single charge has been proved in any legal system of the country.”

Source: VOA News by Maaz Hussain

M. Waqas AbdullahAugust 16, 2018


Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir should end the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) to arbitrarily detain people, including children, Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today. The PSA violates international due process standards and should be repealed, the groups said.

Between 9 July – when protests and violent clashes broke out in the state following the killing of a leader of the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen – and 6 October, authorities have detained over 400 people, including children, under the PSA, according to media reports. The PSA is an administrative detention law that allows detention without charge or trial for up to two years in some cases. Following an amendment in 2012, the PSA expressly prohibits the detention of anyone under 18.

“The use of the PSA to detain people, particularly children, violates a range of human rights, and its increasing use in recent weeks undermines the rule of law and further entrenches impunity in Kashmir,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Director. “Police should end the use of the PSA; if people are suspected of committing offences, they should be properly charged and given fair trials.”

On 16 September, Rayees Ahmad Mir, who is 16 years old according to his school records, was arrested in Baramulla district under ordinary criminal procedure for allegedly throwing stones at security forces. Two days later, an executive official passed an order to detain him under the PSA, to preclude his release on bail. The order incorrectly stated that he was 18 years old. Rayees Mir’s family challenged the order before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, producing documents that proved he was only 16. On 7 October, the court stated that Rayees Mir should be treated according to juvenile justice rules, as there was prima face evidence that he was a minor, and ordered his transfer to a juvenile home. The PSA detention order has not yet been quashed. An official at the Kot Bhalwal jail said on 14 October that the prison authorities had not yet transferred Rayees Mir, as they had not received a copy of the court order.

Mir Shafqat Hussain, a lawyer representing many PSA detainees, said, “In a number of cases the families have not been informed about the grounds of detention. Arresting minors and booking them under PSA is definitely going to have an effect on their psyche. From schools and colleges, these boys end up in jails where they will be kept together with adults. It is definitely going to have an adverse effect on them.”

On 18 August, Waheed Ahmed Gojree, who is 16 according to his school records, was arrested in Kupwara district and detained at a police station. According to his family, the police at first told them he would be released the next day, but then said that he had been detained under the PSA. He was first taken to a jail in Baramulla, and then to the central jail in Jammu. An official at the central jail confirmed that he had been detained under the PSA. The family has not yet received a copy of the detention order, or been formally informed about the grounds of Waheed Gojree’s detention. The authorities appear to have not taken his age into account before issuing his detention order.

“The government has a responsibility to address violence during protests, but indefinitely detaining people without charge only adds to the lawlessness,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch. “Detaining children under the PSA is not only unlawful, but could have negative repercussions for years.”

The Indian Express newspaper has reported that hundreds of people have been placed in administrative detention under other laws as well. Senior police and government officials in the state, including the Director-General of Police, the Home Secretary and the Law Minister, have not responded to queries for details of the arrests from the organizations.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which India is a state party – has stated that administrative detention in the name of security “presents severe risks of arbitrary deprivation of liberty” and “would normally amount to arbitrary detention as other effective measures addressing the threat, including the criminal justice system, would be available”. Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and the ICJ oppose all such systems of administrative detention, as they invariably circumvent the protections of the ordinary criminal procedure.

The PSA contains vague and overbroad terms such as “security of the state” and “public order” that are not precisely defined, and therefore do not meet the requirement of legality under international law. The PSA does not provide for judicial review of detentions. It also protects officials from legal proceedings for anything “done or intended to be done in good faith”, which is inconsistent with the right to remedy for arbitrary detention or other human rights violations. The law has often been used to detain people on vague grounds for long periods, ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards.

Under international law, anyone under the age of 18 is a child, and should be tried in accordance with internationally accepted juvenile justice standards. The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice say that the detention before trial of children shall be avoided to the extent possible and limited to exceptional circumstances. Detention must be carried out under procedures established by the law, children must not be kept in the same facility as adults, and untried detainees should be separated from convicted children. In the past, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that certain detentions under the PSA amount to arbitrary detentions.

In November 2014, Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari said the use of laws like the PSA to commit human rights violations “reflects poorly on the State and its agents”. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has stated that laws such as the PSA allow the state to wrongfully target human rights defenders, and called for the repeal of the law.

Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and the ICJ believe that anyone detained under the PSA must either be charged promptly with a recognizable criminal offence or prosecuted in a fair trial, or else be released. Not prosecuting people suspected of committing offences can also violate the human rights of the victims of these offences.

The Jammu and Kashmir government is led by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which also leads the central government. The PDP had criticized the PSA earlier, but the use of the law has continued under its administration.

“The central and state governments have spoken about following the principle of insaniyat, or humanity, in dealing with the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India. “But detaining children under the PSA is neither humane nor lawful.”

Over 90 people, most of them protestors, have been killed and thousands injured in the violence in Jammu and Kashmir since July. Security force personnel have been injured by stone-throwing protestors. Security forces have fired pellets from shotguns, teargas, live ammunition, and chemical irritant weapons.

Source: Amnesty

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