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No intention to ban cash transaction under ‘cashless concept’, says govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>State government has submitted before the Goa Human Rights Commission (GHRC) that it has not made any attempt to ban cash transaction under the ‘cashless society concept’, but instead wanted to facilitate business through alternate mode of payments.The government’s statement comes in response to a complaint filed by social activist Aires Rodrigues with the GHRC against a government circular, issued on November 30, seeking to make all business establishments in the state to opt for cashless transaction.”No attempts have been made to cut or stop payments using cash. State government is merely facilitating alternative modes of payment,” Commissioner, Commercial Taxes department Dipak Bandekar stated in the affidavit filed before GHRC on Thursday.The case was adjourned till January 23, 2017, for next the hearing.In the affidavit, Bandekar further stated that the circular of November 30 was only an appeal for people to go for electronic payment. In his complaint filed earlier this month, Rodrigues said that “in absolute and gross violation of human rights, Goa government had very high-handedly and without application of mind decided that the state go cashless.” The complaint also pointed out that use of cash is not prohibited anywhere in the world, even in those countries where substantial transactions happen through cash-less avenues.

Ground reality of delivering social justice in India dismal: Vice President Hamid Ansari

Bengaluru: Vice President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said the ground reality of delivering social justice in India is dismal even after 70 years of legislating welfare laws and adjudicating measures.

“Where do we stand on the ladder of equity? This is a question that citizens of the republic can ask the state after 70 years of legislating welfare laws and adjudicating measures to deliver social justice.”

“The ground reality is dismal,” he said during the inaugural address at the 9th National Conference of the Indian Association of Lawyers here.

Quoting from a report by wealth research firm New World Wealth, the vice president said India is the 12th most inequitable economy in the world, with 45 percent of wealth controlled by millionaires.

File photo of Vice President Hamid Ansari. PTI

File photo of Vice President Hamid Ansari. PTI

Citing another report, published by financial agency Credit Suisse, he said almost half of India’s total wealth was in the hands of the richest one percent, while the top 10 percent controlled about 74 percent of it.

“The poorest 30 percent, meanwhile, had just 1.4 percent of the total wealth,” he added.

Ansari said despite significant social and economic transformation, caste hierarchies continue to remain deeply entrenched and caste relations often result in violent outcomes.

He also said that according to a 2010 report by the National Human Rights Commission on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes.

“Data culled from National Human Rights Commission indicates that, in 2012, 37 percent Dalits lived below the poverty line, 54 percent were undernourished, 83 per 1,000 children born in a Dalit household died before their first birthday and 45 percent remained illiterate,” he said.

The data also shows that Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 28 percent of Indian villages, their children have been made to sit separately while eating in 39 percent government schools, and Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 24 percent of villages.

India is placed 130th in the Human Development Index among 188 countries, Ansari said.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 17:18 IST

Cops frequently flout Supreme Court rules intended to prevent custodial deaths, says HRW report

Indian police often flout Supreme Court rules intended to prevent custodial deaths and “routinely violate” domestic and international laws around arrest and detention, says a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

At least 591 people died in police custody in India between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, of which the authorities reported 97 custody deaths in 2015. The police records list only six as due to physical assault by police; 34 are listed as suicides, 11 as deaths due to illness, nine as natural deaths, and 12 as deaths during hospitalisation or treatment.

“While investigations were ordered by courts, human rights commissions, or other authorities in some cases, Human Rights Watch is not aware of a single case in which a police official was convicted for a custodial death between 2010 and 2015,” the 114-page report, titled ‘Bound by Brotherhood: India’s Failure to End Killings in Police Custody’ and released on 19 December, states.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

It is based on interviews of more than 70 witnesses, family members of victims, lawyers, civil society activists, and journalists in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh, and the cities of New Delhi and Mumbai, and investigations into 17 custodial deaths between 2010 and 2015. It found that in each of the 17 cases investigated the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse.

“Police abuses continue despite changes in laws and guidelines and the promise of police reforms since 1997,” the international rights group says.

The compliance with the six binding directives to the central and state governments to undertake police reforms as contained in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Prakash Singh versus Union of India remains “low”.

According to government data, in the vast majority of cases investigated — 67 of 97 deaths in custody in 2015 — the police either failed to produce the suspects before a magistrate within 24 hours as required by law, or the suspects died within a day of being arrested.

Supreme Court rules set out in the case of DK Basu versus West Bengal in 1997 and incorporated into the amended Code of Criminal Procedure call for the police to identify themselves clearly when making an arrest; prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest that is signed by an independent witness and countersigned by the arrested person; and ensure that next of kin are informed of the arrest and the place of detention. However, in practice, these rules have not prevented the worst of custodial abuses, the report argues.

Moreover, although the law stipulates an inquiry into every custodial death by a judicial magistrate, these were conducted in only 31 of the 97 custodial deaths reported in 2015. In 26 cases, there was not even an autopsy of the deceased. Last year, police registered cases against fellow police officers in only 33 of the 97 custodial deaths. The Supreme Court has often said that bringing evidence against the police in case of custodial crimes is an uphill task because the police feel “bound by their ties of brotherhood”— the report quotes Satyabrata Pal, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

In some of the cases, inquiries are conducted by an executive magistrate — who are part of the executive branch of government like the police and hence more susceptible to pressure — instead of a judicial magistrate.

“The state relies on Section 197 (immunity from prosecution to all public officials for actions they undertake in carrying out their official duties unless the government approves the prosecution) heavily to protect the police officials,” lawyer Trideep Pais told HRW. “They are on the same side.”

“Activists are concerned about NHRC’s April 2010 notification to state governments that in cases of custodial deaths where no foul play was alleged, it was not mandatory for the inquiry to be conducted by a judicial magistrate because victims’ families are often unable to challenge police accounts of deaths in custody,” HRW says.

Though the NHRC — established in 1993 — has set guidelines for arrest and detention it remains beset with problems that limit its capacity to deal with custodial abuses.

The investigation division of the NHRC — that reviews cases of custodial deaths — is composed of serving police officials who do not have additional human rights training and tend to protect their erring colleagues.

The 2006 amended Protection of Human Rights Act remains problematic in certain aspects. The amended Act does not include lifting the one-year “statute of limitations” on NHRC investigations — a time limit that has been termed as “unrealistic” by rights groups given the ignorance of many victims of their rights under the Act and the difficulties that face them in obtaining counsel.

The national human rights body is still not authorised to investigate human rights violations by the armed forces and cannot independently make public their findings until the report is placed before Parliament. It is “tightly controlled” financially by the central government and reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs — “the same governmental department responsible for internal security, including police and other law and order officials, therefore undermining its independence”, among other constraints of the NHRC listed by the HRW.

India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — both of which prohibit torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement authorities under international human rights law.

The 2016 report has listed a number of recommendations addressed to the Indian Parliament, state and central government ministries, police, civil society organisations, foreign donors and general public, as listed by the international rights group.

The last report on India was published in 2009 by HRW titled Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 14:42 IST

Killings in Indian police custody go unpunished, says rights group | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Senthil Kumar’s mother saw him being dragged off by policemen on charges of extortion. Standing outside the Vadamadurai police station in Tamil Nadu, she heard him scream for mercy. The next day she was told her son was dead.”He didn’t die, he was killed,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, recalling the events of April 2010.”And I know the name of every policeman who did it.”Kumar is one of the 591 people who have died in police custody in India since 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, calling for the strict implementation of existing laws on arrest and detention.Citing government data, the report said 97 people died in police custody in 2015 alone, and there was not a single known case in the past five years in which a police official had been convicted for a custodial death.”In almost all cases, the police passes off these deaths as suicide or a heart attack,” said Jayshree Bajoria, author of HRW’s report.”And the brotherhood kicks in to shield the guilty, who are their own colleagues. The entire system collaborates to protect the guilty policemen instead of taking action against them.”

K S Dhatwalia, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, the government department responsible for police, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday the ministry would “look into the report and take necessary action”. The report examines investigations into 17 deaths in custody between 2009 and 2015. In each case, the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse, Bajoria said.Leonard Valdaris trusted the policemen who wanted to talk to his son about a theft in the neighbourhood in April 2014.But when he walked into the Wadala railway police station in Mumbai the next day, the report said, his son was “crying bitterly” and told him the police had beaten him all night and would kill him.

Three days later, Agnelo Valdaris, 25, died, HRW said.”When I saw my son in the hospital, there everything changed,” Valdaris was quoted as saying in the report. “There I saw the reality. He had been beaten black and blue with a belt.”Forms of torture recorded in the report include severe beatings with boots and belts and sometimes suspending people from their wrists. Autopsy reports examined by HRW show injuries consistent with blunt force trauma.

India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.According to the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure policemen are expected to prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest, ensure a medical examination is carried out on the accused, inform the family of the arrest and present the suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours.According to government records, in 67 of the 97 deaths in custody in 2015, police failed to present the suspect before a magistrate or the suspect died within 24 hours of arrest.”If police follow the rules designed to deter torture and mistreatment, deaths in custody could be prevented,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch.”India can only boast of rule of law when those charged with enforcing it are held accountable.” (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:44 IST

Government in a fix on clearing Avinash Rai Khanna’s name as NHRC member, plans wider consultation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing flak for clearing BJP vice president Avinash Rai Khanna’s name as member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the government is now planning to hold wider consultations. Name of Khanna, a Rajya Sabha member from Punjab and BJP in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, was cleared by the panel headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month. If chosen, he would have been the first active politician to be appointed as a member of the NHRC, which is headed by a former chief justice of India.Besides a former chief justice as its chairperson, the other three full-time members, as per the Protection of Human Rights Act, should include a former chief justice of a high court and two others “from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights”.“We are still in the process of clearing the names after other stakeholders (for the selection) raised objections on the name. We also need to seek the concurrence of Rai before finalising his name. He has not shown inclination until now,” said a senior official in the union home ministry. Though the appointment panel also had leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress and other political parties have threatened to raise the matter in the Parliament if the appointment is finalised.Besides, the move has also been contested a young student of Noida who challenged the validity of the recommendation by the Prime Minister led panel to appoint Khanna.In her petition, Anupriya Nagori said that the decision making process as well as the recommendation were in violation of the statutory prohibition contained in Section 24 (3) of the Protection of Human Rights Act and Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.Khanna’s cannot be appointed as per Section 24(3) of the PHRA as anybody who has remained member of a state human rights commission cannot be the member of NHRC and Khanna had served in Punjab state human rights commission (SHRC) some years ago.

Human Rights Day: India lost 40 journalists since 1992 on line of duty

Human Rights Day: India lost 40 journalists since 1992 on line of duty

Sixty-eight years ago, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To mark the occasion every year since 1950, 10 December is celebrated as Human Rights Day. But safeguarding human rights hasn’t been easy. Over the years, several people journalists have lost their lives while reporting about human rights violations, corruption and for doing their job. In India too, since 1992, when the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) started keeping records of journalist deaths, 40 journalists have been killed for doing their job.

On Human Rights Day, we take a look at some of those deaths and analyse the data available with CPJ to remind you of the importance of press freedom and the journalists who lost their lives.

The number of killings mentioned are only those where the motives have been confirmed, actual number of journalists killed could be higher.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 19:30 IST

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Kashmir: Rights group says India used ‘indiscriminate’ force

A rights group says Indian security forces used “indiscriminate” against protesters in Kashmir.

Kashmir unrest: Rights group accuses India of ‘indiscriminate’ use of force against protesters

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A US-based health rights group has accused Indian security forces of “excessive” and “indiscriminate” use of force against protesters with weapons like pellet guns during clashes in Kashmir this year, resulting in injuries and deaths.In their report, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) describes the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against protesters by Indian state police and Central Reserve Police Force with weapons misleadingly represented as “less than lethal”.These included tear gas grenades, pepper gas shells, live ammunition, and 12-gauge shotguns loaded with metal pellets, which account for the majority of injuries, it said in a report yesterday.”While Indian authorities claimed that the use of these weapons was meant to reduce the potential for injuries or fatalities, PHR researchers found that their use had in fact caused serious injury and death,” a media release said.It also accused security forces of using “intimidation tactics” against medical workers attempting to treat the injured.PHR said it found that authorities actively impeded protesters’ access to urgent medical care, both by harassing medical workers attempting to treat protesters and by preventing doctors from reaching the hospitals where they work.PHR called upon the Indian government to demonstrate its respect for the rights of all citizens by: prohibiting weapons for crowd control that are indiscriminate and cause excessive injury and death, namely the 12-gauge shotgun loaded with No9 shot; and provide adequate equipment and training to police forces to minimize injuries and deaths caused by police action.It also called upon India to cease unlawful practices that obstruct access to health care.

Muslims in India must raise issues of violations on Hindus in Pakistan: Ghulam Nabi Azad

New Delhi: Muslims in India should speak out against any act of violence on Hindus committed by members of the majority population in Islamic countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Tuesday.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. AFP

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. AFP

He was a addressing a gathering in New Delhi at a seminar on — Role of Muslim Youth in Strengthening Democracy — organised by National Tricolour Association of India, a non-profit organisation.

“There have been cases of violence against Muslims, from (Mohammad) Akhlaq’s lynching in Dadri to two boys in Jharkhand who were hung from a tree.”

“And, there has never been a lack of expression of secularism from Hindus in our country. You see on television, how they (Hindus) strip RSS and BJP bare, whenever such incidents happen. But, why we (Muslims) don’t raise issues when there are violations against Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” he asked.

In his address, Azad also hit out at the Centre saying, “democracy has ceased to exist” in the country ever since the NDA government came to power.

He added that if the Muslims in India start speaking out against acts of such violence in the neighbouring countries then, “BJP’s anti-Muslim edge will be blunted.”

Two other scholars, who also spoke at the seminar held at the India Islamic Centre, underlined the “silence” of the country’s Muslim community in hours of violence in “India’s neighbourhood”.

“We hear cases of violence meted out to our Hindu brothers in Bangladesh, or of Hindu temples being razed or desecrated. But, do we (Muslims) speak out on such brazen acts of violations? We must speak out against injustice, just as we expect our majority Hindu brothers to stand by us in India,” they said.

Azad also hit out at the government over the demonetisation issue saying, “the move has driven Indians crazy in the name of black money.”

He also took a dig at the media and Prime Minister Modi, saying, “now it’s all Modi in newspapers and on TV channels, the Opposition cannot be seen.”

“The time of free and impartial media is no more. Now, you open, newspapers, and you see 10-20 pictures of Modi,” he alleged.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 08:10 IST

Shiv Sena calls for Human Rights violation case against Karnataka police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena called for Human Rights violation case to be filed against the Karnataka police on Monday, for the “inhuman” treatment meted out to those taking part in a ‘Black Day’ protest rally in Belgaum on ‘Karnataka Rajyotsava Day’ on November 1.”Karnataka police and political goons in the state have been terrorising Marathi people staying at the border. Like every other year, the inhuman treatment meted out to those observing ‘Black Day’ by the police cannot just be condemned. A Human Rights violation case needs to be filed against the police,” the Sena said in an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.It said that Maharashtra government should take the lead in filing the case. In a veiled dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sena said that those vying for an Independent Balochistan do not see the 60-year struggle of the people living at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. “Where is Anna Hazare now ? If he would have fasted for justice to the Marathi speaking people, he would have earned the respect of the martyred,” it said.It questioned under which law is Karnataka police committing atrocities against those who want to be a part of Maharashtra.Youths and activists of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), a regional outfit in Karnataka, were arrested for taking part in a ‘Black Day’ protest rally in Belgaum on Karnataka Rajyotsava Day on November 1. MES leaders have alleged their activists are being beaten and tortured by Karnataka Police. MES observes Black Day on November 1, which is celebrated across Karnataka as Kannada Rajyotsava Day, the day on which the state was formed. The MES wants 814 villages, where the Marathi-speaking population is dominant, to be integrated with Maharashtra. In its report 50 years ago, the Centre-appointed Mahajan Commission (under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan) had recommended that these villages remain in Karnataka. Maharashtra Government has been fighting the case in the Supreme Court for nearly 12 years to get Belgaum and adjoining areas back from Karnataka.

Human rights only for terrorists, jawans’ lives don’t matter, asks Union Minister Harsh Vardhan

Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology, tweeted. “For Afzal, Yakub, Ishrat, Burhan, Batla (House encounter) they’ll cry foul and chatter. Human Rights are for terrorists only, lives of soldiers don’t matter,” <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid controversy over “encounter” killing of eight alleged SIMI terrorists by Madhya Pradesh Police, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday took a dig at opposition parties and a section of intelligentsia saying “human rights are only for terrorists” while the lives of soldiers don’t matter.”For Afzal, Yakub, Ishrat, Burhan, Batla (House encounter) they’ll cry foul and chatter. Human Rights are for terrorists only, lives of soldiers don’t matter,” Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology, tweeted.He was apparently referring to a certain section of media and intelligentsia.Following the “encounter” killing of alleged SIMI terrorists yesterday, several political parties demanded a probe into the matter.Vardhan also posted a collage comprising media reports on the executions of Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru, 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memom, and killings of Ishrat Jahan and Burhan Wani.

Judicial, police custody deaths highest in Uttar Pradesh: NHRC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttar Pradesh has registered highest number of cases of custodial deaths in the country between October 2015 and September this year, with as many as 401 deaths taking place in judicial custody and 27 in policy custody, the National Human Rights Commission today said. “Uttar Pradesh, with 401 cases topped the list of cases of judicial custody deaths as well as in the list of cases of deaths in police custody with 27 cases,” NHRC Chairperson Justice HL Dattu was quoted as saying in a statement.Earlier, addressing a press conference to mark the foundation day of the rights watchdog, he said since its inception in 1993, the NHRC has come a long way by addressing several issues of human rights violations as well as giving inputs on key legislations impacting human rights. The NHRC had faced criticism from a section of civil society and NGOs for its report on the on-spot inquiry of migration issue in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh which is going to polls next year.Dattu said, the Commission “has received the response of the Uttar Pradesh government on the Kairana issue, and the report would be placed before the full commission, which would discuss, deliberate and take the final decision in it.” “Over a lakh complaints have been received in the Commission which indicates not only the increasing faith of the people in its functioning but also their awareness about the importance of promotion and protection of human rights,” the statement said.”During the period (October 2015 and September 2016), maximum 32,498 complaints were registered against police, out of which 206 cases were of encounter. Chhattisgarh with 66 encounter cases, topped the list followed by 43 in Assam, 15 in Jharkhand, 10 in Odisha, 7 each in Maharashtra and Meghalaya, 5 each in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. West Bengal with 11 cases, topped the list of registered cases of encounter by Para-Military forces,” it said.Between October 2015 and September 2016, the NHRC has registered 1,05,664 cases on the basis of complaints, intimation from police and prison authorities etc. and on suo motu basis. The number of cases registered during the period on suo motu basis is 133. During the corresponding period in 2014-15 and 2013-14, it registered 1,17,477 and 1,06,684 cases respectively, it said.”Since October 2015 to September 2016, the Commission has disposed 1,11,295 cases out of which 59,924 had to be dismissed in limini, as these were not in line with the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act,” it added.During the period, the Commission recommended monetary relief to the tune of Rs 70,93,000 in 380 cases. The public authorities complying with the Commission’s recommendations paid Rs 11,59,56,172 as monetary relief in 410 cases to the victims or their kin. These included cases of the previous year as well as the some cases wherein recommendations were made during 2015-2016.An independent report was prepared and sent to the UN mandated Human Rights Council for the third Universal Periodic Review, the NHRC said.

Triple talaq issue: Muslim women fighting for their rights is a great moment for democracy

(Editor’s Note: This article is based on the author’s speech at the Asian Forum on Global Governance 2016, organised by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. The theme of the session on 21 October, 2016 was: Religion and Democracy – Are They Compatible?)

When I look 20 years back, there was no burqa on India’s streets. Now I see many women in burqa standing at my local bus stop. Looking into the next 20 years, I fear that my granddaughter is most likely to wear a burqa. Let me explain in a practical way: In July 2001, the BBC took me to London. Two of my six sisters were then in Class IX and XI in Bihar. For the first time, I had money. So, I told them: you can study as much as you like. Both did MSW – Master of Social Work. One works in the media; the other became a follower of Dr Zakir Naik, the Islamist preacher.

My intellectual concern is for Muslims, not for Islam. My argument is that Islam may not change; the Quran will not change. But the followers of Islam can change. There is possibility of change because democracy is the only agent that introduces multiple turning points in an individual’s life. When we speak of democracy, we speak of – in the words of British author Bernard Crick – “some congruence between democracy perceived as a set of values and democracy as a set of institutional arrangements”; democracy can be seen as “a principle or doctrine of government” and as “a set of institutional arrangements or constitutional devices”.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Islamist groups used elections to advance Islamism. The Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the Ayatollahs of Iran, and the Justice & Development Party of Turkey utilised elections to grab power and impose an Islamist order in which people’s liberties became casualties. Under Islamist influence, Pakistan remains a racist democracy for legally prohibiting from becoming the head of the state some Pakistani citizens because they do not believe in Islam. During US-mediated peace talks, even the Taliban in Afghanistan considered referendum and elections to reach power.

But, elections are just one instrument of democracy. The Islamists do not adhere to democracy’s other essential principles: free speech and individual liberty, gender equality and equal rights for minorities, man-made law, freedom for political association, and so on. Democratic ideas, rising from Greece and travelling through the European Enlightenment, swelled into the American and French revolutions. “We the people”, the opening words of the Indian constitution, are taken from the US constitution. In India, democracy was introduced through the constitution.

Democracies work through institutions. So, it is not surprising that a new generation of Indians are knocking at the Supreme Court’s door to demand equality and liberty – for example to end the triple talaq, Halala and polygamy. India is a brand new country, new because 55% of its 1.3 billion people are under 25. This is a new political population which has not seen the Emergency or the Partition. It has grown up in liberty, seeing MPs exercise unlimited free speech in legislatures and on television. This new generation is subjecting itself to arguments on Facebook and Twitter. Muslims are also part of this new generation, and some of them are leaving Islam. This liberty is birthed by the constitution. India’s young are the constitutional generation. Even if you dismiss them as Bhakts, they are essentially loyal to the constitution and guard its liberties.

When Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar laid down the foundations of the republic, they wrote an array of liberties into the constitution, the seeds that are birthing a new type of Indians. For thousands of years, Indians knelt before temples. But Narendra Modi kneels down at the footsteps of the Parliament, an institution created not by religion, but by liberty, by constitution, by reason. Nehru was at least intellectually honest, someone who could praise Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the floor of parliament. But India’s counterfeit secular Hindus are intellectually dishonest and will not acknowledge that Modi is Nehru II, albeit added with civilisation. If Nehru were alive, he would be happy to see Modi.

So, within this template of democratic ideas, is it possible for an entire new or next generation of Muslims to abandon ideas inherited from parents and Islamic clerics? History offers us positive insights. In Italy and Germany, an entire generation of youth abandoned the ideas of fascism and Nazism inherited from parents. In India, a generation of Hindu youth has largely abandoned their parents’ belief in caste, made possible through the spread of democratic values. And although polygamy and Halala are legal for Indian Muslims, Muslims do not practise them, mostly.

When we speak of reform among Muslims, we expect instant reform. But reforms of religious communities occur over centuries. Judaism and Christianity went through internal conflicts. Islam is going through its internal civil war. Not long ago, the Christian clergy ruled the world. Due to the increasing awareness of democratic values, the Bible and the Torah are confined to the religious realm. In India, the Manusmriti was discarded by Hindus. Most Muslims do not practise what the Quran says about jihad or prayers. But Muslims are caught in Islam’s institutional arrangements like mosques, clerics and madrassas which are unfortunately funded by the secular Indian state.

India must address the weaknesses of its institutions. In 1952 elections, 67% MPs won with less than 50% votes. In 2004, 76% MPs won with less than 50% votes. In 2009, only 17% MPs got over 50% votes. In 2014, 61% MPs won with less than 50% votes. We are in a situation in which candidates can win elections with just 30% votes, which encourages them to encourage religious politics. To get votes, Mamata Banerjee joins Muslim prayers. BJP kicks up the issue of Love Jihad. Nitish Kumar visits Pakistan to tell Indian Muslims that they are Pakistanis. Sonia Gandhi reaches out to Imam Bukhari of Jama Masjid. Arvind Kejriwal visits Bareilly to meet clerics. K Chandrashekar Rao offers quota for all Muslims, even though the OBCs among them do get quota.

At a recent conference in Pune, I shared platform with Maulana Mahmood Madani of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind who agreed on the need for change but also taunted: “Islam ko badalna chahte hain, to badal lijiye (If you want to change Islam, go ahead).” It is clear that monotheistic religions like Islam which do not believe in pluralism and equality are obstacles to democratic values but these obstacles can be addressed within the framework of Indian democracy’s institutional arrangements. The Supreme Court has two tests before it: whether to allow triple talaq in violation of the Article 14 on right to equality; and whether to allow the Indian taxpayer to continue to fund the Aligarh Muslim University, especially its departments of Sunni and Shia Theology.

To ensure that democracy’s institutions do not surrender before Islamism, the state governments’ funding of madrassas must be challenged before the Supreme Court. As a secular republic, the Indian state cannot fund madrassas, which are centres of excellence for the purposes they are established. Within the Indian democracy’s institutional arrangements like the RTE, Muslim children, like all others of 6-14 age, must be in schools during school hours, not in madrassas, which are counter-liberty movements. By funding madrassas, the Indian state led by ‘secular’ Hindus, feeds orthodoxies among Muslims. In the competition between Islam and democracy, educational reforms are the keys to democratic change. There is a historical template to follow: Lord Macaulay. If Macaulay could do it, the Indian democracy can do it better.

About a century ago, Gandhi supported the Khilafat to bring Muslims into the mainstream. Now, semi-literate Muslim women are going to the Supreme Court with constitution in their hands to assert their fundamental rights available under the constitution. This is a watershed moment in the history of Indian democracy. It is a wake-up call for India’s Muslim leaders who are fighting for Islam, not for Indian Muslims. The Indian constitution is a movement of ideas with origins in the Greek philosophy. As the constitution’s influences take deeper roots among people, Indian Muslim leaders and Islamic clerics will be rendered irrelevant, buried along with the so-called secular Hindu politicians. I am thrilled to live in these revolutionary times.

(Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost, and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif.)

Right to information: What 11 years of the RTI Act of 2005 have done for India

It was on this day 11 years back that one of the most important laws in India fully came into force. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped expose some of the most infamous scams in the history of India.

The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The history of the RTI Act goes back to the enactment of Freedom of Information Act, 2002, whose objective was to promote transparency and accountability. Because the government wanted the act to be made more effective, it was repealed and the Right to Information Bill, 2004 was passed by the Parliament in May, 2005.

This received the president’s assent on 15 June, 2005. The RTI Act was notified in the Gazette of India on 21 June, 2005 and it became fully operational on 12 October the same year.

Since then, the RTI Act has been used to fight corruption and has exposed deep-rooted graft in India. For example, the RTI applications filed by activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 exposed the infamous Adarsh Housing society scam, which eventually led to the resignation of the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.

That RTI application revealed that flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, a 31-storey building, which was originally meant to provide residence for war widows and veterans, were used to house politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives.

In the 2G scam, in which the then Telecom Minister A Raja undercharged mobile phone companies for frequency allocation licenses and caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian government, an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal revealed that Raja had a “15-minute-long” meeting with then solicitor-general Goolam E Vahanvati in December 2007 after which a “brief note was prepared and handed over to the minister”, but the minutes of the meeting were not recorded, stated this report in The Huffington Post.

The RTI Act was also used to expose corruption after the Commonwealth Games scam, in which the corrupt deals by politician Suresh Kalmadi embarrassed the nation. The report said that an RTI application filed by non-profit Housing and Land Rights Network showed that the then Delhi government had diverted Rs 744 crore from social welfare projects for Dalits to the Commonwealth Games from 2005-06 to 2010-11.

In 2007, the RTI request filed by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an NGO, revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people living below the poverty line by the public distribution system in Assam, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In 2008, an RTI application by a Punjab-based NGO revealed that heads of the local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society had used money intended for the victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills.

A PTI report published in July 2016 said that an RTI query showed that only 12 members of the Maharashtra Cabinet have declared their assets and liabilities details as per Central governments code of conduct for ministers. Another one filed by social activist Anil Galgali showed that as many as 118 complaints of sexual harassment were filed at the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) between 2013 and July this year.

An RTI query filed by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed in May this year that twenty-two children go missing in the national capital everyday with most of them being boys aged upto 12 years.

Needless to say, the importance of the RTI Act can never be overstated.

There are, however, some problems with the RTI Act, the most important one being that the huge number of RTI queries filed makes it difficult for public authorities to respond to them in a timely manner. A 2014 study conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) revealed that over 1.75 crore RTI applications have been filed from 2005 to July 2014.

According to this report in The New Indian Express, there has also been a ten-fold increase in the number of RTI applications to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) between 2006-07 and 2014-15, said the CHRI study. The number of RTI applications per day to the PMO increased from 3 in 2006-07 to 35 in 2014-15.

Add to this the fact that a lot of the RTI queries filed are frivolous and we have a real problem.

For example, after the PMO website released a list of RTI queries about PM Modi, it was revealed that one of the RTI queries was the following: “What is the speed of internet of Wi-Fi in the PMO?”

Another one went like this: “Has the Principal Secretary to PM, Shri Nripendra Misra, ever taken his subordinates, in the Prime Minister’s office, on a picnic?”

And if you thought you had seen the most ridiculous RTI queries, consider this one: “Enclose all the proper records and documents which show that the present Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi is The Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister.”

The RTI Act is one of the most crucial tools that we have as citizens. We should not misuse this freedom for petty jokes.

With inputs from agencies

Post Uri, anger in the army’s ranks in Kashmir is a strategic challenge

It would be a great mistake to ignore anger in the ranks of the army posted in Kashmir while focusing on the mechanics of how — or even whether — strikes were carried out across the Line of Control on 29 September.

Indian Army in action. PTIIndian Army in action. PTI

Indian Army in action. PTI

The men and officers of the army must surely be livid in the wake of the terribly lethal attack on the army camp at Uri on 18 September. The hoo-ha over the who and how of that attack and the consequent ‘surgical strikes’ tends to ignore the fact that 19 soldiers were killed. A large number of them were charred. Six of those were
cookhouse workers — hired for their cooking skills more than their commando or sniping abilities.

One presumes that their deaths have scarred the psyche of their comrades-in-arms, the other soldiers, and officers in the field. There will be hell to pay if the restraint under which those soldiers and officers have operated in the Kashmir valley for the past three months were to snap.

The army is bound to come under increasing strain, given the surge in the infiltration of highly trained militants across the Line of Control over the past few months (to some extent, over the past couple of years). The level of the infiltrators’ training — similar to that of the 10 who attacked Mumbai in 2008 — became evident during an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar since Monday. They held out for more than 24 hours until the army brought down the building in which they were.

To exercise restraint when one is being stoned and abused (as over the past three months) is one thing. But the effect of such encounters, and of the horrific deaths of one’s comrades, can charge up the nerves of men trained to fight and win.

To commit the army for policing over these months of great unrest has been a risky move. One gets the impression that the brass has not adequately factored in the strategic risk involved. In fact, over the past five weeks, Operation Calm Down stepped up the army’s involvement in civil pacification in south Kashmir – just a fortnight before the Uri attack dramatically highlighted other dimensions of the challenge the army faces in Kashmir.

Long-term mistake

The army’s institutional insistence on remaining deployed across the Valley after the militancy that began in 1988 ended about a decade ago has additionally complicated the challenge it is likely to face in the foreseeable future.

Based on the presumption that ‘the situation is under control’ in Kashmir, the army kept a very low profile through the second half of the previous decade, so that it would not be forced to draw back deployment to cantonments. After the uprising of 2010, that strategy switched. Recalibrating its high spend Operation Sadbhavana (goodwill), the army deliberately presented a friendly face to the people in the first half of this decade.

That strategy remains in place. Although it worked as long as the situation was actually under control — indeed, there was no militancy — it is coming unstuck now that the ‘situation’ has changed dramatically – and unexpectedly. The worst part is that, as in 1989, there was no intelligence information about that dramatic worsening, and so no strategy to cope with it.

If operations such as the one at Uri do raise the pitch of anger in the ranks, the ingenuity of the brass will be challenged. For, to allow army wrath to turn against the Kashmiri people at large could exacerbate the external challenge they face.

I have pointed out since 2010 that it is of vital importance for the survival of a robustly multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious India that the causes of youth anger in Kashmir be addressed. Not only was that important for its own sake, it was also strategically vital. For, angry Kashmiri youth could become a vital ally and resource for strategic planners of antagonistic powers such as Pakistan and China.

It is of course too late now (has been for more than a year) to wean over the mass of teenagers. But India’s strategic planners and hyper-nationalistic media hawks must recognize that adding to youth anger would not only be wrong for a host of ethical and legal reasons, it would also be costly on a purely strategic level.

The new HIV/AIDS Bill is great, but ineffective when the vulnerable are criminals under other laws

After years of deliberating on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, the Union Cabinet has finally approved it, with amendments, on Wednesday in a meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The Bill is a long-awaited legislation that seeks to end societal stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) and ensure their right to privacy.

The Bill takes a human-rights approach to public health, and makes antiretroviral treatment a legal right of HIV/AIDS patients. This would mean that it is now obligatory for the Central and State governments to provide for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and arrange for the management of risk reduction of vulnerable populations. The legislation prohibits arbitrary and discriminatory acts by the state against PLHIVs and their families. The HIV/AIDS Bill, therefore, has the foundations of civil liberties at its centre, providing for positive and negative obligations for the State towards approximately 21 lakh PLHIVs in India.

Populations who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS are female sex workers (FSWs), men who have sex with men (MSMs), transgenders and intravenous drug-users. The Bill seeks to protect these high-risk groups from discrimination, both through administration of treatment for their infections as well as improving their access to welfare schemes and services. Any discrimination or unfair treatment against PLHIVs and their families in their employment, education, healthcare and provision of insurance is prohibited; they also cannot be banned from housing or renting property and from standing for public or private office. Moreover, by bringing in legal accountability in the treatment and care of the PLHIVs, the Bill also mandates for a formal mechanism to probe on complaints of violations of the Act. Most importantly, it seeks to safeguard the privacy of the PLHIVs by stating that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research will be conducted on a person without his/her informed consent.

The Bill also makes it mandatory for institutions and establishments keeping records of PLHIVs to adopt data protection measures. By providing for a progressionist approach that safeguards the human rights of the affected, while simultaneously providing for risk and vulnerability reduction, that has its roots in social and economic justice, the Bill is an example of sound affirmative action.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

However, will the adoption of this Bill be action enough for a bias-free environment for the people living with HIV and their families? While the Bill mandates for prevention of HIV/AIDS, will it be able to protect those who are most vulnerable to infections, namely the high-risk groups (intravenous drug-users, FSWs, MSMs, and transgendered individuals)? Moreover, the Bill does not elucidate on the legal dissonance between its provisions of non-discrimination and other acts and case-law that discriminate against sex-workers, homosexuals and transgenders.

For example, the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956, that, despite its silence on the legality of sex-workers, is used by law enforcement to criminalize, punish and prosecute female sex workers. Moreover, the LGBTQI population also faces egregious human rights violations by the State and law enforcement; the Supreme Court judgment in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation sought to reinstate the archaic Section 377 of the IPC, thereby validating the criminalizing treatment of the State towards the LGBTQI community. By not safeguarding the rights of sex-workers, MSMs and transgenders, the State continues to push them into further victimhood. How does the HIV/AIDS Bill, then, epitomise the clauses on anti-discrimination of the PLHIVs, when the most vulnerable continue to live, in the fringes of society, their identities, governed by morality, but still unprotected by any legislation?

The HIV/AIDSs is, by all means, a cause for revelry within the communities as well as for advocates for the vulnerable. However, in my opinion, the HIV/AIDS Bill cannot be isolated from all the other issues currently tabled in the Parliament and the Supreme Court – the passing of an Anti-Trafficking Bill that does not incriminate all sex-workers; the ratifying of the Transgender Persons Bill, 2016 that provides for a comprehensive understanding of the transgender identity; the five-judge Constitution Bench that will decide the fate of Section 377, and therefore, the fates of the MSM, gays and transgender communities.

It cannot be denied that HIV/AIDS patients have had an arduous journey, legally. In December 2010, the Supreme Court struck down all reservations of the Central government to repudiate its obligation towards PLHIVs by stating that receiving second-line ART treatment to all HIV/AIDS patients was subsumed under Article 21 of the Constitution – the right to life. The Cabinet’s nod to the Bill is, therefore, commendable. The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda has stated – “The Bill seeks to prevent stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. These amendments will allow families that have faced discrimination to go to court against institutions or persons being unfair”; but how will the Bill have this power when many of the vulnerable don’t have the luxury to express themselves or define their identities and are continued victims of violence and stigma in both public and private spaces?

The author is a human rights lawyer and researcher based in Bengaluru.

India asks Pakistan to ‘abandon futile quest’ of Kashmir at the United Nations

United Nations: India on Wednesday hit out at Pakistan — a country that has “established itself as a global epicentre of terrorism”, and asked it to abandon its “futile quest” of Kashmir.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin strongly rejected remarks on Kashmir made by Pakistan’s envoy Maleeha Lodhi during a UN General Assembly debate on ‘Report of the Secretary General on the Work of the Organisation’. He also  called for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations’ governance architecture.

Roundly attacking Pakistan, he said some countries use terrorists as proxies in their territorial quests. “Just less than 10 days ago the GA Debate witnessed a singular lack of support for Pakistan’s baseless claims. Need one say more. Our response to Pakistan is consistent. Abandon your futile quest. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will remain so. No amount of misuse of international fora by Pakistan will change that reality. The sell by date of Pakistan’s anachronistic approach is over.”

He said the UN has become unresponsive to the needs of our time and ineffective to the meeting the challenges it is confronted with.

“It is a body that ponders for 6 months on whether to sanction leaders of organizations it has itself designated as terrorist entities. At best, it is now a body that can be described as an interesting and random mix of Ad-hocism, scrambling and political paralysis. The Global governance architecture now calls for comprehensive reform.”

On the issue of terrorism, he said the UN is yet to come up with a coherent policy let alone take the lead on one of the biggest threats to global peace and security. “It is near impossible to argue the case of relevance of the UN on the issue of terrorism where even adoption of an international norm to “prosecute or extradite” terrorists evades us despite 20 years of talk,” according to a statement.

“Inability to address what is amongst the most dangerous of scourges faced by States and societies collectively since World War II raises questions about the relevance of our Organization to the very lives of the people who we are bound by the Charter to act on behalf of. The choice of relevancy requires a willingness to address what is staring us in the face. Yet we look away,” he lamented.

A file photo of Syed Akbaruddin. AgenciesA file photo of Syed Akbaruddin. Agencies

A file photo of Syed Akbaruddin. Agencies

India’s approach to name and shame Pakistan at the international forum is part of India’s foreign policy. After the Uri attacks on 18 September, India has taken a strong stand against Pakistan and state-sponsored terror. In an effort to institute a form of deterrence to cross-border terror attacks, India carried out the surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) on 29 September.

Indian and Pakistan has often engaged in a verbal war at the United Nations over the Kashmir issue. Last month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in her speech at UNGA asked Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to stop dreaming about Kashmir. “My firm advice to Pakistan is: abandon this dream. Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so,” she said.

In July 2016, Akbaruddin gave an eloquent speech at the high-level “[email protected] Human Rights at the centre of the global agenda” outrightly pointing out Pakistan’s hypocrisy and shaming them for exhorting terrorism.

“The attempt came from Pakistan; a country that covets the territory of others; a country that uses terrorism as state policy towards that misguided end; a country that extols the virtues of terrorists and that provides sanctuary to UN-designated terrorists; and a country that masquerades its efforts as support for human rights and self determination,” he said.

Couching the Pakistan issue within the narrative of human rights, Akbaruddin gave India a leg-up in the conversation gaining the world’s attentions.

“Pakistan is the same country whose track record has failed to convince the international community to gain membership of the Human Rights Council in this very Session of the UNGA. The international community has long seen through such designs. Cynical attempts, like the one this morning therefore, find no resonance in this forum or elsewhere in the United Nations.”

On Tuesday the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) declared that it won’t be discussing the matter of India-Pakistan tensions despite Paksitan’s repeated attempts at getting the UN to take up the issue of Kashmir and the recent surgical strikes across LoC.

With inputs from agencies

India, Pakistan should engage in dialogue and ‘deescalate’ situation, says UN human rights chief

The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged India and Pakistan to refrain from “inflammatory remarks” and said that the UN “stands ready” to support efforts for an urgent deescalation of the situation.

“The High Commissioner is seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the rising tensions between India and Pakistan,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We urge India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue and to deescalate the situation. The inflammatory remarks on both sides is only fuelling the tensions and could result in a further deterioration of the human rights situation,” Colville added.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The troubled region of the Kashmir Valley has burst into protests since the killing of a 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by Indian security forces on 8 July. The clashes between the Army and the civilians have resulted in about 80 civilian deaths and thousands injuries among civilians as well as military troops.

India has alleged that the unrest has been fomented from across the borders.

The situation between the neighbours further escalated from 18 September onwards when four heavily-armed terrorists in a pre-dawn ambush attacked an Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri near the Line of Control (LoC) killing 19 soldiers and severely injuring many.

This was one of the worst attacks on the Indian Army in decades.

The Indian government directly accused Pakistan calling it a “terrorist state”, and alleging that the suicide attackers were members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group with alleged links with the Pakistani government.

With mounting public pressure to avenge the deadly Uri attacks, the Modi government announced that it had launched “surgical strikes” against terrorist launchpads across the LoC. In the early hours of 29 September, India said that special operations forces had slipped into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and attacked terrorist camps that were due to infiltrate India.

Though there have been so-called surgical strikes in the past, the public announcement of this military incursion by the Indian government has broken new ground in the tense military narrative between the nuclear-armed neighbours. However, to avoid a risky escalation of the situation, the Indian Army avoided Pakistani military installations and spoke to the Pakistani Army about the attacks before the media was informed.

Pakistan has rejected India’s claims of surgical strikes and has said that there was cross-border firing across the LoC resulting in deaths of soldiers, but no surgical strikes.

Top Pakistani diplomat Sartaj Aziz has said that the India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua have spoken over the phone and agreed to reduce tensions along the LoC.

However, there was a terror attack again on adjoining army and Border Security Force (BSF) camps in Baramulla in north Kashmir, resulting in the death of an Indian security personnel on 3 October.

There are reports of ongoing Pakistani ceasefire violations in Gigriyal, Channi and Planwala areas of J&K’s Akhnoor sector.

Zeid’s office on Tuesday renewed the call for “unfettered and unconditional access to both Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir” to enable a human rights team to “independently and impartially” monitor the human rights situation.

“We stand ready to support efforts to de-escalate the situation,” Colville said.

Pakistan has said that it would allow a human rights team into PoK only if there is a similar mission in tandem in “Indian-occupied Kashmir”.

The UN has re-emerged as an active battleground for India and Pakistan’s historical dispute over Kashmir. With India raising the issue of human rights violations in Balochistan for the first time in the UN, accusatory exchanges between the countries have become more acrimonious. During the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), between 13-30 September, India accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and “training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours”, while Pakistan called Wani a “young Kashmiri leader”, and accused that the Kashmiri people were being “bludgeoned and brutalised” by an “occupying power”.

The fight carried on to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where both Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj raked the issue of human rights violations in Kashmir and Balochistan.

The Uri attacks came in the first week of the UNHRC session and before Sharif’s address to the UNGA.

PoK residents take to streets to protest against atrocities committed by Pakistani Army

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kotli residents in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) recently took to the streets to protest against the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).The agitation was launched against extra-judicial killings, fake encounters and brutalities committed on pro-Azadi leaders, who disagree with the Pakistan State.The angry mob raised slogans such as “Butcher of Kashmiris, Pakistan Army”, “Dogs are more loyal than ISI”.The protesters demand an independent investigation into the murder of Arif Shahid, a major Kashmiri nationalist leader, chairman of the All Parties National Alliance (APNA), and president of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Conference (JKNLC).Shahid fought tooth and nail against Pakistan’s oppression in PoK before he was shot outside his residence in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2013. He was 62.Investigation into Shahid’s murder is still inconclusive, and there is no closure in the cold-blooded murder, so far. The ISI is blamed for conspiring and executing Shahid’s murder.According to an estimate by the All Party National Alliance based in Muzaffarabad, more than one hundred pro-freedom political activists have been killed by the ISI over the past two years.There is growing resentment among PoK residents over the killings as well as the continued army clampdown.Earlier, PoK witnessed a series of protests by residents against rigged polls that saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), coming to power.The United States’ State Department has recently also expressed concern over human rights violation in PoK, maintaining that it has always been urging parties in Pakistan to settle their differences “peaceably and through a valid political process”.US States Department spokesperson Mark Toner said he could not agree with the view that nobody knew about human rights violations in PoK before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that in recent times. “Sure. Well, I would respectfully beg to differ. We do have concerns about the human rights situation there, have reported it for several years in our Human Rights Report, and we’ve obviously – are always urging all parties in Pakistan to work out their differences peaceably and through a valid political process. And with respect to Kashmir, our policy there is well known,” he said.

Pakistan using international aid to finance terrorism: India

Geneva: Upping the ante against Pakistan, India has said it is a “terrorist state” which for years with complete impunity has been using billions of dollars from international aid to train, finance and support terror groups as militant proxies.

Describing Pakistan as the “true epicentre” of global terror, India also said Islamabad’s trust in the methods of terror are so “deep” that it does not hesitate in using them on its own people in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas.

In its Right of Reply in response to a statement by Pakistan at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, India said, “the latest terrorist attack in Uri, where 18 Indian soldiers lost their life and over 20 injured, only underlines that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan remains active.”

“The recovery of GPS, grenades with Pakistani markings, communication matrix sheets and equipments and other stores made in Pakistan, and patterns of infiltration and attacks, is clear evidence of involvement of terror organisations based in Pakistan or territory under its control,” it said on Monday.

Representational image. Getty imagesRepresentational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

India also asserted that it awaits “credible action” by Pakistan to bring all those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack and the Pathankot attack to justice.

India stated that in Pakistan, the region is dealing with a “terrorist state”, which has for years with “complete impunity channelised billions of dollars from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours”.

“Internationally proscribed terrorist entities and their leaders continue to roam the streets of Pakistan freely and operate with state support; even raising funds openly in flagrant violation of Pakistan’s international obligations,” India said.

It called upon the Council to urge Pakistan to engage in “honest introspection” and focus its energies on acting against perpetrators of terrorist attacks on neighbours from its own territory.

“Countering terrorism emanating from Pakistan, that has turned out to be the most acute violator of human rights, is the only way to address the risk to peace and stability of the region,” it said.

India strongly demanded that Pakistan must live upto its public commitment to refrain from supporting and sponsoring terrorism against it.

It reiterated that India is not the only victim of Pakistan’s preaching, practicing, encouraging and nurturing terrorism and the “deleterious” impact of Pakistan’s “irresponsible and short-sighted” approach of terrorism as
state policy has started showing in other countries of South Asia and beyond.

“It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s trust in the methods of terror are so deep that it does not hesitate from using them on its own people in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the tribal areas in its northwest,” it said.

“This coupled with the utter disregard for the human rights of religious and sectarian minorities has turned Pakistan into the true epicenter of global terror,” it added.

Regretting Pakistan’s continued misuse of the Council to make “tendentious” references about internal matters pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir, India said Islamabad’s “misinformation campaign” backed by fabricated facts and figures, on this issue only reflects the “desperation” that has seeped into their narrative.

“Pakistan’s continued support for terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir is the main challenge to protecting the human rights of our citizens in the state. Pakistan’s selective approach in tackling terror groups operating outside Pakistan and within, despite the numerous solemn promises made underscores the continuing unwillingness to acknowledge the truth,” it said.

India also reminded Pakistan that it had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 to not allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India.

“The persistent and growing violation of this undertaking is a matter of very serious concern,” it said.

India accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists as they spar again at the UN Human Rights Council

India is dealing with a “terrorist state” which channels billions of dollars to support terrorist groups. It still awaits “credible action by the Pakistani government to bring the perpetrators of 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2016 Pathankot attacks to justice,” India told the UN Human Rights Council in a hard-hitting statement on Monday.

“The latest terrorist attack in Uri, where 18 Indian soldiers lost their life and over 20 injured, only underlines that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan remains active,” India said using its Right of Reply (RoR), during a general debate on the implementation of Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, responding to a statement made by Pakistan.

“The recovery of GPS, grenades with Pakistani markings, communication matrix sheets and equipment and other stores made in Pakistan, and patterns of infiltration and attacks, is clear evidence of involvement of terror organizations based in Pakistan or territory under its control,” India stated.

It (India) “deeply regrets” its neighbour’s continued misuse of the Council to make “tendentious references” about internal matters pertaining to its state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Pakistan has a “selective approach” in dealing with terrorists inside Pakistan as well as outside its boundaries and its continued support to terrorists in J&K is the main challenge to protecting the human rights of the citizens in the state, India said.

“In Pakistan, our region is dealing with a terrorist state, which has for years with complete impunity channelized billions of dollars from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours,” the statement said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Internationally proscribed terrorist entities and their leaders continue to roam the streets of Pakistan freely and operate with State support; even raising funds openly in flagrant violation of Pakistan’s international obligations.

“We await credible action by the Government of Pakistan to bring all those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2016 Pathankot attack to justice,” India told the Council.

The “irresponsible and short-sighted” Pakistani policy of using terrorism as a state policy has not only affected India but has had deleterious impact on the stability of South Asia as a whole and beyond.

“We call upon the Council to urge Pakistan to engage in honest introspection and focus its energies on acting against perpetrators of terrorist attacks on its neighbours from its own territory. Countering terrorism emanating from Pakistan, that has turned out to be the most acute violator of human rights, is the only way to address the risk to peace and stability of the region,” India said in the RoR statement.

Pakistan, earlier during the debate, had stated that it is “regrettable” that decades since the adoption of the UN Charter and the two covenants (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights), the people of “Indian-occupied J&K” are still being denied the right to self-determination.

“The repression and brutality they [Kashmiris] face is constant,” Pakistan said.

The Council is being asked to believe the “absurd narrative” of India that the situation in J&K is about terrorism, Pakistan said, adding that the Kashmiri people were being “bludgeoned and brutalized” by an occupying power so that they give up their “just” right to self-determination.

“Genuine human rights defenders like Khurram Parvez are stopped by India from speaking at the Council. This is a clear case of reprisals. Mr. President, you need to take action,” Pakistan said.

Kashmir unrest: Arrests of Khurram Parvez et al show state’s misuse of Public Safety Act

The Jammu and Kashmir government has made a series of arrests under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) to quell the ongoing protests in the valley and those, who have been detained without trail, include a psychiatric patient, an aid worker, and a human rights activist.

According to sources, more than 250 people, including separatist leaders and stone pelters, have been detained under what Amnesty International termed a “lawless law”, under which a person can be detained without a trial for at least six months.

Earlier in the month, the government slapped the PSA on 32-year-old psychiatric patient, Riyaz Ahmad Dar, for being a “chronic stone pelter” and for participating in all the “Challo calls” given by the separatists groups, after the death of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8 July, according to a dossier prepared by police.

Dar, a Bachelor in Arts from Amar Singh College in Srinagar and father of two infant children, has been going through treatment at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital for the last ten years. Medical records seen by Firstpost and the patient profile file number in the hospital describes Dar as “a known patient of a major depressive disorder from last ten years”.

However, despite Dar’s family producing medical records to ascertain his innocence, the Kashmir police still went ahead and arrested the alleged accused and slapped the PSA on him.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“His condition in the jail will deteriorate because he needs constant medication, it is long legal battle and proving his innocence will be expensive,” Maimoona, Dar’s, wife told Firstpost. The police denied commenting on this particular case.

CPM MLA from south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, told Firstpost that such draconian laws were causing the victimisation of youths by alienating and creating resentment among the successive generations of Kashmiri youth. In most of the cases, Tarigami said, the Act was slapped on youth without “grounds being substantive and valid.”

“Slapping a PSA is unnecessary, should be stopped and harassment of the people should be put to an end. This will do no good,” Tarigami, told Firstpost.

Towards the end of August, Hassan Babar Nehru, head of the NGO Ababeel and a lawyer based in the mountains region of Doda in Jammu, was arrested and booked under the PSA. A fierce critic of present the state administration he had, according to his colleague, “exposed” lapses of the district administration by protesting outside Deputy Commissioners office against non-implementation of decisions taken for welfare of the people of the district. “It is an act of vengeance of the administration, nothing else,” Syed Asim Hashmi, president, Doda Bar Association, told Firstpost.

Those who know Nehru, describe him as a passionate aid worker who slept in a truck for five days during the relief carried out in the initial days of 2014 floods in Kashmir. And most recently, he had been involved in evacuating victims of traffic accidents, Doda had the highest rate of road accidents in entire Jammu and Kashmir.

The dossier prepared by the DC against Nehru does not mention current Kashmir unrest anywhere and Shanaza, Nehru’s wife, says he has been even blamed for leading a procession in connection with death of an infant at District Hospital and “communising the situation”. It is another matter that the state government for dereliction of duty suspended the doctor.

Shanaza, said that her husband had never differentiated between Hindus and Muslims when it came to his work and those who have benefited from his relief work have been people from both the communities. “When my husband used to give blood to people who were injured in accidents, he didn’t check if his blood was given to Hindus or Muslims. These are politically motivated charges and should be revoked,” she said.

Kashmir’s Sheikh Abdullah had introduced Public Safety Act (PSA) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1978 against timber smuggling, but since then its use has been often been criticised by politicians across the political spectrum. Human rights groups have long called for its abrogation. Despite facing harsh criticism the Jammu and Kashmir government continues to put hundreds of people in jail under the PSA.

Successive governments in the state have used the law to crush dissent and crush political opponents. Last week, one of the most vocal critic of this Act, Human rights activist Khurram Parvez too was arrested under PSA, raising questions over states’ use of the controversial laws to deal with the unrest.

Parvez, was arrested on 15 September; earlier he was barred from travelling to Geneva to participate in a UN Human Rights Council session. His work on the mass graves of Kashmir, documentation of Human rights violations in Kashmir has earned him fame across the world. As many as 52 activists, scholars, writers and lawyers have written an open letter demanding his immediate release

Parvez is programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, he was not given any reason at the time of his arrest but was set free by a court only to be arrested and slapped with a charge under PSA later. He has been a vociferous critic of the government.

SSP of Srinagar described him as an “anti-social element known for his anti-national activities” and that he has “achieved a prominent position in separatist camps under the hidden cover of being a human rights activist”.

In November 2014, vice-president Hamid Ansari has said that the use of laws such as PSA to commit human rights violations, “reflect poorly on the state and its agents.”

In a recent report, Amnesty said that an estimated 8,000-20,000 people have been detained under the PSA since 1991 in Kashmir. In its report on the law, the rights group organisations says: “Research has showed that the implementation of the PSA is often arbitrary and abusive, with many of those being held having committed no recognizably criminal acts. The PSA’s vague and over-broad provisions facilitate a range of human rights violations in practice.”

Bashir Sidiq, general secretary of Jammu and Kashmir high court bar association said it is most misused law in the state and that he was not surprised that Pervaiz, the rights activist, was not even read the charges against him when arrested.

“It is unique practice here, if the (state government) wants to book you under PSA even if you get bail after an year, you will be again arrested after you come out of the court. They never challenge the bail because the grounds in most of the cases are pathetic,” Sidiq said.

In Kashmir, officials say, over 3200 stone pelters and trouble makers have been arrested by the police since July. Out of these, around 2500 have been released on bail while over 500 are in police and judicial custody and 250 have been booked under PSA.

‘Get out of PoK and stop killing minorities’: India’s blunt message to Pakistan at UNHRC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a blunt message, India asked Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism and vacate illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as it highlighted human rights violations in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh and persecution of minorities including Hindus. “We, once again, ask Pakistan to stop inciting and supporting violence and terrorism in any part of India and refrain from meddling in our internal affairs in any manner.We call upon the Council to urge Pakistan to fulfill its obligation to vacate illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir,” India said in its right to reply at the 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) here.It said Pakistan continues to test the patience as well as wisdom of the Council with its unceasing false-narrative backed by fabricated facts and figures about Jammu & Kashmir.”Pakistan has had territorial ambitions over Kashmir since 1947 that has found concrete expression in the aggression it embarked on in 1947, 1965 and 1999. As on date, Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of 78,000 sq kms (approx) of Indian Territory in Jammu & Kashmir,” it said.The fundamental reason for disturbances in Kashmir is cross-border terrorism promoted by Pakistan, it added. Raising human rights violations in Pakistan, India said, “the people of Balochistan, amongst other provinces, have been waging for decades a bitter and brave struggle against their daily abuse and torture. “Religious and sectarian minorities such as Hindus, Christians, Shias, Ahmaddiyas, Ismailis and others continue to face discrimination, persecution and targeted attacks in Pakistan. Places of worship belonging to minorities have been destroyed and vandalized. Blasphemy laws remain in force and are disproportionately used against religious minorities.” Noting that various international organizations have documented how enforced disappearances continue with impunity, particularly in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh where members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement are routinely abducted and killed, India said selective but extremely opaque and high-handed use of force by Pakistani authorities has affected civilian populations on a large scale.Underlining that more than one million people remain displaced as a result of the current and past armed conflicts in the northwest of Pakistan, India said, “Pakistan will be well-advised to focus its energies on setting its own house in order and acting against the perpetrators of terrorist attacks on its neighbours instead of ritually raking up alleged human rights violations elsewhere.”Earlier, making a statement at the session here, India called upon the Council to urge Pakistan to put an end to cross-border infiltration; dismantle the terrorism infrastructure; and stop acting as an epicentre of terrorism.India said it firmly believes that a policy of “zero tolerance” against terrorism is as much an international obligation as it is a commitment to its own people. The Indian statement comes a day after heavily armed militants suspected to be from Pakistan-based JeM had stormed an army base in Uri in Kashmir yesterday, killing 18 jawans, in one of the deadliest attacks on its military.”It is time that moral and material support provided by Pakistan to the perpetrators of this continuing heinous violence on the Indian soil should attract this Council s attention,” India said.Raising once again the “blatant abuse and violation of human rights in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in other parts of Pakistan, including Balochistan”, India said it was adversely impacting the stability of the entire region. “Pakistan’s continued mistreatment of large parts of its own population has created a cauldron of tumult that has begun to jeopardise the safety and security of its neighbouring countries,” the statement said. Asserting that the acts of terrorism are the most egregious violations of human rights as they rob their victims of the most fundamental of human rights – the right to life, India said this should be clear to any impartial observer of the issue.”India has been a long-suffering victim of terrorism emanating from our neighbourhood. The fundamental reason for disturbances in Kashmir is cross-border terrorism promoted by Pakistan which is so ruthless that it does not shy away from using civilians and even children by putting them in harm s way, at the forefront of violent mobs instigated and supported by their handlers from across the border,” it added.The fact that known terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin have been able to hold huge rallies in Pakistan’s main cities is a reflection of the state of affairs and can mean only one thing: active support for such personalities and the designated organisations they lead in blatant disregard of rule of law is the new normal in Pakistan, it said. Rather than internationalising issues with India, Pakistan should cleanse itself of its terrorists.The time has come, when the international community needs to address the plethora of human rights concerns in Pakistan because its impact has moved beyond the county s domestic problem and has begun to affect the region and the world at large, the statement said.”We urge this Council to take a holistic view of this threat and not permit the use of terrorism as state policy to be masqueraded as advocacy of human rights,” it added.

UN rights council creates role of expert to protect LGBT people, India abstains

The UN Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to appoint an independent investigator to help protect homosexuals and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.After a heated debate lasting almost four hours, the 47-member state forum overcame strong objections by Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries to adopt a Western-backed resolution by a vote of 23 states in favour and 18 against with six abstentions.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The United Nations expert, still to be named, will have a three-year mandate. Mexico, which led Latin American states that were the main sponsors of the text, said that thousands of people are exposed to violence and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.”Remember Orlando,” Mexican Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco told delegates, referring to the massacre of 49 people at a gay club in Florida on June 12. “Let us give hope to millions.”The United States and major European countries backed the resolution, while China, Russia and 16 African and predominantly Muslim states rejected it. India, South Africa and the Philippines were among the abstainers.”This Council regularly – and rightly – passes resolutions on racism, women and children. Yet, on this issue, we often hear of culture and tradition as reasons to justify violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” British Ambassador Julian Braithwaite said in debate.”This affects people in this room, and people in my team who are LGBT. Are you saying it is okay to discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation and gender identity? To hit, torture, or possibly kill them? Because that is what you are supporting, if you vote against this resolution.”Early in the session, Saudi Ambassador Faisal Trad brought a “no-action motion” to quash any debate on the resolution, but his move was defeated. Trad argued against what he called “the imposition of certain ideas” and said the new post would open up a “Pandora’s box” while ignoring cultural and religious specificities.”We will not barter man-made legislation against divine laws,” Trad said, invoking sharia (Islamic law). Nigeria called the resolution “divisive” and said that the sponsors also wanted to promote same-sex adoptions.Pakistan – speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) of 57 states – decried the “promoting of certain notions, concepts and lifestyles on which there is no consensus”. In 2011, the UN rights body declared there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation. At the time, Western countries called the vote historic but Islamic states firmly rejected it.

Modi, Obama discuss extremism challenge; no discussion on human rights

Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday discussed the challenges posed by extremism with US President Barack Obama and the two leaders underlined the need to ensure the participation of civil society and minority communities to address the issue, officials said.

The Prime Minister and the President had a very extensive and thoughtful conversation about the rise of extremism and the need for all countries to work together to address this challenge, a senior administration official said.

The two leaders also underlined the need to ensure that the civil society and the minority communities are fully participating in addressing the issue, the official said.

However, there was no specific discussion on human rights issues and religious freedom on India, officials said.

Washington : President Barack Obama meets with Indian Prime Minister India Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. AP/PTI Photo(AP6_7_2016_000273B)Washington : President Barack Obama meets with Indian Prime Minister India Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. AP/PTI Photo(AP6_7_2016_000273B)

PM Modi with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington. PTI 

“No, I do not believe the subject came up today in the discussions,” Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said.

Meanwhile, Tom Lantos, Human Rights Commission held a hearing to examine the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedom and opportunities for advancement.

Testifying before the Commission, several experts expressed their concern over the human rights condition in India.

In a related development, a bipartisan group of 18 House members – led by Representatives Trent Franks and Betty McCollum– wrote to the House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to prioritize religious freedom in India during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially in light of ongoing
violence and harassment against religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Modi is scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress today.

“We respectfully request that during your meetings with the Prime Minister, the ‘shared value’ of the fundamental right of religious freedom will be a priority in your conversation.

“Religious minority communities have endured ongoing violence and harassment for decades in India, and continue to live in a climate where known perpetrators commit violence with impunity,” the Members of Congress wrote.

“It is in the best interest of the US and India to reaffirm religious freedom as a shared value in this growing partnership, and ensure that conversation concerning justice and accountability for such horrific acts of violence continues,” the letter said.

In the letter, the lawmakers cite several specific examples of violent attacks that have killed or displaced
religious minorities.

Human rights groups in India have investigated and traced these attacks to specific groups, but a current climate of impunity exists in India around such attacks and many victims never receive justice, they said.

“As we consider the shared values of the US and India, due attention to the fundamental human right of religious freedom is of the utmost importance,” Franks said.

“Religious minority communities in India have endured incidents of harassment, discrimination, intimidation and violent attacks for decades, often with little hope for justice.

“It is my sincere hope that every person in India will experience true freedom of faith, regardless of religion,” he said.

“The important relationship between India and the US is based on our shared democratic values. Religious minorities in India deserve the freedom to live out their faith without fear,” McCollum said.

The Congressmen who signed on the letter were Chris Smith, Juan Vargas, André Carson, Keith Ellison, Patrick Meehan, Keith Rothfus, Randy Weber, Dan Kildee, Mike Honda, John Conyers Jr, John Garamendi, Robert Aderholt, Anna Eshoo, Joe Pitts, Barbara Lee, and David Valadao.

Suresh Prabhu has a solution to tackle environment issues: Control human population!

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday made a strong pitch for controlling human population to tackle environmental issues and to reduce the pressure on natural resources caused by growing demand.”Unless, globally we accept the fact that population is a challenge, we will not be able to actually solve the big issues we face…the type of economic demands that these number of people are going to make out of the planet…if the population goes down, the demand will go down,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prabhu made the remarks at an event organised in New Delhi by India Eye International Human Rights Observer and UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan to mark World Environment Day on Sunday.Prabhu noted that there are some countries and certain sections of societies including those in India which enjoy natural resources “disproportionate” to their numbers.”But at the same time, we must address the (population) demand side issue,” he said and called for dealing with environmental issues in a “collaborative and co-operative” manner.Prabhu also listed a series of environment-friendly initiatives undertaken by the Railway Ministry including use of solar energy and steps taken to save water.The Minister also presented environmental activist Sunita Narain a lifetime achievement award at the event, which was also attended by renowned water conservationist Rajendra Singh, film directors Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashoke Pandit, Parmarth Niketan Ashram president Swami Chidanand Saraswati and others.

US commission to hold hearing on India’s human rights record during PM Modi’s visit

Washington: A Congressional commission will hold a hearing to examine the current state of human rights in India, coinciding with the White House meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said the hearing among other things will also examine the challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement in India.

A “wide variety of serious human rights concerns persist,” the commission said in a statement explaining the reasons for holding the hearing on India.

Representational image. IBNLiveRepresentational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

Despite Constitutional provisions abolishing the legal existence of “untouchable”, the caste system remains deeply
ingrained within Indian society, leading to ongoing discrimination, it said.

“Dalit communities, which make up a quarter of India’s population, are also disproportionately at risk of suffering from another major human rights concern in India, that of human trafficking.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including children, are believed to be trafficking annually within India for the purposes of commercialised sexual exploitation or forced labour. Religious minorities also face growing challenges,” the commission said.

A large number of international non-governmental organisations supporting a range of causes, including human rights, have been added to government watch lists or had funding cut off by Indian officials, it said.

“These actions, coupled with perceived crackdowns on groups or individuals critical of the Indian government, have many concerned that the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association are being increasingly curtailed,” it alleged.

The hearing will examine these and other issues, while seeking to provide concrete recommendations for how US policy makers can most effectively encourage the protection of human rights given the strategic importance and continued growth of the US–India bilateral relationship, the commission said.

“In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims and Sikhs experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups,” the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its latest report.

Modi will embark on a five-nation visit from 4 June which will cover Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico.

He will travel to the US on 7 June at the invitation of Obama, with whom he will review the progress made in key areas of defence, security and energy. During his stay, he will also address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress.

WCD releases draft rules on Juvenile Justice Act: Challenge lies in implementation

The Juvenile Justice Act had been passed in Parliament in December last year amid a raging debate, which was largely focused on the 16 December 2012 Delhi gangrape. Now, the Women and Child Development Ministry has released a draft of the rules governing the Act. While the public furore is missing, this development is no less significant.

The primary stated objective of the Act, as evident from its name is the “care and protection” of children, including children in conflict with law. To be sure, there is a host of measures which have been laid down to protect the rights of children under the rules. But like a lot of other progressive provisions, the challenge lies in its implementation.

For example, the rules lay down that children between 16 and 18 years should not be sent to jails or police lock-ups should not be made to face trial with adults and should not be handcuffed. They mandate that the Juvenile Justice Board should consider a child committed the offence “under the control of adults.” They prescribe in great detail the physical infrastructure required for institutions for children in conflict with law—dormitories with a capacity of 15 children, libraries, workshops, toilets, clothing etc.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The rules provide for inspection of child care institutions and cancellation of their registration if they do not comply with the standards needed. However, it remains to be seen if this will lead to genuine accountability. The regulations provide for state, district or city level inspection committees, who are expected to look into infrastructure aspects as well as act as a check against abuse. However, it could be worth pointing out that another landmark legislation created to protect children’s rights, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA), suffers from a major lack of implementation. An article in The Hindu pointed out that even after the enactment of the legislation, the police did not invoke the law, even in cases which took place in the capital. Whether the experience in the Juvenile Justice Act will be different will be seen in the time to come.

As many worrying cases of sexual abuse in children’s homes have been reported in the recent past, the rules lay a lot of emphasis on this aspect. In such cases, the authorities have to send a report to the Juvenile Justice Board, and the child has to be transferred to another place of safety. But there is a lack of clarity on the procedure to be followed in cases where staff members are involved in sexual assault. This is particularly important as a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights had found perpetrators of abuse to be caretakers, security guards and other staff members, and not just older inmates, as per a report in The Hindu.

What remains a point of concern is the “presumption of innocence” for children, particularly in cases they are investigated for heinous offences. The law does state that children and adults cannot be tried together in any case. However, it remains unclear what happens if two courts come to different conclusions on the facts of the case, whether there will be two separate appeals and so on.

In spite of exhaustive nature of the draft rules, it still appears that the one case of 16 December, 2012 gangrape has had a disproportionately large influence on the law.

Afghan draft law must stop punishing women over moral crimes – rights group | Reuters

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Afghanistan’s president should ensure that the country’s draft penal code upholds women’s rights by banning “virginity exams” and outlawing the imprisonment of women and girls accused of so-called moral crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

Improving the lives and rights of women remains a major challenge in Afghanistan nearly 15 years after a U.S.-backed military campaign ousted the Taliban’s hardline Islamist regime.

Afghan women and girls accused of “moral crimes” such as running away from home or having sex outside of marriage are often forced to endure invasive and scientifically questionable “virginity tests” by government doctors, HRW said.

The tests claim to verify whether a woman has been sexually active outside of marriage, but the veracity of the exams has been widely debunked by scientists.

“President Ghani should ensure that the new law upholds women’s rights under both the Afghan constitution and international law, by removing all references to “moral crimes” and adding new provisions to protect women and girls from abuse,” said HRW researcher Heather Barr in a statement.

Afghan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

HRW said in most cases women and girls accused of “moral crimes” were escaping forced marriage or domestic violence. In some instances those who had been raped were charged with having sex outside of marriage, the rights group added.

Despite Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s pledge to stop women and girls from being locked up for running away from home, Afghan police and prosecutors continue to arrest them, HRW said.

“President Ghani’s promise to end the practice of arresting women and girls for “running away” is an important step forward for women’s rights in Afghanistan”, Barr said.

“But to make a real difference, the president needs to issue a clear and binding order that immediately changes how every police officer and prosecutor handles complaints against women and girls. For too long, women and girls fleeing violence have been treated as criminals while their abusers go free.”

According to HRW estimates from 2013, half of imprisoned Afghan women and about 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention have been arrested on so-called moral crimes charges.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Air India offloads adivasi rights’ activist from New Delhi-London flight

Air India offloaded an activist from its New Delhi to London flight on Monday morning, May 9, 2016 stating that his passport needed verification as it was impounded in 2013. Gladson Dungdung, however says that his fight for the rights of adivasis his what led to him being deplaned from the AI 115 by the state-run carrier. In a Facebook post, Dungdung said, “I was going to attend the Workshop on Environmental History and Politics of South Asia to be held in the University of Sussex, UK on May 10th. The reason told to me is that my passport had been impounded in 2013, therefore, they will send it back to RTO, Ranchi for verification.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, he continues, that after his passport was impounded, it was returned to him after thorough verification in 2014. Since then, the activist has attended a couple of international conferences in Denmark and London in 2014 and 2015 without facing any issues.
ALSO READ Air India pays pending allowance dues to over 800 pilotsDundung said, “I m sure that this is a clear impact of my book “Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India,” he said. “My fight for the Adivasis’ ownership rights over the Natural resources, Adivasi identity, Human Rights, Ecology and against unjust development processes will continue till they take away my right to life forever. Jai Adivasi!” he concluded.
ALSO READ Air India withdraw strike call after payment of duesAir India is yet to reply to the questions sent. The story will be suitably updated.

Abuses by police, forces most significant rights problem in India: US report

Abuses by police and security forces are the most significant human rights problem in India, the US State Department said today in a report which also raised civil society concerns over the failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 Gujarat riots.”The most significant human rights problems involved police and security force abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and rape; corruption remained widespread and contributed to ineffective responses to crimes, including those against women, children and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe,” the US State Department said in its annual 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The report was released by Secretary of State John Kerry at the headquarters of the State Department here.”The frequently grim examples detailed in this report strengthen our resolve to promote fundamental freedoms, to support human rights defenders and to document and promote accountability for violations of human rights,” Kerry wrote in the preface of the report.In its detailed Congressional-mandated report on India, the State Department continues to raise its concerns about the victims of Gujarat riots not receiving justice so far.”Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim,” the report said.”On September 16, the Gujarat High Court’s acting Chief Justice assembled a new bench to hear the appeals from Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi, along with others who authorities had sentenced to imprisonment for their role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. This was the fifth bench to hear these petitions,” the State Department said.In its report, the State Department alleged that “lack of accountability” for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, contributing to widespread impunity.Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers and an overburdened and under resourced court system contributed to infrequent convictions, it said.”Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states and the Maoist belt committed serious abuses, including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials and civilians. Insurgents were responsible for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture, rape, extortion and the use of child soldiers,” the report said.Among other human rights problems the report stated included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention and lengthy pretrial detention.The report said court backlogs delayed or denied justice, including through lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process.

Verbal, unilateral triple talaq and polygamy: Govt appointed panel calls for a ban

A Centre-appointed committee, set up to review aspects of personal laws relating to marriage, divorce and custody prevalent in religious minorities, including Muslims, has called for a ban on the practice of verbal, unilateral, triple talaq and polygamy, as reported by The Indian Express.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Supreme Court had directed the Centre on 28 March to submit the report in six weeks while hearing a plea filed by Shayara Bano from Uttarakhand.

Bano, who is from Kashipur in Uttarakhand, was divorced by triple talaq in 2015. She had filed a writ petition this year challenging the constitutionality of Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala.

The committee stated that talaq makes “wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status,” the report further said. It also suggested amendments to the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, the report added.

A bench comprising Chief justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit also asked the Ministry of Minority Affairs to file its response to the petition filed by Bano. She has stated in her petition that her family was compelled to pay dowry and her husband and his family subjected her to cruelty and administered drugs to her that “caused her memory to fade and kept her unconscious” which made her critically ill. She said that her husband divorced Bano by triple talaq.

The petition further states that the practice of triple talaq is not “harmonious with the modern principles of human rights and gender equality and is not a part of the Islamic faith.” It further stated that countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq have banned or restricted this practice.

“The practice of talaq-e-bidat and divorce of a woman without proper attempt at reconciliation violates the basic right to live with dignity of every Muslim woman,” said Bano said in her petition. Here is the full petition:

Shayara Bano Writ Petition Maari Baari 62 18032016

According to Live Law, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has filed an Interlocutory Application stating that the Muslim Personal Law is a cultural issue and questioning the validity of marriage, divorce and maintenance under the law is out of question. The group had stated that the rights of the Muslim women are protected under Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, the report said.

Kamal Faruqui, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board was quoted by The Indian Express saying that they will not be accepting the ban on triple talaq or polygamy. “This will mean direct interference of the government in religious affairs as Sharia (Islamic law) is based on the Quran and Hadith,” he was quoted in the report.

According to the report, the panel was formed in February 2012 under the UPA government and it was reconstituted again in 2013.

Activists have been campaigning for a change in the Muslim personal law as it allows polygamy and the use of the triple talaq system.

With inputs from PTI

SC approves Centre’s guidelines to protect good samaritans from unnecessary harassment

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Centre’s guidelines to protect Good Samaritans, who help road accident victims, from being unnecessarily harassed by police or any other authority.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

A bench comprising justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra asked the central government to give wide publicity to these guidelines so that people who help others in the time of distress are not victimised by any authority.

Earlier this month, the apex court had said it will pass an order on the recommendations of a committee headed by its former judge on road safety which advocated that people saving lives of road accident victims need not fear harassment by police or other authorities.

The bench also took on record the guidelines placed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways which were based on the recommendations of the three-member committee headed by former judge KS Radhakrishnan.

The committee, also comprising former Secretary of Road Transport Ministry S Sundar and Nishi Mittal, ex-chief scientist, had given 12 major recommendations including setting up of State Road Safety Councils, evolving a protocol for identification of black spots, their removal and monitoring to see the effectiveness of the action taken.

The apex court-appointed committee had also suggested strengthening of enforcement relating to drunken driving, over-speeding, red light jumping and helmet or seat belt laws.

The ministry had said in a statement that in the absence of any statutory backing, it was proving difficult to enforce these guidelines and therefore the government had approached the apex court to consider issuing these guidelines, through an order binding on all states and Union Territories, until the Union government enacts a law to this effect.

The apex court had in 2014 appointed the three-member committee to monitor steps taken by the Centre and state governments to ensure road safety.


Ready to end fast if AFPSA is repealed: Irom Sharmila to court

Manipuri rights activist Irom Sharmila on Tuesday told a Delhi court that she was ready to end her fast if the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was repealed and expressed her desire to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue.42-year-old Sharmila, who is on a fast for around 16 years in Manipur demanding repeal of AFSPA, said in the court that she had expressed her desire to meet the Prime Minister long time ago, but he has not met her so far.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharmila, who is fed through a nasal tube, said this during final arguments in a case in which she is facing trial for allegedly trying to commit suicide while undertaking fast -unto-death at Jantar Mantar on October 4, 2006.Advancing final arguments, the prosecutor contended that Sharmila had the intention to kill herself and the offence of trying to commit suicide was clearly made out against her. Metropolitan Magistrate Harvinder Singh fixed the matter for tomorrow to hear arguments on behalf of Sharmila’s counsel VK Ohri.During the hearing, the activist said she loved her life and was using her fast as a weapon to achieve her goal of repealing AFSPA as it would have “more impact” and added that this was “not a crime”. “Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, had resorted to fasts while making certain demands,” she said while justifying her fast.”I am fed up by trials on the same charge again and again,” she added. Sharmila also said, “Since there is no meaning of true democracy in the country, human rights activists should join hands. The matter should be brought to the attention of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.” Sharmila had earlier told the court that she was very much eager to eat if she got the assurance that the “draconian” law will be revoked.Widespread discrimination was being done with the people from Northeast, she had alleged, adding she never intended to commit suicide and it was just a protest against AFSPA. The court had on March 4, 2013, put her on trial after she had refused to plead guilty to the charge of attempting to commit suicide (section 309 of IPC).If convicted, Sharmila, who is out on bail in this case, faces a maximum jail term of one year. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’, Sharmila had earlier told the court that her protest was non-violent.

HCU row: JNU students meet NHRC officials, demand action against VC Appa Rao

New Delhi: A delegation of JNU students on Monday met officials at NHRC here on Monday over the alleged crackdown and arrest of students in Hyderadabad Central University and demanded concrete action against its VC Appa Rao in connection with the Rohith Vemula issue.

27 people including 25 students and two faculty members of the varsity were arrested on March 23 in connection with the recent violence on the campus. However, they were today granted bail by a local court.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The delegation which met National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Registrar CK Chaturvedi submitted a compilation of testimonials of HCU students regarding the “inhuman treatment” meted out to them on March 22 and demanded that Rao be removed from the post of VC.

“We compiled the testimonials of HCU students who were on the receiving end of the crackdown, in a CD, and submitted it to the NHRC. We have especially pointed out the case of a student Uday Bhanu who was physically assaulted. That is the case of human rights violation,” JNUSU Vice President Shehla Rashid Shora said.

“We hope NHRC takes this case seriously and does something something concrete about it,” she added.
Many students from different universities including JNU, DU and Jamia Milia Islamia had gathered in front of NHRC building to express solidarity with the students of HCU.

Carrying placards and raising slogans, the students demanded the removal of Rao and HRD Minister Smriti Irani from their respective posts as well as the enactment of ‘Rohith Act’ against caste discrimination in educational institutions.

Celebrations broke out among the protestors as the news about the release of HCU students on bail broke out and the students hailed the release as “the victory of our struggle”.

The NHRC had, on 25 March, issued notices to the top Union HRD and Telangana government officials over action against the students and is now awaiting for their reports.

Chaturvedi reportedly assured the delegation of “proper action” once the report from Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Commission is received.

“The Commission did not know about the magnitude of assault on the students in HCU. We had to inform them. They have promised to inform us once they get the report from the APHRC,” said Rama, a member of JNUSU and the delegation.


135 killed in areas covered by Syria truce in first week – monitor | Reuters

BEIRUT A total of 135 people were killed in the first week of a fragile truce in Syria in areas covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

In areas not covered by the ceasefire, which came into force on Feb. 27, 552 people were killed, the Britain-based Observatory that monitors the country’s five-year-old civil war said.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Info on Chhota Rajan’s fake passport cannot be given: Indian Mission

The Indian Consulate in Sydney has refused to make public records related to alleged fake passport issued to Chhota Rajan which enabled his stay in Australia, citing four exemption clauses from the RTI Act without giving any reason to substantiate them.Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative had sought from the Indian High Commission in Australia details of the passport issued to Rajan on the basis of forged identity.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The application was forwarded to the mission in Sydney where the travel document was issued to Rajan.The Mission refused to divulge the details citing Sections 8(1)(a), (e), (g) and (h) of the RTI Act.”… The First Appellate Authority has sent the email that the CPIO rejected my RTI application under Sections 8A, 8E, 8G and 8H. There is no attachment or email form the CPIO that was supposedly sent to me. To which email address, I am not sure,” Nayak claimed.Section 8(1)(a) alone covers seven grounds to deny information — sovereignty and integrity, defence, strategic, scientific, economic interests and foreign relations of the state and incitement to commission of crimes. Section 8(1)(e) relates to fiduciary relationship, 8(1)(g) exempts information from disclosure which may endanger the life and safety of any person and 8(1)(h) the disclosure impede the investigation, prosecution process or arrest of the offenders.Several high courts have given orders that mere invoking exemptions is not enough and the public authority must give sufficient reasons to justify denial of information.”This reply from the Sydney Consulate amounts to shielding officers who may have issued the passport without due diligence or perhaps even through corrupt means. The CBI has already registered an FIR under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against unnamed officials in this case.So there is a great amount of public interest in making the identity of these officials public instead of protecting them,” Nayak alleged.

Kerala college allegedly bars student for marrying outside her religion

When 23-year old Rameez Nandi and 19-year old Neeraja Anil decided to get married, they had no idea that it would be Kozhikode MES FGM Women’s College that would play spoilsport. The Deccan Herald reports that the two got married under the Special Marriage Act without their parents’ consent. The girl is a first-year student of Kozhikode MES FGM Women’s College and according to the report, it seems she last attended class on January 29, post which she eloped with Nandi. The two are said to have got a registered marriage on February 6. However, she was not allowed to attend classes again.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Now, The News Minute reports that when Neeraja met the vice-principal, she was told that the college’s stand was that inter-religious marriage was an unpardonable offence and one which no self-respecting college would be okay with. She was reportedly chastised in front of the staff and students. Neeraja has told The News Minute that she could not attend college for a few days because she had some legal issues related to her marriage to sort out. She was reportedly told by that girls who had inter-religious marriages were not allowed to study in the college.When Neeraja and Rameez thought it was better to quit and get admission in another college, they were reportedly not given the required certificates and told that they were being held by Calicut University, adds the report. Rameez has told The News Minute that the college had an issue about the fact that Neeraja had not converted to Islam.The college management has asked Neeraja to come with her parents to meet them. Meanwhile, the report adds that the couple is now going to approach the Human Rights Commission and the court.

Haryana Panchayat Polls: Woman holding Harvard degree wins Zila Parishad elections

A Harvard-educated Yukti Chaudhary, who won the recently held Panchayat polls from Haryana’s Fatehabad, on Sunday said she would push for women’s education and health.Yukti, who was elected from Ward No 5 of Fatehabad Zila Parishad, while listing out her priorities, said, “There are a lot of things I feel should be pushed for in a rural setting. Education, especially those of women, is something I feel strongly about. Then there is issue of women’s health. We would also like to start a plantation drive on barren land.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yukti (27), has done her graduation in history (honours) from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. After doing her LLB from Delhi University, Yukti did her LLM (masters in law) in International Human Rights from Harvard Law School in Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.She appreciated the “positive” initiatives like ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’, saying, “…changes cannot be brought about overnight. However, considering the larger picture, I do think such initiatives can have a positive impact.”She also said more and more people in Haryana, infamous for its adverse sex ratio, were now in favour of girls being given proper education and equal opportunities as boys.When asked what was her motivation to fight the Zila Parishad polls and now possibly vie for the post of ZP, Yukti said, “We (the family) hadn’t planned anything. When polls were announced, we (I) filed nomination towards the end….I am not going to make any special efforts from my side for the post of chairperson. Yes, if other members of the ZP wish so, I am ready to accept the challenge,” Yukti said.At the same time, Yukti said the family she was born to and the one in which she is married into had political background.”I have a political background from both sides. My grand father Dr Hari Singh was a Congress MP from Rajasthan. My husband’s grand father Mani Ram Godara was a former Home Minister from Haryana.”

Achha hai: Maneka Gandhi takes on all comers, drops pearls of wisdom on Facebook

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