A Dangerous Message

India has failed to repair its battered image on human rights despite tireless efforts of its diplomats all over the world. Communal and caste riots during the past fifty-three years in different parts of the country have earned it a bad name. Discrimination against minorities and low caste Hindus, despite constitutional guarantees, has raised many an eyebrow in the world. And many international human rights organizations have compared the prejudice against low-caste Hindus and tribals to racism that had convulsed South African society. And what has really smeared the image of India abroad are the grave violations of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir over the past eleven years.

The catch-and-kill policy pursued by some of the security agencies in the state has done no good to the country. Fake encounters, killings in custody and using rape as a weapon against people has brought India opprobrium it will find hard to live down. Inspite of the central government preventing international human rights organizations from visiting the state, scores of alarming reports have been published from United States and England. Hair-raising accounts by the Amnesty International, the Freedom House, Asia Watch and many other international organisations on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir have horrified civilised societies.

From Switzerland to New York human rights violations in Kashmir have been dominating the international debates. Most of the times it becomes difficult for the Indian delegation or representative to defend the country. Many of these violations, which have brought disrepute to the country, are a result of aberrations of the individual security personnel. Many a times human rights violations are committed at the behest of trigger-happy, erratic and criminal-minded officers. In the broader sense, such officers are enemies of the nation and they need to be booked for their crimes and punished under the law of the land.

Home minister Lal Krishna Advani said on Sunday that the government was considering a ‘general amnesty’ for all security personnel facing charges of human rights violations while fighting militants. Speaking at a function in Punjab he said that the central government was `seriously considering relief for such personnel within the ambit of the Constitution for their fight against terrorism in Kashmir and the northeastern states.’ What prompted the home minister to make such an announcement when international human rights organizations are engaged in drafting a report against India and planning to move a proposal in the United Nations for declaring the Indian government as a racist government? The announcement has been made with the myopic objective of satisfying hard-core Hindu chauvinists within and outside the BJP.

On the one hand, the government of India has been contemplating measures to reduce the level of what it calls “alienation” of the people of the state, but on the other, it intends to put a premium on the atrocities being committed against them. By announcing amnesty to security personnel guilty of committing heinous crimes like killing of innocents and raping of women, the home minister has sent the wrong message to the people of the state in particular, and to the world in general.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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