The Human Rights Watch World Report 2002, released on Wednesday, January 16 has unmasked India’s tall claims of democracy and secularism. The country’s Human Rights Violations records are fast deteriorating under BJP-led Hindu fundamentalist government which leaves no chance to create and then exploit communal and caste tensions for political ends.
Here are the major violations observed by HRW observers during 2001;
The cabinet approval of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) is curtailing civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.
POTO is a modified version of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), notorious for facilitating tens of thousands of politically motivated detentions, torture, and other human rights violations against Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, trade union activists, and political opponents in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Increased violence in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to achieve a comeback election victory early in 2002, highlighted the dangerous results of exploiting communal and caste tensions for political ends.
Selectively banning the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) as part of its post-11 September 11 actions to counter terrorism while ignoring the “anti-national” activities of right-wing Hindu groups.
The Report also pointed out discrimination on the basis of caste in the distribution of relief for those affected by the devastating earthquake in Gujarat on 26 January last year. “While the government allocated equal amounts of monetary compensation and food supplies to members of all communities, Dalit (so-called untouchable) and Muslim populations did not have the same access to adequate shelter, electricity, running water, and other supplies.”
Many incidents of atrocities against Dalits are chronicled in the Report.
“Dalits also continued to face considerable opposition in exercising their political rights. On 16 October in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, an entire Dalit village was razed after Dalits dared to nominate their own candidate to the post of village council president. More than 140 houses were destroyed by members of the upper-caste community in the area, rendering 800 Dalits homeless. Many were also physically assaulted during the attacks. One pregnant woman was kicked in the stomach, which caused the abortion of her child. She herself died later that day. “
According to the Human Rights Watch Report, the Dalit communities continue to suffer systemic discrimination and violence. The Report backs this contention with instances like that of 19 February 2001, when a group of Thakurs (an upper-caste community) in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, assaulted a Dalit laborer over a wage dispute. “The perpetrators entered the victim’s house and pinned him down while the employer urinated in his mouth.” Police charged protesting Dalit villagers with batons and arrested more than 22 Dalits while the upper-caste attackers remained at large.”
According to the Report, insurgency and increased ethnic violence took a heavy toll in Assam and other northeastern states.
“India continued to deny political rights and to restrict freedoms of expression and assembly in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian security personnel continued to target Muslim citizens suspected of supporting guerrillas. Arbitrary arrests, torture, and staged ‘encounter killings’ were reported throughout the year, both when the ceasefire was in effect and after it was lifted on 23 May, 2001.”
Police violence, attacks on the country’s minority communities including Muslims, Christians, Dalits and tribals, and violence against women continued to be serious problems.
The Report also gives considerable attention to attacks on churches and members of the Christian clergy by members of right wing Hindu groups including the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), collectively known as the Sangh Parivar. One of the cases highlighted is an incident that took place on 26 November 2000, when “four hundred VHP activists in Gujarat desecrated and took over a church, replacing the church’s cross with Hindu idols and hoisting their signature saffron flag. The mob also drove out 80 Christian families from the area, confining them to a nearby forest until they embraced Hinduism.”
The myth of India’s democracy and secularism is totally shattered and in reality India is fast converting into a fascist and racist State with the sole honor of having regular elections which are also now contested under communal themes.