India, 2018: The Year In Human Rights
24 December 2018 5:22 pm
As we approach the end of the year, it’s important to remember both the positive and negative developments. Here’s a recap of some of the human rights developments in India, in the year 2018:
We began the year with a postcard campaign seeking a ban on the use of pellet-firing shotguns in Kashmir. Over 5,000 people signed postcards calling on the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to ban the use of this weapon, which has been responsible for killing, blinding and injuring thousands of people in Kashmir.
The call to ban pellet shotguns in Kashmir was raised in the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly by National Conference Legislator, A.M. Larmi:
Dear Chief Minister Mehbooba.Promises must be kept.It's time to #BanPelletGunsAdd your voice to this campaign -> bit.ly/banpelletguns
Posted by Amnesty International India on Saturday, March 3, 2018
On Republic Day, we shed a light on the situation of whistleblowers in India, the real heroes, who brave enormous risks to disclose information in the public interest:
Meanwhile, the Indian government’s mandatory biometric identification project, Aadhaar, has put millions of people at risk of being denied access to essential services and benefits which is in violation of their human rights.
We launched our annual report, State of the World’s Human Rights, in the second month. The report focused on the of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups. In Jammu and Kashmir, justice still eludes the rape victims and survivors from the towns of Kunan and Poshpora, 27 years later.
In March, Indigenous peoples advocate Upendra Nayak and photojournalist Kamran Yousuf were released on bail while in Manipur, human rights defenders were being threatened for doing the work they do.
On International Women’s Day, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s right to choose her religion and her partner, by restoring the marriage of Hadiya Jahan, a woman whose marriage to a Muslim man had been annulled by the Kerala High Court. Online violence and abuse against women thrives on Twitter as the platform has failed to respect women’s rights.
On 15 March, we launched the website #HaltTheHate, a hate crimes tracker to document instances of alleged hate crimes across the country.
Meghalaya finally became an AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) free zone, this has brought the state out of the shadows of one of India’s harshest laws. AFSPA has no place anywhere.
In 2015, we had campaigned for justice for a Dalit family from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, who fled their village fearing caste-based violence; in April the Supreme Court said the family deserved compensation for false cases filed against them & ordered an investigation into alleged police complicity.
Globally, strides have been made towards abolishing the death penalty as executions and death sentences decline. Some positive steps in India have been made as number of death sentences declines, however central and state governments have adopted new laws introducing the death penalty which is concerning.
Human rights activists and Wikipedia enthusiasts joined forces in Bengaluru as part of the global Wikipedia Edit-a-thon event that occurred in May. The “Brave:EDIT”, a collaboration between Amnesty International and Wikimedia (Wikipedia’s non-profit organization), saw hundreds of volunteers from over 20 countries taking to the popular collaborative website to upload biographies of women human rights defenders.
Excessive force was used by the police in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, against protestors who were demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant in the district, due to health and environmental concerns. Many were killed and hundreds were injured.
Over a 1000 people call for an end to the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in Manipur following the launch of our BRAVE campaign in the state.
The UN Human Rights Office released the first-ever report on the human rights situation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control. The report referred to our findings on the impact of pellet-firing shotguns, published in our 2017 report “Losing Sight in Kashmir”.
Five activists were arrested in June for allegedly inciting caste-based violence at Bhima Koregaon in January. These activists have a history of working for the poorest and most marginalized communities in the country.
Following the BRAVE campaign in Manipur, the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh met our campaigners to discuss human rights defenders in Manipur who are facing repeated threats for the BRAVE work they do.
Our hate crimes tracker on our ‘Halt The Hate’ website, revealed that in first six months of 2018, there were 100 cases of alleged hate crimes in India.
The Assam state government published the draft final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), aimed at identifying Indian citizens in the state. The process of updating the NRC could potentially exclude over four million people, many of them Muslims, and raises concerns over arbitrary detention, loss of nationality and possible statelessness without due process.
In August, we held ‘Conversations 18’, a youth volunteer led initiative that brought together a panel of experts on various contemporary human rights issues all on one stage. We also launched our awareness campaign called ‘Our Safety & Our Rights’ that aims to empower children to identify, speak up and report child sexual abuse without fear.
In the month of August, Kumi Naidoo succeeded Salil Shetty as our new global Secretary General.
On August 9, the Indian Parliament passed the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill that redresses a Supreme Court judgement from earlier in the year, which diluted the provisions of the Atrocities Act and could have been a major blow to Dalit and Adivasi rights in India.
The dilution of the Atrocities Act will only make it harder for Dalits and Adivasis to get justice for crimes against them. The law protecting Dalit and Adivasi rights should not be weakened.
Five more activists from across the country were arrested by the Maharashtra police, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence. The government’s crackdown on activists and dissent has been creating an atmosphere of fear across India.
In the month of September, the Supreme Court took laudable steps towards achieving equal rights for all – from its landmark ruling decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations, to upholding individual dignity by striking down the offence of ‘adultery’ and allowing women of all ages entry into the Sabarimala Temple.
There were disturbing allegations of repeated instances of sexual violence faced by a Kerala-based nun, allegedly by a Bishop, and subsequent smear campaigns against the survivor. This year also marks the 5 year anniversary of the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli riots, the survivors continue to wait for justice with little hope.
On Gandhi Jayanti, an outspoken actor lends his voice in support of the BRAVE human rights defenders of India:
But it was a dark day for India when 7 Rohingya men were expelled from the country. They are now at grave risk of being subjected to serious human rights violations by the Myanmar government.
The raid on the office of the independent media house ‘The Quint’ (Quintillion Media Private Ltd.) indicates a clampdown on free press in India. Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and Amnesty India has been the latest target of the government’s crackdown on civil society in the country.
From London to Lima, people across the world held demonstrations at Indian embassies, both before and during the #G20 summit, to shed a light on the challenges that human rights activists and civil society organizations in India are now facing.
In India, we released a briefing and documentary that highlighted the serious human rights violations against persons declared foreigners and held in detention centers in Assam.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous Dongria Kondh community in Odisha have been facing police intimidation.
Arun Ferreira, 1 of the 10 activists arrested between June and August in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, faced ill-treatment in police custody. Pellet-firing shotguns are, unfortunately, still being used in Kashmir – with a 19-month-old named Heba being the latest victim.
Hatred and impunity continues in Uttar Pradesh, as a police officer has become the latest victim of mob lynching and attacks by cow vigilantes.
The highly flawed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, and is now pending before the Rajya Sabha. The passage of the Bill into law in India will undermine the rights of the very individuals it seeks to protect.
On Human Rights Day, we joined civil society organizations across India to assert that despite the odds, human rights will win. We protested against the massive crackdown on human rights organizations, activists and free speech that took place this year.
What will 2019 hold for human rights in India?
Tweet us @aiindia.