India: Excessive Force Used Against Civilians in Assam
Bengaluru/ New Delhi: 13 December 2019 11:54 am
Featured image credit: PTI
Responding to the recent clashes between security forces and civilians, leading to the death of two civilians in Guwahati, Assam after police opened fire, Amnesty India’s Executive Director, Avinash Kumar said:
“As massive protests against the amendments in the Citizenship Act continue unabated in many north-eastern states of India, the Government of India must immediately order security forces to stop using excessive, including lethal force against protesters. It must ensure that the right to life is protected at all costs.”
The government’s response to the protests in the region has included imposition of curfew, shutdown of internet services and detention of human rights activists. While authorities have a duty to protect the safety of people, they also have an obligation to respect and protect human rights. Blanket and indefinite suspension of internet services do not meet international human rights standards. These shutdowns affect the ability of internet users to seek, receive, and impart information, which is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression.
“These measures will only lead to further alienation of people in the region and escalate the risk of further human rights violations. Amnesty India calls upon the Government of India to lift the suspension. It urges both the centre and state governments to immediately engage with various sections of the people for a peaceful dialogue and repeal the discriminatory amendments,” said Avinash Kumar.
Assam has witnessed a widespread anti-foreigner movement spanning over four decades. On 31 August 2019, the state concluded the updating of National Register of Citizens which left out 1.9 million people. Those excluded may appeal to the Foreigners Tribunals which would determine the citizenship of such persons. The amendments to the Citizenship Act enable irregular migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before 31 December 2014 to acquire Indian citizenship through naturalisation and registration.
While the deeply problematic Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was being debated in the Indian Parliament, massive protests broke out in Assam and Tripura. In response, the Government of India imposed an indefinite curfew in Guwahati and Dibrugarh, Assam and deployed large numbers of security forces in the states. Mobile internet services and broadband services were also suspended. The protests continue to spread to other neighbouring states like Meghalaya.
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