The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:
The authorities in India appear to be becoming paranoid about human rights work in the country. For a country that spares no venue to boast about its justice mechanisms, domestic laws and its commitments towards the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights not only within the country but also outside, this is a noticeable contradiction between promise and performance.
Through a series of incidents reported from India, the latest from the State of West Bengal where the office of a well reputed human rights organization MASUM was raided by the state police on 12 June 2008, the general picture that the Indian authorities are trying to portray is that it will no more take criticism against the country's human rights records. Arbitrary searches of office premises, arrest and detention of human rights activists and blindly accusing human rights defenders as supporters of anti-state forces like the Naxalites or the Maoists are nothing but attempts by a fearful state against its true image getting further exposed.
The express and implied permission and often instructions for these acts relayed by the Indian authorities in the state as well as in the central administration appears to be directed towards silencing the alternate voice of victims of human rights violations. The role of a human rights organization is unfortunately conceived by the Indian authorities as that of a trouble maker. In this aspect India is no different from any other of its immediate neighbours or other countries in Asia.
By authorizing arbitrary and often cowardly acts of retaliation against human rights activists and human rights organisations in India, in fact the administration is creating hurdles against development of the country. A true human rights activist is engaged in the selfless act of bringing to the attention of the authorities about the actual state of affairs from even the remotest parts of the country. It is the duty of a responsible administration to listen to the reports made by the activists and organizations. There is no reason why an administration like that in India should feel annoyed against human rights work for bringing cases of human rights violations to the administration's attention.
It is when simple and basic concerns are not listened to at home that persons seek help from outside. Human rights work is no exception to this general rule.
Had the statements made by the Indian authorities regarding its commitments to human rights values been true, India would have been a better place to live by now. Since the fact is otherwise, and since it does not require any further proof, it is only reasonable to conclude that the authorities in India are merely trying to create an eyewash about fundamental human issues within the country whenever it has been challenged.
It is the duty and responsibility of the Government of India to change this perception, in theory and in practice.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.