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27 October, 2010

Stifle not the whistle blower, says AHRC

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the actions of the Government of India in witch-hunting the whistle blowers and activists who dare to speak the truth, a skill the country's government has perfected in planning and executing sans differences between political regimes that hold power in the country.

It is reported that on 25 October, the Government of India decided to arrest Ms. Arundhati Roy on charges of sedition for a public speech she delivered concerning the appalling condition of human rights and the daily life of Kashmiris, who live in the shadow of perpetual violence and state-sponsored brutality in the excuse of countering terrorism. Over the past five decades India has demonstrated its shameful incapacity to deal with unending human rights violations; in particular, torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and arbitrary arrest and detentions carried out by its law enforcing agencies.

There is still no functioning legal framework within which law enforcement officers in the country could be investigated and prosecuted for crimes they commit. Instead, draconian legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 provides statutory impunity to the criminals in uniform. Those who peacefully protest against this unacceptable status quo, like Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur, are detained perpetually by the state. There is hardly any interest by the state or the central government to improve the investigative skills of the law enforcement agencies. The country that claims to be a leading nation in world affairs and a stable democracy within Asia is internally run by a brutal police regime that is recruited, trained, deployed and promoted to engage in violence with impunity on the excuse of executing the writ of the state.

Law enforcement agencies are used to intimidate peasant farmers who resist forced and uncompensated eviction from their hut and hearth, when the state in collusion with corporate entities, decides to construct dams or other structures destroying farm lands; against villagers and the tribal when they voice their protest against massive excavation of minerals by devastating ecosystems and obliterating habitats; and against human rights defenders and lawyers who dare to expose the cancer of corruption that has eaten the country's democratic institutions right from its foundations to the roof. What is witnessed in states like Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir is the extreme form of this state sponsored violence.

The threat to arrest Ms. Roy is proof to the country's ever increasing animosity to everyone who dares to expose the truth or is willing to publically express his or her opinion. A statement issued by Ms. Roy after learning about the plans by the government to arrest her once again exposes the true colour of the Indian state and of those who administers it.

The AHRC fully endorses the views expressed by Ms. Roy and urges the Government to refrain from detaining her for what she has spoken concerning Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, the government, if it values and believes in the realisation of the democratic promise the founding fathers of the country has made to this great nation, must encourage dialogue and discussion to resolve disputes within the framework of rule of law and democracy.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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