Friday, June 22, 2018
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Silencing courageous dissenters
By Humra Quraishi
Gauri Lankesh shot dead in front of her Bengaluru home. Yes, murdered this firebrand activist- writer-editor. Upright and bold and vocal she was; taking on the Right-Wing political mafia in one of those ongoing and determined ways….As I'm filing this column just hours after the news of her murder, so unable to detail the possible 'whys' but quite obviously the various goon brigades stand in the suspect category. In fact, her murder has shocked each one of us. There's anger amongst activists and writers: Why can't we write or talk about the Right-Wing mafia and the top brass … will we be all murdered, one by one, if we speak out and expose the rulers of the day.

Today strains of utter hopelessness are spreading out not just in Bengaluru but also here in New Delhi. After all, amongst the new additions in the Modi cabinet (expanded last Sunday- September 3, 2017) is one Ananthkumar Hedge. Yes, he is the same politician from Karnataka who was last year charged with 'hurting religious sentiment' after he said at a press conference: "As long as there is Islam in this world, there will be terrorism." He has not just a communal aspect to him but he is also known for getting violent - In January he was caught on camera slapping a doctor over his mother's treatment. In the CCTV footage from the TSS hospital in Sirsi, around 400 km from Bengaluru, he was seen grabbing a doctor by the throat and slamming him against a wall. He was seen hitting the doctor. Another doctor was also assaulted by him. These doctors, who were hit by him, displayed scars and gashes.

Tell me, what's in store with such rulers!


With the government of the day all set to deport thousands of the Rohingya refugees who had fled here to India, from Myanmar, after facing the worst forms of brutalities in their home country, these refugees are asking : Does the Indian government want us to be massacred…do they realize that we will be killed, if thrown back to our home country? Why we fled and reached here? Only and only to save our lives. See our living conditions, we are living worse than animals but at least we are alive!

Yes, it will be human rights violation as these hapless men and women and children fled Myanmar in the worst of conditions and are living here in sub - human conditions, yet even that seems getting snatched from them. To quote Amnesty International India on this -

"Any measures taken by Indian authorities to forcibly return Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers to Myanmar, where they are at risk of serious human rights violations, would be a flagrant violation of international law…Sending Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar - where the community has faced horrific abuses - would not just be a violation of India's commitments under international law, but also a blemish on India's history of supporting those fleeing persecution…Rohingya Muslims, who are among the most persecuted minorities in the world, have faced years of discrimination, repression and violence in Myanmar. In December 2016, Amnesty International documented a brutal campaign of violence against the Rohingya by security forces in Myanmar, which could amount to crimes against humanity. The organization found evidence of a wide range of human rights violations in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State, including unlawful killings, multiple rapes, and the burning down of hundreds of Rohingya homes and buildings. Forcing Rohingya asylum-seekers and refugees back to Myanmar would violate the international principle of non-refoulement - which is recognized in customary international law and is binding on India - that forbids states from forcibly returning people to a country where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations. India is also a state party to other international treaties which recognize this principle, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Indian authorities know very well the abuses the Rohingya community have been facing in Myanmar. Deporting them and abandoning them to their fates would be unconscionable."

In fact, Amnesty International India has also highlighted a very significant factor. I quote "As a country aspiring to a larger global role, India needs to urgently sign the Refugee Convention and put in place a robust domestic framework to protect refugee rights…Despite being home to thousands of refugees, India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and does not have a domestic legal refugee protection framework. The treatment of refugees falls largely under the Foreigners Act of 1946, which makes no distinction between asylum-seekers, refugees and other foreigners. The Act makes undocumented physical presence in the country a crime. The Indian government has mandated the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to register and provide assistance to refugees from non-neighbouring countries and Myanmar. According to UNHCR, there are around 14,000 registered Rohingya people in India, including 3,000 asylum-seekers and 11,000 who have been granted refugee status by the organization. However the Indian government does not officially recognize these people as refugees. In February, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a report which documented the human rights violations against Rohingya people. In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar presented her latest findings on human rights violations in Myanmar. Reports of the Special Rapporteur, the OHCHR, Amnesty International and other organizations have found that Rohingya women and girls have been raped, hundreds of people forcibly disappeared and an unknown number killed by security forces in Myanmar. Tens of thousands of Rohingya people have been displaced - many after their homes were burned to the ground by state security forces…In March, India, at the UN Human Rights Council, also supported through consensus the creation of an international fact-finding mission to look into human rights violations in Rakhine state."

Are the biased and politically charged barriers coming in our way from reaching out to these refuge- seekers? Today more and more Right -wing governments are hardening their stand. Sadly, even the United Nations has not been able to give the required cushioning to hundreds of refugees in deep distress, desperately looking for refuge, just about somewhere and anywhere… What's their future and where do they go, running from one country to the next? How many perish whilst trying to flee?

Leaving you with these lines of Baba Farid Shakarganj …

These lines of Baba Farid Shakarganj (1173-1265 AD) hold out for the administrators, politicians, cops of the day - 'Farid, the earth questioned the sky, Where are the mighty captains gone?

In their grave they rot, was the reply.'

*(Humra Quraishi is a freelance columnist based in Delhi and is currently a visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Milia University).

News Updated at : Thursday, September 7, 2017
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