Any takers for this ? South Asia needs some decency and humanity

A few days ago, an academic from a very prestigious Indian university wanted a “questionnaire” he drafted, whetted, before sending it out. That was for “Indian politicians” and after Delhi put together that “All Party Delegation” for Kashmir. An interesting question in it would have been “Do you believe, Kashmiris need to have their human rights honoured ?”

No. It wasn’t included that way.

This year, 07 very eminent Indians – 03 former High Court judges, 02 Professors from the JNU, a lady Principal from a leading Girls’ College and a journalist – who did a survey on human rights violations in the Kashmir valley under Indian rule, came out with their findings in a preliminary report, end of February. They noted that, [quote] It cannot be gainsaid that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958, has been in the force for nearly two decades in this state. This Act has been misused and in being misused wherever it is made applicable (Manipur, for example). Therefore, if we take this situation into account, this draconian law has undoubtedly facilitated grave human rights abuses including “disappearances” by the very nature of the power bestowed on the armed forces. [unquote]

They go on to state that the Chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Kashmir, clearly establishes that 8-10,000 persons have disappeared from about 1989. That apart, in agitations for Khalistan in Punjab, a similar number had gone missing within 10 years up to 1994. That a report by the State Human Rights Commission accepts 2,059 bodies had been identified in Amristrar, while another 1,000 or more lie unidentified in the district.

And their preliminary report takes note, [quote] On the other hand, we get an impression that all institutions of the State, the executive, the legislature, the human rights commission, and to a certain extent even the judiciary have failed to do justice to the victims of “disappearances” and other human rights violations. [unquote]

Almost an year ago in November 2009, civil society groups from Jammu and Kashmir and the North East States brutally and ruthlessly affected by militarisation for more than two decades and by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), together with other concerned organisations in solidarity, deliberated on the issues of AFSPA, in New Delhi. They resolved that they are concerned, [quote] over the way the media is reporting incidents of violence in J&K and the North-East by and large ignoring the assault on human rights by the guardians of law and order and broadly endorsing, in the name of ‘national security’, those policies of the state that militate against democratic norms and humanitarian principles and that this (AFSP) Act has led to gross civil and political rights violations including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention [unquote] in all these militarised regions.

That is life in the largest mega democracy in this modern civilised world. It would not be any better, any where else.

In Pakistan, caught in a bitter, ruthless tussle for military supremacy, Islamic fundamentalist factionalism and the Afghan war next door directed by the US, NATO and other Coalition forces; since September 2009, when the Pakistani military re-established control over the valley, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has received numerous credible reports of extra judicial executions allegedly committed by soldiers operating in SWAT, or police, acting at the behest of the military. Since February, 238 suspicious killings were listed by local sources and the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

A recent Amnesty International (AI) report says, [quote] Armed groups, including Pakistani Taleban have committed serious human rights abuses, including direct attacks on civilians, abduction and hostage-taking, torture and killings. Women and girls are frequent targets of abuse [unquote] while the Pakistani State has failed in protecting its own citizens.

The Pakistani State instead had been a serious violator of international laws, rights and democracy. [quote] Since 9-11, individuals suspected of having links with “terrorist” organizations have been arbitrarily detained, denied access to lawyers and turned over to U.S. custody or to the custody of their home country in human rights violations occurring in Pakistan. Arbitrary detention, torture, deaths in custody, forced disappearances, and extra judicial execution are rampant.[unquote]

The 130-page AI report, ‘As if Hell Fell on Me’ says, millions of Pakistanis in the NorthWest tribal areas live in a human rights free zone where they have no legal protection from the government and are subject to abuses by the Taleban.

Pakistan today is often referred to as “a crumbling State” under President Zardari, with the Afghan war dismantling even the porous borders, between the two increasingly and rapidly “Burqanising” States in turmoil, that can not decide their fates, on their own.

On the other side of another porous border that Indian Border SF are often accused of heavy excesses, Bangladesh is running into calamities they are unable to sort out, democratically and humanely.

Grave and growing human rights concerns in Bangladesh include continued gender violence perpetuated by family and community in many parts, within a gradual rise of Islamic extremism that by now record and recognise armed “Mujahideen” groups in operation. There are occasional, but regularly increasing numbers of targeting minorities in especially rural Bangladesh, ill-treatment of Rohingya refugees from Burma and endemic corruption that negatively impacts the poor and dispossessed, in the country.

In recent weeks, media reports acknowledged, police have detained at least 21 garment factory employees and labour rights activists following violent street protests in and around Dhaka. They are at risk of torture and custodial killings, not unknown in Bangladesh. Some workers and activists have gone into hiding. Several others have said that they or their relatives have received death threats from security forces.

Up North in the Himalayan State of Nepal that hibernates, unable to start their new democratic life after the Maoist rebels agreed to enter mainstream politics 04 years ago, thousands who suffered grave human rights abuses committed by both government security forces and Maoist cadres, have had no redress so far, apart from the 13,000 people killed during the 10 year rebellion.

No independent high-level commission has still been empowered to investigate these human rights abuses, occurred during the war. These abuses included widespread arrests without charge or trial, extra judicial killings, abductions, disappearances and widespread torture.

Investigations into the whereabouts of about 1,000 people who remain “disappeared” have made no progress and families still do not know the fates of their loved ones. There have been no prosecutions for other grave crimes such as extra judicial killings, torture, or abductions.

Insecurity and violence continues, especially in the Terai, with armed groups operating largely with impunity. Torture is used by the security forces, and excessive force has been used to break up pro-Tibet rallies.

In the rest of South Asia – Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Afghanistan – there is very little that could be said, apart from large scale human tragedy, displacements, extra judicial killings, abductions, detentions, violations of laws and break down of law and order, unmitigated corruption at every level of governance and administrative inefficiency, among growing rural poverty in fractured societies.

Maldives have not come out right of its recently polarised conflict that left its democratic rule in jeopardy.

This South Asia is never talked about at any of the SAARC Heads of State summits. Yet there are exceptions to every rule and this very rare “exception” is what the South Asian civil societies, human rights campaigners and organisations should have grasped.

[quote] Mr. Chairman, On the issue of democracy and human rights, it is pleasing to note that South Asia is now a region of democracies. However, we all face challenges consolidating democracy and strengthening human rights.

I believe SAARC should consider establishing a regional human rights mechanism, similar to the one being developed for the ASEAN region. This mechanism could help States promote and protect rights and freedoms in their jurisdiction.

It could ensure that international human rights laws are observed and implemented by SAARC members. And such a mechanism could help people in our region develop a common understanding of universal human rights issues and perspectives.[unquote] – President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed at the 16 SAARC Summit in April, 2010 – Bhutan.

Unfortunately for SA, there are no takers for this, as yet.

Kusal Perera
Colombo – October 18, 2010.

Source –


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