Round Table “The crisis of Democracy and Human Rights in India” initiated by NCHRO Goa and CSPH.
31 Aug 2019
The round table “The crisis of Democracy and Human Rights in India” was held on the initiative of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) Goa Unit and the Centre for the Study of Philosophy and Humanities (CSPH).
Held on 31 August 2019 at CSPH in Panjim, Goa, the gathering brought together activists, trainers, teachers, and other practitioners to continue the conversation about the possible future of democracy and human rights in India.
The round table was opened by Asif Hussain (CSPH), moderated by Prof.Joan Rebello and presided by Ranjan Solomon NCHRO Exco Member. Prof N Ramesh, NCHRO Exco Member delivered the keynote address.
Shrinking civic space and restrictions towards the enjoyment of fundamental civic freedoms are on a continuous rise in our country, and some of the groups facing the worst consequences are poor, marginalized and minorities. Despite commitments in international human rights treaties, violations of human rights are prevalent across the country. The resurgence of authoritarian nationalism, the general retreat from legal obligations, the worrying trend of attacks against and criminalization of human rights defenders, pose an existential threat to the rule of law.
Citizens concerned for justice and rule of law are appalled. They cannot see any wisdom or political logic in the ways of the way the country is being ruled. It is shocking that street justice is now a seemingly accepted form of revenge against anyone who dissents, especially minorities, whose culture and religious practices end up seeing them being thrashed by boisterous mobs and even killed. By being idle bystanders, shows complicity with these crimes. Hundreds and hundreds upon such deaths have taken place and there is little sign that this kind of political mischief will be reined in.
We have watched with dismay and anxiety the turn of political events in the country. We have seen how emboldened by its huge victory, the BJP and its Sangh Parivar have seemingly gone on a rampage assaulting any kind of opposition to its political designs. The Sangh Parivar’s devious pattern of political moves marked by divisive propaganda aimed at communal polarization comes to the fore once again from Systemic violations of humanitarian values of inclusion, diversity, and tolerance and adopting cruel and illegal measures such as lynching to kill people. Institutionalized its grip on power through a slew of legislations that are widely seen as being draconian.
Draconian laws leave India’s democratic credentials in tatters
Unprecedented restrictions have put Kashmir into a state of lockdown for more than three weeks and hardly any information has trickled out since 5 August when Article 370 – as the provision giving the region special status is known – was revoked in a sudden, unprecedented move. The human rights community is convinced that the government has something to hide. What else explains its unwillingness to allow politicians, and civil society to go and independently investigate the situation on-the-ground?
Tens of thousands of extra troops have been deployed to the region and about 3,000 people – including political leaders, business people and activists – are reported to have been detained. Many have been moved to prisons outside the state. J&K has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5. Prolonged curfews restrict people’s movement, mobile and internet service shutdowns curb free expression.
Since then Kashmiris from outside the State cannot even speak to their families, or the other way round. Reports of detentions and the continued restrictions on the residents of the region are alarming. There seems no will to respect human rights, compliance with legal procedures, and an inclusive dialogue with those affected. The illegal detentions of political leaders, human rights activists, student leaders and civilians too under the pretext of applying precautionary measures are totally indefensible in a democracy.
Dialogue with the people and their representatives and moreover Peace and stability is the need of the hour. The threat of the right to ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons has raised alarm bells around the world. The world is demanding the end of such reckless and perilous talk. If the Indian public comes to realize the extent of human rights violations in the Jammu & Kashmir, public pressure to curb such violations will mount.
Meanwhile, draconian laws such as the UAPA have been reinforced in a way that leaves anyone who resists injustice done against vulnerable and exploited populations and reclaims people’s rights to land and livelihoods are being disregarded. The draconian law gives the statewide authority to hold and jail people without charge and usually even before a crime has been committed. They make it difficult for people to get bail and such laws give the police a sweeping power that makes corruption and tyranny easy.
Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings. Today, the draconian laws empower the government to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security. Human rights activists have long argued that draconian laws are unconstitutional and violate international humanitarian law. Nonetheless, we believe draconian laws are ”lawless law” which violates both the Constitution and international law. Remember though the Supreme Court has upheld the TADA draconian act but overruled later by parliament.
The recent changes in the RTI Act are regressive and aimed at undermining the independence of information commissions. Amendments to the RTI law were introduced in complete secrecy and in flagrant violation of the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of the Central government, which mandates public disclosure and consultation on draft legislations.
Impunity for human rights abuses is a long-standing problem. State have an obligation to prosecute and punish perpetrators of gross human rights violations and to combat impunity. Along with inadequate political will to ensure accountability, abusive security laws and a lack of transparency block victims and survivors’ access to justice.
Participants of the round table were also pointed out that authorities must follow through by releasing prisoners of conscience detained on trumped-up charges, and by repealing all draconian laws. We must respect people’s rights to life, liberty, assembly. Participants of the round table spoke in favor of closer cooperation for the protection and respect of human rights and agreed to promote the dissemination of accurate and truthful information.
The National Confederation of Human Rights (NCHRO) and the Centre for the Study of Philosophy and Humanities (CSPH) are committed to promoting the rule of law, democracy, justice and human rights for all.
Preventing violations of the rule of law and human rights is always better than curing them after the grave violations. It is a reminder to Government that the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society — in which Government and civil society work together for common goals for a better future, and at the same time, civil society helps keep government accountable.
Good governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law.