By www.voicesforfreedom.org ,Dec 7, 2006,
Participants: Dr. Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Navkiran Singh, Dr. Anie Kalayjian
New York: VFF Conference at Fordham University, highlighted genocides against Sikhs, Rwandans, Armenians, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Greek. The one day conference deliberated on the issues of Genocide, Torture and Human Rights abuses around the world with special emphasis on Punjab in India. Prof Clarence Dias, President of the International Centre for Law and Development, a Third World NGO concerned about human rights in the development process, congratulated Voices For Freedom on organising a conference on issues which are of such vital importance in the modern world.
The speakers came from varied backgrounds with senior academicians from the field of Human Rights, Law and Social Sciences, lawyer activists and members of NGO’s active in the field of human rights. They dealt with issues such as prevention of Human Rights abuse in Punjab, justice for the victims of past abuses like the massacre of the Sikhs in1984 and the disappearances. Professor Jacqueline Nolan-Haley, Director, ADR & Conflict Resolution Program at Fordham University School of Law in her paper titled Ethnic Conflict and Genocide said “that because of the correlation between ethnic conflict and genocide, it is critical to develop approaches to conflict resolution that respond specifically to ethnic conflict.” She further stated that “because of the correlation between ethnic conflict and genocide, it is critical to develop approaches to conflict resolution that respond specifically to ethnic conflict.” She also gave a three part “framework for going forward:
(1) response to past human rights abuses;
(2) response to on-going ethnic conflict;
(3) prevention projects.”
In her model of restorative justice she envisions a great role for women.
In his paper titled The Role of NHRC vis-a-vis the Genocide of the Sikhs Mr. Navkiran Singh secretary of Lawyers for Human Rights International said that “the order of National Human Rights Commission (India’s official human rights institution) dated 10.10.2006 has shattered the hopes of families of the victims of the State repression who had faced the wrath of the Punjab police during period 1984 to 1994.” This order had delegated the case of the disappeared Sikh men and women to the commissioner in Amritsar for identifying the dead bodies for the purpose of dispensation of compensation. He argued that the “NHRC was under a moral obligation to address the issue of holding an enquiry by asking the people to lead evidence to the effect as to whether the 1051 identified plus 814 still to be identified were ever in custody before their being cremated as unclaimed dead bodies. The NHRC has failed to appreciate the arguments placed before it in the shape of written submissions by the counsels for Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Khalra and CCDP.” He was also critical of the Sikh community which he believes though, “is one of the most educated and enterprising community in India and abroad… has miserably failed to muster support of any kind, in order to take legal recourse for protection of its rights even as per the Rights which are enshrined under the Constitution of India.”
Dr Amarjit Singh in his paper spoke about the Ghalugharas (Holocaust or Genocide) of the Sikhs in the past, such as the massacre of the Sikhs by Ahmed Shah Abdali during his fifth invasion of India. He compared those genocides to the current genocide which was perpetrated by the Indian Government agencies from 1978-1996 and its continuing manifestation in the way justice continues to be denied to the families of the 1984 victims.
Dr. Amarjit Singh speaking on Sikh Genocide Cynthia Keppley Mahmood Associate Professor of Anthropology and Senior Fellow at Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an advisor to Voices For Freedom on Human Rights Abuses in South Asia in her talk on the Panjab Mass Cremations Case said that “the National Human Rights Commission (India’s official human rights institution) had miserably failed and how the Sikh community has to be organized to undertake challenges posed by the system.”
Dr. Anie Kalayjian, Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Fordham University, in her paper Generational Impact Of Mass Trauma: The Post-Ottoman Turkish Genocide of the Armenians explored the “physical, psychosocial, and spiritual impact of Genocide on the offspring of survivors.” She said that the purpose of her study was to explore the
“(1) the intergenerational impact of the Genocide on the Armenian offspring,
(2) the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of the Genocide on the offspring,
(3) how participants dealt with their emotions, re. the Genocide, and
(4) the effectiveness of group techniques in facilitating the processing and integration of those feelings.”
Richard Bennet from Yale University in his paper titled Peace-building and reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina focused on the issue of “a functioning civil society where individual people are addressed”. According to him “progress can happen only at this individual level”. Further he concluded that “mass political change and overarching social problems cannot be effectively addressed, but forgiveness for personal acts of violence or hatred can in many instances be both sought after and granted…Dialogue is by no means a catch-all solution to post-conflict problems, but in certain instances can provide a first step that takes absolutist mentalities and introduces shades of conditionality while opening lines of communication.”
Jessica DeMulder in her Witness to Rebuilding Lives shared her experience with Uyisenga N’Manzi, an NGO based in Kigali, Rwanda. This NGO is engaged in providing food, health care and shelter to the child survivors of the genocide. She said that, “for me, recognizing Uyisenga’s efforts and the methodology that they have adopted to facilitate child survivors in rebuilding their lives and managing their sorrow is essential in order to understand what redemption for the victims actually means (for orphans in Rwanda).”
Relevance of Truth Commissions versus the Role of NHRC by Ali Qazilbash who teaches Human Rights in an Age of Terror at Notre Dame University spoke on a comparative study on various Truth Commissions that have been established in the past. He also spoke on how to go about establishing a truth commission and its relevance.
Journey Of Humanity a paper by Yetwart Majian and his team from the group Journey of Humanity spoke about genocides that have taken place around the world and gave suggestions to how they can be prevented. Sudip Minhas, Executive Director Voices For Freedom in her paper Methods of Torture Employed by Panjab Police revealed some of the horrific methods of torture still employed by Police in India especially Panjab Police. She said that “despite many efforts by the international organizations torture goes unabated (in Panjab). In the data that we (Voices For Freedom) have collected over the last few years on disappearances in Panjab one aspect that we have encountered almost unfailingly was the consistent use of torture by the police.” Ms Gunisha Kaur gave a PowerPoint presentation on torture and that se
rved as a reference point for the discussion on Torture as a means of revenge and interrogation in India.
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