Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Can Secularism Build a Civilization?

Can Secularism Build a Civilization? By CP Op-Ed Contributor Joseph D'Souza| Tue 26 Jun 2018 7:21 EDT Dr. Joseph D'Souza is the Moderating Bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. Last week, I attended the 2018 Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. Around 2,000 archbishops, bishops and Anglican church leaders from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia came together to pray and consider the future of the global Anglican church. It was the largest international gathering of Anglican leaders in over 50 years — yet there was one conspicuous absence: the 105th archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby. Welby's absence is the result of the Anglican church's struggle with an issue that has become the leading cause for disagreement in Christianity: same-sex marriage. It's the reason why hundreds of Anglican bishops in the southern hemisphere — who hold on to the traditional biblical view of marriage — have strongly differed with many of their more liberal counterparts in the West. Still, as important as it might be, the issue of same-sex marriage is only the tip of the iceberg. At heart, the real question Christians all over the world must answer today is whether or not they will hold on to the authority of Scripture and the gospel the church has historically believed in. As an outsider, I've observed how the West — and America specifically — has been steadily inching toward secularism, which is the absence of God in life. The meteoric rise of the religiously unaffiliated over the past few decades combined with social changes such as the legalization of same-sex marriage across all 50 states and the emergence of forced tolerance have augured the end of a "Christian" America. Though it might still be some time away, the American church is now facing the crude reality many Christians across the southern hemisphere know well: becoming a minority religion. Here's the thing though — this is nothing new for Christians. From the very beginning, Christianity has been well acquainted with being a minority. Jesus gave the first believers — about 120 disciples — the job of changing the world. This small community believed Jesus and took him at his word, which was no easy task. The cultural problems and challenges they confronted were similar, if not greater, to ours. They had to contend with the widespread breakdown of the family structure, serious moral decline, a hedonistic lifestyle and religious fundamentalism of its day. If you want to see what real moral decline looks like, open a book on first-century Rome and read about the unbridled paganism, rampant sexual immorality, infanticide and slavery of the Roman Empire. Yet, even when facing such overwhelming odds, the early church did not lose their vision of the Kingdom of God. The early Christians painstakingly developed a counterculture within a hostile environment dominated by despotic Roman emperors such as Nero, who was bent on eradicating this start-up religious movement. No matter who was Caesar in Rome, they honored Jesus Christ as Lord of all. They believed in the resurrection, and in his second coming. And no matter what the culture around them said, they remained committed to the truth in the God-inspired Scriptures, especially when it pertained to issues such as the biblical definition of marriage. They believed the Kingdom of God that Jesus had inaugurated was Spirit-empowered. So, when people accused the early Christians of turning the world upside down, it wasn't a cliché. They were living upside-down lives in a society that was putting immense pressure on them to conform to the culture. Contrary to the short-sightedness that plagues many Western churches today, the early Christians had a long view of the Kingdom of God, and a holistic understanding of Christian discipleship. Their obedience literally changed the world and the flow of history. Coming from a region in the world where Christians face dire persecution, I am disheartened to see such a large group of Christians in the West passively accept the decline of the church and its life-changing impact on society. I find it puzzling when the concept of a post-Christian Europe or United States is stated as an inevitable reality, when history knows that by and large Christianity built the modern West and paved the way for the individual democratic rights they enjoy today. Yes, secularism might be the new religion on the block, but we can't forget it hasn't proved it can build a civilization or a culture capable of holding society together over generations. This is because secularism neither cares for the family unity nor the divine. The civilizations that have survived over millennia — from China to India, the Middle East and the Judeo-Christian world — hold a strong belief in God, no matter which deity they believe in. They know meeting the need of the spiritual is a given factor of life. And these cultures by the same token believe in the traditional family unit as the foundation of society. The tragedy of the Western world is thinking it can survive without its Judeo-Christian foundation, without a commitment to God or the traditional family unit. So, what's the answer for Christians in the West today? It's simple: get back to your roots. Get back to your roots in the timeless gospel of Jesus. Cultural movements come and go. The Kingdom of God will continue forever. Be compassionate to those struggling with same-sex attraction and reject homophobia; Jesus loves them intensely and knows how to minister to them. But stay true to the radical, holistic calling of following Jesus. Jesus' time-tested formula for finding life and happiness is to lose it all for him. It has delivered throughout the centuries more than any other formula, and still delivers today. Most Rev. Joseph D'Souza is the archbishop of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. He also serves as the president of the All India Christian Council. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his work as a human rights activist.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Christian Council Appeals for Peace and Harmony among the Communities in Shillong

Christian Council Appeals for Peace and Harmony among the Communities in Shillong Hyderabad, 7 June, 2018 The All India Christian Council expresses its heartfelt pain and anguish on the recent events and violence in Shillong. Christian Council urges the Christian community in Meghalaya as well as other communities to find solutions to the problems and issues through peaceful dialogue rather than resort to violence. Violence only begets more violence. Opponents of the Church in India are already misusing these incidents for propaganda as a case of Christian majority community attacking Dalit Sikhs. The Church across India is deeply in solidarity with all marginalized groups including Dalit Sikhs. As the nation is being actively polarized based on caste, religions, and tribes it is important that Christians everywhere demonstrate that they resort to peaceful methods of resolving complex social problems. The All India Christian Council at numerous occasions worked to find peaceful solutions in the midst of social conflict and will work with all parties to bring peace in the region. The All India Christian Council is a registered inter-denominational body of over 2,000 member groups working with local, state and the national government in the areas of development, protection, and education of the girl child, anti-human trafficking, and religious freedom and protection for people of all faiths. The All India Christian Council takes initiative in communal peacemaking and reconciliation. It has associate members who are leaders of other faiths. The All India Christian Council works to uphold the integrity and unity of India and its Constitution. Released by: Bishop Paothang Haokip North East India Coordinator – All India Christian Council (9440061775) Rev. Madhu Chandra Singh Administrator – All India Christian Council (9100952490)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

INDIA: Acquittal of Pramod Muthalik and others is a shocking travesty of justice

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission INDIA: Acquittal of Pramod Muthalik and others is a shocking travesty of justice On March 13 2018, the Third Judicial Magistrate at the First Class Court in Mangalore acquitted Pramod Muthalik, and 25 other members of the Sri Rama Sene of the 2009 assault of several women in a Amnesia, a Mangalore pub. The Sri Ram Sene is a right-wing Hindutva group that has previously been involved in incidents of moral policing in Mangalore. The incident, which took place on January 24, 2009, involved women being slapped and dragged out from the pub by their hair; the assailants, who were allegedly members of the group, also verbally abused the women as “loose”. The assault was captured on camera, and the existence of video evidence was considered as irrefutable proof of the accused’s guilt. Yet, over nine years after the incident, and after Muthalik publicly admitted to it being a “big mistake”, he and his henchmen have been absolved of guilt in the case. The failure to convict cannot be laid solely at the feet of the prosecutor or the Magistrate; instead, it can be attributed to the scare tactics used to dissuade witnesses from testifying, and the lack of protection for the victims of the assault. None of the victims of the assault testified in the case, with sources claiming that they were too afraid to testify against their attackers. While 30 men were involved in the attack, only 26 were actually in court during the trial; two were deceased, while the other two were absconding. Muthalik, in the meantime, launched the Karnataka Unit of the Shiv Sena in January this year, aiming to contest about 50 seats in the upcoming State elections. This move has attracted suspicion as convicted persons are not permitted to stand for election under the Representation of People Act. A large part of Muthalik’s acquittal was the presumably, the exclusion of the video from admissible evidence; since the judgment passed by the Magistrate is presently unavailable, one can only speculate as to why the video was deemed inadmissible. The likely reason is that, while videos are admissible as “electronic evidence” under Section 65 of the Evidence Act, their authenticity must be proven by a competent witness, preferably the maker of the video [Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer, AIR 2015 SC180]. By creating an extra-legal and extra-judicial culture of fear, Muthalik and his followers were able to subvert the legal system, ensuring that witnesses were too afraid to authenticate the contents of the video while validating hooliganism and assault in the name of ‘culture’. While the two main factors in his acquittal were the inadmissibility of the video, and the refusal of witnesses to testify, the latter could be due to the political power and fear that Muthalik and his men command in the area, along with the stigma and fear that victims of violence internalise. Prior to his founding of the Ram Sene, Muthalik worked closely with the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena; in the aftermath of the 2009 attack, Muthalik’s group did not lay low, instead threatening to attack unmarried couples on Valentine’s Day. While incidents of moral policing are not uncommon in India, this acquittal has only emboldened fundamentalists to indulge in violence against citizens, particularly women. It must be noted that in the aftermath of the attack, Muthalik was given patronage by the BJP in 2014, only being dropped after the national leadership objected. The lackadaisical investigation into the attacks, and the rise in such attacks across the country, shows that the government is not interested in combating violence against women, moral policing, or religious fundamentalism. Nor has any political party actively evinced an interest in this; while the BJP was in power during the attack, the Congress Party formed a government in the state soon after, and, has been in power for the pendency of the trial. This case puts the spotlight back on the crumbling and ineffective system of public prosecution in India. The great power wielded by the prosecutor to prove a case is usually destroyed by ineffective investigation and corruption by the police. Many a time, the police and prosecution are in collusion with each other to ensure that the accused persons is acquitted or conversely, an innocent person is framed and found guilty. Majoritarian and populist demands are essentialised by the police and the prosecution resulting in insufficient evidence and the failure to prove a case. In cases of sexual assault and gender-based violence, these majoritarian demands take the form of existing patriarchal norms and structures, internalised by law enforcement officials and the prosecution as well as defence lawyers. The Supreme Court of India in the judgment in Justice K.S. Puttusamy & Anr. v. UOI. & Ors ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The right to privacy is the right to bodily integrity and human dignity and therefore in its basic form it is the right against moral policing, the right to partake in ‘wine culture’ and behave with ‘loose morals’ if one so wishes. The likes of the Sri Ram Sene and Pramod Muthalik must be prevented from threatening and attacking hapless individuals, usually women, going about their lives, and attempting to live with the freedom they are entitled to, as human beings. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) stands in solidarity with the victims of moral policing, and with everyone who is demanding that the verdict is appealed by the State Government. The judgment of the trial court must be swiftly appealed and if a higher court finds that the prosecution, the police and lower judiciary failed in its duty by bypassing due process, they must be duly penalised. The acquittal of Muthalik and his men is an unfortunate validation of a violent patriarchy that is so endemic in India and every effort must be expended to cull it. # # # The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014. Read this Statement online

Thursday, April 27, 2017

INDIA: Breaking down the Supreme Court judgment in the Babri Masjid demolition case

26 April 2017 An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission INDIA: Breaking down the Supreme Court judgment in the Babri Masjid demolition case On April 19, 2017, the Supreme Court of India(SC) passed an important judgment with respect to the fraught Babri Masjid demolition case. The matter in question pertained to FIR 198 of 1992 which was one of many FIRs filed on Dec 6, 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. FIR 198/92 was lodged against 8 persons, which included prominent leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP namely LK Advani, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh. By exercising its powers, the Supreme Court under Art.142 of the Constitution of India, ordered the case, under FIR. 198/92, to be transferred to the Court of Additional Sessions Judge(Ayodhya Matters), at Lucknow. It directed the Court to frame an additional charge under S.120-B for criminal conspiracy. This case was pending earlier before the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate in Rae Bareilly. The said court at Lucknow had before it Case no. 197 of 1992 which are the offences detailed against the Kar Sevaks who were allegedly involved in the actual demolition of the Masjid. The reason for this confusing situation is that Case. No 197/92 is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) while case no. 198/92 was being investigated earlier by the Crime Branch, Crime Investigation Department (CB CID) that is part of the State Police. As per S.11(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure(CrPC), 1973 “1. Courts of Judicial Magistrates.- (1) In every district (not being a metropolitan area), there shall be established as many Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the first class and of the second class, and at such places, as the State Government may, after consultation with the High Court, by notification, specify.” (emphasis supplied) On 9th Sep, 1993, principal notification was passed by the Uttar Pradesh(UP) State Government through the Governor, after consultation with the Allahabad HC. It established a Special Court at Lucknow for the disposal of all the cases under Crime No. 197/92. This was in keeping with the procedural requirements under S.11 (1) of the CrPC as shown above. On 8 Oct, 1993, an amendment was made to this notification by the Governor of UP, adding the cases under Crime no. 198/92. The Special court took cognizance of the offences and committed the case to the Sessions Court on Aug 27, 1994. To cut a long and complicated story (with many subsequent events) short, a criminal revision petition challenging the amendment was filed in the High Court of Allahabad. It considered the notification and the framing of charges against the accused persons (under S.120 B of the IPC read with other sections 147/153-A/153-B/295-A/505 of the IPC), as illegal. The petitioners claimed that the amendment was passed by the Governor without consulting the High Court, as per the provisions of S.11(1) of the CrPC. The HC on Feb 12, 2001, held that the amendment to the notification was illegal and therefore the order dated Sep 9, 1997 which framed charges against all the accused was also held to be illegal. However, it was stated that State Government can cure the infirmity by issuing a new notification. In essence, it held that the Special Court did not have jurisdiction to inquire into and commit the case to the Court of Sessions in FIR no. 198/92. On 16th June, 2001, the CBI requested the State government to rectify the defect but on 28th Sep 2002, it refused to do so. The CBI did not challenge this and instead filed a supplementary charge sheet against the 8 accused persons in FIR 198/92 at the court in Rae Bareilly but without adding S.120-B. Now, on 4th May, 2001, the Special Court dropped the proceedings against the 21 persons including the 8 accused. This was challenged and the HC upheld the earlier order of May 2001 vide judgment dated 22nd May 2010. It held that there were “two classes of accused – the leaders who were on the dais exhorting the Kar Sewaks….and the Kar Sewaks, themselves” and that the offence of criminal conspiracy was never made out against the 21 persons as the CBI did not add it in the supplementary charge sheet. This article will not go into the specifics of the offence of criminal conspiracy but suffice it to say that the multiple and confusing proceedings in this case, with long gaps in time as shown, have only led to continued obfuscation of the reasons for the long delay in proceeding against the eight accused. The SC in the latest judgment held the HC judgment to be erroneous and that “ is clear that the said accused could not possibly have been discharged, as they were already arrayed as accused insofar as the charge of criminal conspiracy was concerned..” The SC also held that the HC made an artificial division of the offences and offenders. The AHRC welcomes the SC’s statement that the CBI has caused a lot of confusion by not challenging the order and filing a supplementary charge sheet instead, and has “ ..completely derailed the joint trial envisaged, resulting in a fractured prosecution going on in two places simultaneously based on a joint charge sheet filed by the CBI itself…” The SC has passed this order in pursuit of “doing complete justice” as set out in Art.142. Complete justice will be done only if the lower courts follow the SC orders completely as detailed i.e. take up matters on a day-to day basis until the conclusion of the trial, no transfer of judges until the conclusion, no adjournment unless it is impossible to carry on the trial. The CBI must ensure that some prosecution witnesses are present and the Sessions Court must complete the trial and present its judgment within 2 years. The rule of law tenets, that no person is above the law. It is up to our lower judiciary to prove that this is indeed still possible in India, especially when some of its most prominent politicians are in the dock on very grave criminal charges. # # # The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organization is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A brief history of Mizoram: From the Aizawl bombing to the Mizo Accord

A brief history of Mizoram: From the Aizawl bombing to the Mizo Accord

Wars don’t end that easily, and peace doesn’t last that long. Mizoram is an exception. It deserves our attention, and so does its history.
Posted by Anand Ranganathan | Aug 6, 2015

Tucked away in a corner, ignored by the madding crowd that inhabits Delhi studios, is a land of astounding beauty. Mizoram.
With a literacy rate second only to Kerala and a GDP per capita twice that of Uttar Pradesh, one would’ve thought Mizoram would shame us into swinging our creaking spotlight onto its one million inhabitants and their way of life. But it is not the case. India has always considered her seven sisters as dwarfs.
This is the story of tyrannical distances, geographical and of the mind. It is a story that is not taught in our History books, a story relegated to clever crumbs in quiz shows or one that is summoned by neat rows of pencil-chewing Civil Services aspirants; a story of great famines and revolutions and much bloodshed.
This is the story of Mizoram.
In 1959, the gentle people of Lushai Hills woke up to a calamity. Worse was to follow seven years later, in 1966, but at the time the Mizos felt nothing could be more terrible than Mautam. And who could blame them? The ageless hills, luscious green, with their exotic flora and dense bamboo jungles, were overcome by the ecological onslaught that strikes every 48 years, or as the Mizo like to call it, Mautam.
Bamboo flowers only once in its lifetime, and when it did in 1959 – forests upon blooming forests – it created just the right setting for rats to multiply in enormous numbers, leading inevitably to famine. Such devastations had earlier been recorded in the Lushai Hills, in 1862 and again in 1911.  The Mautam of 1959, however, was particularly violent, not only in the damage that it caused, but also because of its political repercussion. It was the last domino to topple, and it carried with it the momentum of all previous tragedies and resentments.
The Mizo District Council, as a precautionary measure to tame Mautam’s aftermath, pleaded with the government of Assam – under whose administrative and geographical control it fell – for a paltry sum of Rs 150,000. Assam turned the request down. It dismissed Mautam as a mere tribal superstition. What it got in return was a revolt, a revolt that led to an insurgency that lasted a quarter of a century.
As Mautam continued to wreak havoc, thousands died or starved, their crops and livelihood ravaged by rats whose population rose to such alarming levels (running into millions) the state had to run a scheme that rewarded citizens for turning in dead ones – 40 paisa for each dead rat. The Loshai Hill People feared the worst. The government, instead of removing their fear exacerbated it. Assamese was declared the official language of the state; its knowledge made mandatory for government jobs. The Mizos saw this as a direct threat to their proud identity. They saw this as a provocation, as a ploy to exclude them from the mainstream. There was widespread frustration and a revolution looked imminent. It arrived swiftly.
The non-political organisation, Mizo National Famine Front, transformed into Mizo National Front, or MNF. More was to come. In 1964, the Assam Regiment disbanded its 2nd battalion, composed predominantly of the Hill people. The soldiers who lost their jobs promptly joined the MNF to form its military wing: the Mizo National Army. As the years progressed, and Assam continued to turn a blind eye to the development and welfare activities needed so urgently, separatist feelings grew rapidly. Under the command of Pu Laldenga, MNF gained a strong backing of the Mizo people, united by the party doctrine aimed to create a separate Mizo nation. And yet, what had by now turned into a mass movement was regarded as a minor Law & Order situation by the Centre. To be sure, its mind and energies were doubtless occupied with winning the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
MNF took advantage, its resolve made amply clear from memorandum that it submitted to Prime Minister Shastri in October of 1965: “Whether the Mizo nation should shed her tears in joy, to establish firm and lasting relationship with India in war and in peace or in sorrow and in anger, is up to the Government of India to decide.”
On February 28, 1966, the bottled-up anger – against Assam, against India, against perceived and real injustices; against geographical claustrophobia – found its release, in the form of Operation Jericho. At 22:30 hours, a gang nearing a thousand MNF men took control of the BSF and the Assam Rifles Camp. Soon after, they damaged the Telephone Exchange – leading to a complete disruption of government communication – before taking over the Treasury and other important government buildings in the region.
At midnight the next day, March 1, 1966, the MNF released a twelve-point declaration stating why India was unfit and unworthy of ruling the Mizo people. Then, swiftly, it brought down the Indian tricolour from the Assam Rifles Head Quarters, hoisted the MNF flag in its place, and declared independence from the Indian Union.
Three days of uneasy calm followed. Then came the incident widely regarded by those who know of it – and not many do – as one of the most shameful and tragic in India’s modern history.
On March 5, 1966, 11:30 hours, Aizawl came under air-strikes; its people bombed by the very military sworn to protect them. There was no warning, no time to hide, no time to prepare.
“…There were two types of planes which flew over Aizawl – good planes and angry planes. The good planes were those which flew comparatively slowly and did not spit out fire or smoke; the angry planes were those which escaped to a distance before the sound of their coming could be heard and who spat out smoke and fire” – An eyewitness account.
A detailed portrayal of the Aizawl Bombing can be found in the seminal book: The Mizo Uprising: Assam Assembly Debates on the Mizo Movement, 1966-1971, by JV Hluna and Rini Tochhawng. The horrors that the air-strikes entailed may have been forgotten by the rest of India but they remain etched indelibly in the minds of those who suffered. When asked about the use of Indian Air force over Aizawl, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi responded: “It was deployed to drop men and supplies.”
Two members of the Assam Legislative Assembly, Stanley Nichols-Roy and Hoover Hynniewta, who had visited the Mizo Hills in the aftermath of the bombing, were incensed by the Prime Minister’s remark. Perhaps some of the unexploded bombs should be sent to Delhi, to find out how does one cook these supplies, they asked sarcastically on the floor of the House.  The late B Raman, former head of Research & Analysis Wing, was of the opinion the air strikes only managed to drive more people to join the ranks of the insurgents. None other than a former Chief Minister of Mizoram, Mr Zoramthanga, testified to this assessment, by stating that he had “joined the MNF party and participated in the rebellion due to the relentless bombing of Aizawl in 1966”.
Republic Veng, Hmeichche Veng, Dawrpuii Veng, and other localities of Aizawl were completely destroyed.
Writing in The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta named the two pilots who took part in the Aizawl bombing: Rajesh Pilot and Suresh Kalmadi.
The raids were as indiscriminate as they were devastating. Recalled Mathew Thomas, commanding officer of 2 PARA, involved in the operations: “…Assam Rifles were still holding out, but the Mizos were all around. We had to bring the Air Force. It strafed them and it was only after that we were able to push in and get into Aizawl…the situation was very volatile. Heliborne reinforcements were attempted but the sniping was too close to the camp and too heavy for choppers to come down. Therefore, at last at 1130 hours came the air strikes, IAF fighters strafing hostile positions all around the Battalion area. The strafing was repeated in the afternoon and it soon became apparent that the hostiles were beginning to scatter. At the end of air action, Aizawl town caught fire.”
In preparation for this unprecedented assault, the Mizo district had been declared a disturbed area (under the Assam Disturbed Area Act 1955) and MNF an unlawful organization (Extra-ordinary Gazette Notification published on March 6, 1966). Law and order became the responsibility of the army (under the Armed Forces Special Act, 1958 and by Rule 38 of the Defence of India Rules, 1962). Article 352 was invoked, and applied. The army moved in from Silchar into the Hills (March 3, 1966), commissioned air-strikes on Aizawl and other villages (March 5 and 6, 1966), and air-dropped leaflets discouraging people from participating with the rebels. It secured Lungleh, Champhai, and the East Pakistan border by March 17, thereby snapping any possibility of help or reinforcements from Burma and Pakistan. In a matter of 10 days, the Mizo district had been sanitised, a curfew imposed, and MNF volunteers forced to scatter.
Never before had the Indian army been mobilised so ruthlessly to tackle insurgency. Nehru’s approach to the 1947-52 Naga crisis, it should be recalled, was to empower Nagaland, to protect their customs and traditions, and to provide an opportunity to the Naga people to develop at the same rate as the rest of the nation. Even when military action was resorted to, Nehru had proposed to “win the hearts of the people, not to terrify or frighten them…There can be no doubt that an armed revolt has to be met by force and suppressed. There are no two opinions about that and we shall set about it as efficiently and effectively as possible. But our whole past and present outlook is based on force by itself being no remedy. We have prepared this in regard to the greater problems of the world. Much more must we remember this when dealing with our countrymen who have to be won over and not merely suppressed.”
But this was Indira, and she held no such scruples.
The bombing of Aizawl did little to calm the region. The unrest continued and for the Mizo people it resulted in deep psychological scars; scars that took two decades to heal.
No rebellion can succeed without the support of the civilian population for food, shelter, and information. The army, through Lt General Sam Manekshaw, proposed a spatialisation of villages. This so-called Village Grouping Plan, that was earlier rejected by the union cabinet, was now approved swiftly. The sociologist, C Nunthara, noted: “The Planning Commission recommended the implementation and funding of the grouping scheme”. The idea behind this plan was that it would accelerate development and improve security. What it resulted in was the exact opposite.
Mizoram turned into a land of isolated ghettos – emotional, economic, psychological, and spiritual. 236,162 Mizos out of a total population of 318,970 (1970 census) were subjected to the regrouping. The mass migration of villagers and their resettlement was planned around the Silchar-Aizawl-Lungleh road. Villagers were given a week’s notice before being forced to move. Once the villages were emptied out they were burnt to the ground and all food-grain destroyed. The plan was to leave nothing behind that could sustain the rebels. As a legal safeguard, villagers were made to sign documents indicating that they were leaving of their own free will.
Life in the new settlements was a life of constant surveillance, humiliation, want and suffering. Every villager was issued an identification number which was to be displayed prominently. The day would begin and end with a roll-call. Men took the role of farmers, unpaid labourers, construction workers, and porters. If modern history has taught us a lesson, it is that humiliation of a civilian population works at a deeper psychological level – the physical labour is forgotten, the scars of the mind remain.
Meanwhile, the local economy lay in ruins. The Jhum method of farming, possible only in a scattered settlement, was rendered useless. Access to cultivable land was severely constrained. The farmers had to return from the field for a roll-call in the evening. Local customs could not be carried out under constant surveillance and in living conditions no different from those experienced by convicts.
The songs and poetry of the time are only about lament and suffering. They came to be known as Curfew Songs. Around 75 per cent of the population of Mizoram was uprooted. As many as 516 out of a total of 764 villages were regrouped. 120 villages were burnt down. This was India’s Year Zero and it dealt a mortal blow to the Mizo spirit.
The regrouping was completed by 1970; the MNF rebels routed, insurgency controlled. But the Armed Forces remained stationed in Mizoram. The next decade and a half bore witness to an edgy calm, marked routinely with street protests, blockades, and curfews. Then, in 1986, against all expectations, the stakeholders rose above conflict, egos, and bitterness. A Peace Accord was signed between the MNF and the government of India. The Memorandum of Settlement began, ironically, with the mention of the person who had ordered the bombing of Aizawl:
“Toward this end, initiative was taken by the late Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi on the acceptance by Shri Laldenga on behalf of the Mizo National Front (MNF) of the two conditions, namely, cessation of violence by MNF and to hold talks within the framework of the Constitution. A series of discussions were held with Shri Laldenga. Settlement on various issues reached during the course of talks is incorporated in the following paragraphs…”
But the wise know the real meaning of War and of Peace; they know both require sacrifices and restrain. The translated lines of a Mizo folk song capture it best:
“Pity of pities our villages are grouped
Everywhere in Zoram life has lost its beauty
Women, men, children gathered from every hill
Feel homeless and stranded like the Riakmaw bird
In the new place where friends and loved ones gathered
I still pine for our old Motherland
Where the gentle prince who love us also dwelt”
That same Mizoram, that has seen so much pain and suffering and bloodshed, is now well-integrated with the rest of India, so much so that, barely two decades since the signing of the Mizo Accord, it is now called an “island of peace” in a disturbed region. Wars don’t end that easily, and peace doesn’t last that long. Mizoram is an exception. It deserves our attention, and so does its history.
The author’s book, For Love and Honour (Bloomsbury), that has as its backdrop the 1966 Aizawl bombing and the resulting insurgency in the Northeast, releases on August 15, 2015.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

INDIA: A country afraid to prevent custodial torture

INDIA: A country afraid to prevent custodial torture
Six years have passed since the lower house of the Indian Parliament passed the Prevention of Torture Act, 2010. The upper house of the Parliament, which reviewed the law after a broad consultation, recommended thorough revision of the law. Since then, the government has shelved the law and nothing has been heard about it since.
Prohibition of torture is not the policy of the Indian State. The Prevention of Torture Act, 2010, is a riveting example of this. The law fails to meet standards, in adequately defining torture and in prescribing appropriate process of investigation of complaints of torture, rendering the law useless, even if it is passed.
Policy makers in the country believe that without the use of torture, India cannot be policed. Public statements repeatedly made by police officers, bureaucrats, ministers, and judges confirm this. India's policing policy is premised around the image of a rough and tough cop, who is expected to show no mercy to the suspect. A large number of Indian public believe that police officers have the right to torture, and that torture is a legitimate method of crime investigation, and use of force is an effective instrument for law enforcement. It is common for police officers to assault people as a part of maintaining law and order.
Judges, particularly those in the lower Judiciary, believe that it is morally wrong to challenge a police officer on the question of torture. This is because the judges are aware that the crime investigation agencies in India often do not have any means to investigate crimes apart from resorting to the use of force. Therefore, even when a detainee complains about physical abuse by the police officer, magistrates ignore the complaint, fail to record the complaint, and fail to provide the basic protection to which that detainee is entitled during custody against torture, i.e. a medical examination.
Crime investigation in India, overwhelmingly, depends on oral evidence. The country does not have even one per cent of the facilities required to undertake modern crime investigation. Due to this, witnesses too are tortured in India.
All efforts to urge India to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment should therefore be linked to efforts to redesign the country's criminal justice mainframe. India should be encouraged to revise its policing policy, and to invest substantially to procure modern crime investigation technologies. India should also be encouraged to reduce its people to police ratio, which, at the moment, is a police officer for every 810 people, a ratio more than two times wider than the global average.
Similar efforts must be made to improve the criminal justice process in India, particularly to address the large divide in the judge to people ratio, which, at the moment, is 13 judges for a million people. This is one of the reasons for decades long delays in criminal trials in India. Modernising the Indian police without addressing scandalous delays in criminal trials will render the modernisation process a futile exercise.
It is equally important for India to redesign its policing laws. Police laws in India are based on colonial legalisations, drafted at a time when the police was primarily understood and expected to function as the administrator's agent that maintains order, most importantly to supress public protests against unfair and arbitrary actions of the British Empire.
Suppression of freedom and dignity and enforcement of obedience were the primary objectives of the Irish Constabulary model of policing that was introduced to the British colonies including India. Policing in India therefore contradicts with respect to human dignity, freedom, and individual rights, founding principles of the Indian Constitution. The spirit of democracy that India claims it strives to uphold is constantly under threat, as long as India does not radically redesign its policing architecture.
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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Who killed Rohith Vemula? Written by Anand Teltumbde |Published on:January 26, 2016 12:09 am

Who killed Rohith Vemula?
Written by Anand Teltumbde |Published on:January 26, 2016 12:09 am

All those who are mute spectators of the processes under way to restore supremacist Brahmanic rule are responsible for his death
Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old Dalit PhD scholar at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU), in his suicide note, blamed none, friend or foe, providing the feed to his killers to claim their innocence. An aspirant to write one day like Carl Sagan exploring the universe with his flight of imagination, he was driven to the depths of his inner self, the torn self of a Dalit, in this caste-ridden land, by his tormentors, to conclude the futility of existing. His death should make it clear that suicide is not the killing of oneself; it is death by situation, which comprises of traditions, customs and institutions, that provide cover to the murderers.
Rohith’s situation survives in the form of a makeshift tent erected in an open arena of his university campus, in which he lived for 12 days along with four of his comrades after having been expelled from the hostel, and their struggle for self-respect that outlives him. It is depicted by his stinging letter of December 18 to the vice chancellor of the university, his lament to his friends that he did not have any money to treat them on his 27th birthday, which was a few days away, never to dawn, and his last call to his mother, which was ominously cut by him abruptly. This is enough to tear the veils, expose the murderous situation and possibly the murderers.
After their expulsion, the students lived in the open in the biting cold of Hyderabad and still the VC did not realise the gravity of his misdeed. OnDecember 18, Rohith had written a stinging letter to him, accusing him of taking an unusual personal interest in the clash between the Dalit students and the ABVP. He sarcastically hinted at the plight of Dalit students at the HCU, asking the VC to provide poison and a rope to all Dalit students at the time of admission, and also make available a facility for euthanasia for students like him. The letter was alarming enough for any responsible person to take serious note of the state of mind of the student, who was driven to his wits’ end on account of continuing harassment and penury, as his stipend, with which he partly supported his mother and younger brother back home in Guntur, was stopped in July.