World, Asia - Pacific

‘Indian state is acting in panic,’ says rights defender

Human rights defender Ravi Nair tells Anadolu Agency the India's religion-specific laws are 'discriminatory'

Riyaz Khaliq   | 30.12.2019
‘Indian state is acting in panic,’ says rights defender FILE PHOTO

ANKARA

After India’s new citizenship law triggered violent protests nationwide, the law enforcing agencies rushed to issue legal notices against people in Uttar Pradesh province of India, accusing them of damaging public property.

According to Ravi Nair, a top rights defender in India, the Indian government was acting in panic following the mass demonstrations against the new citizenship law.

India on Dec. 11 implemented a new law which grants citizenship rights to six minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, excluding Muslims.

The law has faced huge criticism spiraling India in to mass protests. More than 20 people have died since the demonstrations broke out two weeks ago as police clashed with protesters.

Earlier, the government had announced to implement National Register of Citizens (NRC) to identify alleged illegal immigrants though now it says it is not on table. However, it approved this week a massive exercise to update its National Population Register (NPR).

Nair, who leads the New Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, spoke to Anadolu Agency about India in the wake of the fresh law, explaining what has been happening in the country where Muslims constitute nearly 14% of 1.3 billion population.

Anadolu Agency: What is happening in India after the new citizenship law was brought in?

Ravi Nair (RN): The latest move by the government is to create a national population register [NPR]. In fact, they are now asking for a lot more information. And all information will be used to identify what they call “doubtful individuals”, which was the same process as adopted in Assam [a northeastern province] to penalize people who may or may not have come from Bangladesh because many of them are third- or second-generation people and should have been entitled to Indian citizenship under the law.

The biggest problem that is now coming is completely unjustified, in most cases, unprovoked, excessive use of force and firing against innocent civilians who are protesting in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Many of them [victims] have facial and above the torso wounds. It means that there is no fire control. It means that command control of the senior officers is not being exercised and is in complete violation of both Indian law and international law.

The third thing that is happening in Uttar Pradesh is that the police and the local administration, without any basis in law, are sealing properties and confiscating properties of protesters.

The law does not allow this. Property in India can be confiscated only after the judicial procedure or by a quasi-judicial procedure adopted by a quasi-judicial tribunal.

So clearly, we are seeing that the state is acting in panic, hitting out at ordinary citizens and the whole international community must immediately intervene to stop this carnage taking place particularly in Uttar Pradesh.

Q: The government now says it has no plans about the NRC?

RN: The government is being dubious and diabolical in its explanations. The NRC, the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] and the NPR are all sides of the same coin.

So, they're trying to confuse people like [Joseph] Goebbels did in Nazi Germany.

It is clearly a violation of the fundamental rights under the Constitution. So, we hope that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court, but in the meanwhile, the government is ding great harm to the Indian polity and citizenry.

And it is trying to make the Muslim minority second-class citizens in this country and it will subsequently extend this to the Christians and to tribal and indigenous populations and also to the Dalits. So, there is a pattern of deviousness in the Hindu fundamentalist government's moves.

Q: What is India’s refugee policy?

RN: India's refugee policy is marked by the fact that until now it was okay and liberal though it has not signed the 51 convention or the Additional Protocol.

It has refugees from many parts of the world including Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Afghans, Pathans, Tajiks, and Uzbeks.

But with this government, they are clearly trying to go regressive on the earlier policy.

The government seeks to do a religion-specific discriminatory procedure which is total violation of fundamental rights, making people stateless and denying them their human rights and humanitarian law obligations.

This is the state becoming a rogue state.

Q: What is the total number of refugees India is currently hosting?

RN: As per the United Nations refugee agency figures, there are over 100,000 Tamil refugees, an equal number of Tibetan refugees; smaller populations of Afghan, Chin refugees, Rohingya from Burma, and smaller populations of Sudanese and Somalian refugees living in India.

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