2012State Level Discussion on Human Rights Defenders Report 13th May 2012, Lucknow Organized by Human Rights Law Network In association with Coalition for Protection of Human Rights Defenders Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders Action Aid
State Level Discussion onHuman Rights Defenders Organized by Human Rights Law Network In association WithCoalition for Protection of Human Rights Defenders Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders Action Aid Compiled& Edited ByMs. Saswati Debnath, Ms. Amiy Shukla
Program Schedule Date: Sunday, 13 May 2012 Time Topic Speakers 9.30– 9.45 Key-note address Mohd. Shoaib Om Narain Mishra 9.45 –10.30 Student, Politics and Challenges of Social Y.S. Lohit, Change K.K. Roy Harsh Dobhal 10.30 -11.30 Human Rights situation in Uttar Pradesh Vandana Mishra Lenin Raghuvanshi Sanjay Singh Parvej Rizvi11.30 -12.30 Threats to Human Rights defenders Himanshu Kumar Rudra Prasad Mishra Dharmendra Singh Pancham Lal Ravi Shekhar 12.30 -1.00 Assaults on the media Harsh Dobhal Mahesh Sharma Rajiv Yadav
1.00 -1.30 Role of lawyers in defending Namrata Tiwari Vijay Awasthi Human Rights Shams Vikas1.30-2.30 Lunch2.30-3.00 Assaults on RTI activists Saleem Baig Shahnawaz3.00-3.30 Assaults on religious minorities Mohd. Shoaib Jamal Ahmad3.30 – 4.00 Assaults on the trade unions Vishnu Shukla Ramkumar4.00-5.00 Role of students in defending the Human Javed Khan Rights Prashant Kumar Smriti Prashanti5.00-5:30 Testimonials Mumtaz Zishan5.30-6.00 Defending the defenders: strategies and Open session way forward6:00 – 6.15 Vote of Thanks Tariq Adeeb/K.K.Roy
Concept Note Today, defending human rights lawyers and grass root level socialis at a critical stage as the defenders of workers under single roof to uphold thethe human rights are under a spirit of humanity, while raising thecontinuous attack by the state essence of human rights. An exclusiveauthorities. Defending human rights in component to achieve the dream ofthe absence of the defenders is a task building a right full society is to achievewhich is impossible to accomplish. At cognizance between the action and thethe state forum discussion on Human noble thoughts in all the defenders ofRights Defenders, Human rights law Human Rights.network has portrayed its indisputablemotive of bringing together all theHuman Rights Defenders, activists,
Introduction The meeting was held at the discussion on the threats to Humanprestigious Lucknow University. On Rights defenders, assaults on the media,13th May 2012, with eminent human role of the lawyers in defending therights activists and experts sharing their defenders, assaults on RTI activists,ideas on improvement of the human assaults on the trade unions, role ofrights network for defending the students in defending the human rights.defenders. The meeting consisted of The meeting was concluded by fewseveral sessions dealing with an testimonials, and strategizing of theintroduction on the situation of Human plan for strengthening the network ofRights in Uttar Pradesh, followed by a defense for the Defenders.
Keynoteaddress Mr. Roy facilitated the meeting by briefing all those present on the concept and the purpose of the meeting. He threw light on the status of human rights in Uttar Pradesh and emphasized on the importance of the defenders in bringing a positive change in the society. Before giving it a head start, he discussed the plight of the human rights defenders in India and the aims and objectives to transform the situation, where the defenders could heroically guard against any violations or injustice taking place in any part of India.Mr. K.K. Roy, Director,Human Rights LawNetwork, U
Mr. Dobhal then came forward and addressed the forum with few incidences where the Human Rights activists had faced adversities by taking a stand against the injustice. He started by sharing the incidence of Ms. Kavita Srivastava, PUCL Secretary, where Kavita and her family were harassed because they were protesting against the injustice perpetrated by the police officials. He also mentioned the atrocious phase through which Mr. Himnashu Kumar had to undergo in Dantewada while protesting for tribal rights. He further said that “now we have reached a level where there is a need to protect the people who are defending Human Rights”.Mr. Harsh Dobhal, Mr. Dobhal then threw light on the pitiable plight ofDirector, Human Rights 15,000 Kashmiri women who are still awaiting theirLaw Network husband‟s return, who according to the law come under „Missing persons‟. It is disappointing that, legally the „missing persons‟ are declared to have disappeared long ago, but, still no law has been made to protect the needs of the missing person‟s family. He further mentioned about the adverse affects of the draconian laws such as POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002), TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities, Prevention Act, 1987), and PSA (Public Safety Act) etc. He was disappointed by the fact that the laws which are made to protect the people are utilized by the authorities in such a way that it adversely affects the life of civilians. He mentioned the incapacity of National Human Rights Commission in handling the cases of human rights violations and concluded his talk by encouraging all the lawyers and the activists to come together and to create a strong network of Human Rights Defenders.
Mr. Mishra initiated his speech by saying “life is a state of consciousness, and this starts right from the time when the baby is in the mother‟s womb, and is there till life ends”. He emphasized, that when we talk about human rights, it means that we are talking about human beings leading a life with dignity. Even in ancient times human rights existed in the form of natural rights. Since ages the upper class/castes has remained to be the most dominant and the lower class/castes has been subjected to suppression and oppression, as he said “if we all see ourselves as human beings regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, then this problem of social suppression will not even exist”. He further emphasized on the inclusion of HumanMr. O. M. Narain Misrha, Rights education in the academics. He concluded byDean, Law Faculty, commemorating the gathering by saying that …weLucknow University being, human rights lawyers, have a huge responsibility towards our people to safeguard their rights legally
Mr. Himanshu brought into light the dilemma faced by the tribals, particularly those living in the forests of Chhattisgarh. He very correctly pointed out that ever since India gained independence, there has been a struggle to fight for tribal rights which includes their right to land, right to food and most importantly the right to life. He also pointed out that how the human rights activists are targeted and harassed when they try to voice against injustice perpetrated by the authorities. He further emphasized that today everything is politicized and whenever someone tries to voice against the injustice they are tagged by the government as terrorists or Maoists which legitimizesMr. Himanshu Kumar, the inhumane torture perpetrated by the governmentSocial Activist authorities. On saying so, he narrated his own experience of Chhattisgarh, where Mr. Himanshu had to bear the wrath of police authorities for serving the tribals and fighting for tribal rights. He further stressed upon this issue by saying that how do you address a nation which allegedly uses its own security forces against its own civilians in the name of national security. He also threw light on the audacity with which the police, paramilitary and even special police forces work in the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh. He addressed the gathering by saying that it is the time to act against injustice, fearlessly, and it is our duty to save all the voices that rise against injustice. For this we have to strategize our actions, plan the next step after analyzing the previous. He said we have to use the judiciary to rage a legal war of justice, for this we have to identify the warriors of justice and built up a socio- legal network for the seekers of justice, who seek to preserve human rights.
Mr. Lal expressed his concern on the issue of frequent attacks confronted by the human rights Defenders. As a social worker, he said, today human rights is at severe risk, and it‟s a serious issue, for this we have to be aware of the human rights situations around us. He further emphasized on the fact that the government has always been dealing with violent situations with violent reaction, instead of a peaceful and strategic way of dealing with the situation. This could have been possible if the government would have taken steps to find the root causes of such mass revolt against government. Further, he stated that, if the government shows concern for its people, the peopleMr. Pancham Lal, Ex- will never rise against the government. It is only inRegistrar, Allahabad High cases where they are unheard and ignored that theyCourt resort to violence as the only way through which they can be heard. Saying this, he suggested few points of action that is involving the youth, sensitizing and educating the students on human rights, and motivating them to stand against injustice regardless of the shape or size of the injustice. Awareness programs/campaigns against injustice should be held frequently at community level/local levels. People should be enlightened to promote and protect Human Rights. He further said any one can be a Human Rights defender, anyone who is aware of the social inhumane structure and who has got the courage to stand against the violations of rights can be a protector of rights. Preparing new human rights activist is another task that we should take up. He concluded by addressing the gathering by saying “never give up the fight against injustice”.
Ms. Mishra expressed her concern over the accountability aspect of the system. She stressed upon the importance of media in the fight against injustice. She focused on the fact that Human rights defenders should be well protected through the network of lawyers and activists. As a long term goal we have to identify people who are persistent and patient towards their aim and can build a strong network. Human rights education should be taken seriously and the “protection of human rights” should be taken as a career. Disseminating information on human rights isMs. Vandana Mishra, important. This can be in any form, case studies,PUCL President, UP testimonies etc. Mr. Jamal addressed the forum by saying, state operation on human rights when initiated, needs to be protected. In Lucknow, Mr. Shoaib (lawyer) was attacked and subsequently a petition was filed for the same. But the Judge didn‟t acknowledge the sensitivity of the case and mocked the situation, thereby rejecting the plea and awarding no protection. Hence there is an enormous problem with the outlook and values that are present in the system, which do not value human rights. Immediate need to change the whole set of degraded ideas, pertaining to the system is required. This can be achieved through; raising the voice and making use of the massMr. Jamal Ahmed, Human communication mediums like newspaper, internet etcRights Lawyer and Human Rights Defenders should get together and raise their voice against injustices.
Mr. Awasthi addressed the masses with his words of wisdom “we should not run away from ourMr. Vijay Awasthi, Rights responsibility of Protection of Human rights”. ThereActivist have been girls, women, who have been made victims and preys. They are harassed and tortured. It is necessary to learn from our past, gather the experience and make use of our knowledge to solve and fight such circumstances. He then narrated the story of Harilal, Harilal and his wife Shruti was poor. Harilal had worked in NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). On August 15, 2010, as the nation was celebrating, independence day, he was forcefully taken out of his house and shot dead by someone. The group of killers told her that, whoever was working with her husband, they are all caught in their own web. She had cried for help and ran. Now she is alone in this cruel world. The only mistake her husband did was, he voiced against corruption at NREGA. Mr. Parvej witnessed that how people who voice against Human Rights violation are crushed andMr. Parvej Rizvi, Human smashed. For the upper class people the lower, workingRights Activist class is nothing but, a tool in the hands of upper class. They are the ones who are looted and harassed, if they try to raise their voice against the injustice. In case of Harilal, Mr. Parvej said that we had warned him, that he shouldn‟t be so hot headed and courageous, „cause these people have killed many like him. I was scared, but HRLN supported us. I was accused of contempt of court whenever I took Human Rights Commission report. Hence something needs to be done to stop the nonsense that has been taking place in the system. He further expressed his concern by saying, initiatives are taken but, then there is no follow up. Hence things vanish and disappear in the midst. Thus, I would recommend a strong follow up and consistency in the initiative.
Mr. Shukla said, today we have all gathered for the protection of Human Rights defenders so that, 90% of the people present are informed, that how they can be saved. The body of intellectuals and students are there to provide their suggestions. Bhagat Singh wrote at the age of 23, that people need to get together to fight injustice and to claim their right to independence. Hence, we should apply that thinking and courage and power, to get together and fight for the validation of the Human Rights. There is a whole system to blame the common dwellers for any mishap, this needs to change.Mr. Vishnu Shukla, LaborRights Lawyer, UP Mr Vishnu quoted Dr. Ambedkar with respect to the Human Rights Education “– shikshit ho sandhshiti ho, sangharsh karo”. Human Rights education needs to penetrate the nook and corner of this country for a better future. Mr. Raghuvanshi opened by mentioning the Human Rights Declaration. Human Rights Declaration took place in 1947 for development. For the protection and upliftment of human rights, Human Rights Defenders and Democracy needs to work together. Human Rights violators work through -muscle power, money Power, network and coordination, the constables to the top DIG of the city is in their clutches. As a counter force, 1) Networking should be made effective so that one defender can stand in for anotherMr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, defenders need. There should be no contradictionsHuman Rights Activist among the people in the network. 2) Patience is very important and needs to be the core value of the Human Rights defenders. 3) Mobilizing masses through awareness, will create pressure, eventually things will start working out. 4) If people in power participate in the movement, then it will give an edge and vibrancy and certain direction and hope to the movement. 5) Legal network needs to be established such as HRLN, so that inhuman acts that occur even in the remotest area of the country get reported 6) Testimonies, reports and campaigns needs to be established so that it creates widespread awareness.
Mr. Najeeb Hasan,Minority Rights Activist Mr. Hasan addressed the conference by invoking the fact, women‟s right is very important and touched upon the important issue of „honor killing‟. He further spoke on Saharanpur case, where the officer got suspended for making a derogatory comment against Ishrat (low-caste boy, who got married to an upper caste girl). The whole instance, points to the fact, even after entering the phase of globalization and modernization, people still work with the conservative, patriarchal mindset, thus taking recourse to many acts that result in human rights violation such as honor killings. Mr. Sanjay addressed the conference, by emphasizing the need to take the act of human rights violations seriously. The whole concept of human rights is sensitive. He narrated his personal experience , he said, prior to 12th December 2009 he was not much aware, he used to think it‟s easy to fight, coordinate and voice against injustice, but, later when his father died „cause he voiced against corruption, on December of 2009, things changed. He hesitates to help. He stressed upon the need to bring out some more stronger laws „cause our strength has reduced, if one wants to raiseMr. Sanjay Singh, Social the voice, then those voices are throttled and madeActivist silent forever. Honest and courageous efforts have to be made like villagers. The way villagers run their households and protect an honest person. None of the NGO‟s has the power to call over 5000 people for a rally. It is important to take into consideration that the defenders household financial position and the bread earner„s wellbeing is protected. A strong network needs to be established to protect the people.
Second Half The second half of the meeting started with a melodious revolutionary song by Mr. Himanshu Kumar, which gave the meeting a vibrant and active start. The song conveyed that we should start a struggle against injustice, so that life is never submerged under tears and disappointments. Mr. Massiuddin reflected on the plight of the tribals, the atrocities and the harassments confronted by them. He emphasized on the fact that the tribals were often arrested and tortured by the police on the grounds of suspicion of being Maoists and that has turned their life into misery.Mr. Massiuddin, HumanRights Activists & PeoplesUnion for Civil Liberties(PUCL), Azamgarh
Mr. Adeeb emphasized on the role of media and how media can enhance or deteriorate the fight in defense of human rights. More often media plays a crucial role in creating a negative picture/image of certain groups, who voice against injustice. In such cases weak defenders of human rights gets stigmatized and harassed by the police. Also, he expressed his concern over the sensitivity of the media and the effects produced by it. He mentioned that we can utilize media as a tool to reach common masses and helps strengthen the fightMr. Tariq Adeeb, Human against injustice.Rights Advocate, HRLN Mr. Alam expressed his concern over the incidents of frequent attacks on the human rights defenders. He is worried about the fact that in many instances the State Government is attacking the human rights defenders. He expressed the need to filter the most determined and dedicated Human rights activists so as to sustain the fight against injustice.Mr. Shahnawaz Alam,Human Rights Activists &Organizing SecretaryPUCL, UP
Ms. Saheen expressed her concern on the fact that nowadays people are scared of voicing up injustice. It is important to voice against the violations perpetrated on the adivasis (tribals) that occurred in the form of snatching away of their lands in the name of development. She further stated that it is time to claim our rights and to use the judiciary to achieve permanent,Ms. Saheen Begum, Social positive legal transformation. She again reinforced Mr.Worker Saheen, point of filtering the human rights activists in strengthening the defender‟s network. Mr. Rajiv expressed his concern over the fact that judiciary does not support the protection of terror suspects, especially when the activists are busy voicing against injustice. Further he emphasized on the pitiable conditions of the terror suspects, who are just abandoned by the judiciary and even their right to free trial is suspended and are declared as terrorist even before they are proven to be terrorists by the Law. Saying so, he stated that it is important that judiciary should have some mechanism where a free trial can take place impartially and legally.Mr. Rajiv Yadav, HumanRights Activists,Organizing Secretary,PUCL, UP
Mr. Ravi Sekhar, Human Mr. Sekhar expressed his concern on variousRights Activist, UP internationally funded projects carried out in the areas inhabited by the adivasis. The funders are the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. These projects are carried out by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank in the name of human development, but they come with some injurious consequences. The strict monitoring mechanism, under which the Indian authority works with the funds, has to meet certain deadlines. However most of the time these deadlines remain unmet and to avoid any penalization, the authority puts poor laborers to work in the disaster prone locations and to make things worse, cameras are set up in these locations, to shoot those workers and present it in form of accidents at work sight and in this way they justify their delay in the job. Saying this, Mr. Sekhar expressed his grief on how human beings manipulate other beings to meet their selfish needs, even if, it is at the cost of others life. He further expressed his concern on another case, where the young people are randomly picked up by the police officials and are detained and are charged as terror suspects, just because the police is ordered by their higher officials to arrests few terrorists and the innocent youth falls as prey to such mishaps. Further he said that in the cities many legal measures are taken to fight against the injustice, but in the interior parts of India, such as Singhroli, Amupur, injustice remains unseen and unheard, so atleast the fact-finding teams should be send to gather the instances of injustice occurring in these areas, and subsequently legal action should be taken against the defaulters.
Mr. Y.S. Lohit, HumanRights Activist Mr. Lohit addressed the forum by saying that I am connected with an association of lawyers, judges, and students; it does not judge people and cases blindly or makes generalization. As Indians we claim to be the largest democracy and our Constitution speaks of an independent Judiciary, which doesn‟t limit itself. But, Political Philosophies have altered, person who decides the value of the provided, is claimed to be the ruler.Mr. Shams Vikas,Advocate, UP Mr. Vikas expressed his concern over the role of the lawyers. According to him, the limited role of the lawyer has proven to be of disadvantage and has been an obstacle in the path of providing justice to people.
Mr. Mohd Shoaib focused upon the need to create a strong network among our colleagues, which could only be possible by applying confidence building measures. Also, he mentioned one incidence that took place on 12th and 13th of August, where he was attacked and was severely injured. He had lodged an FIR but no action was taken by the Judiciary over the matter against the violators of the human rights. He expressed his concern over the fact, that if an organ of the government cannot ensure, restoration and protection of human rights, it shall not claim to be an institution for same. Since the structure of the state cannot beMr. Mohd. Shoaib, altered, there is a serious need to keep a check on theHuman Rights Lawyer organs of the government, so that a System of balance is maintained. According to Mr. Rudra Prakash, Justice isn‟t guaranteed by the Judiciary, and this is because, technically, judiciary provides only judgments and those judgments may not be justified all the time. But, one also cannot ignore the intrinsic relationship of justice and the legal verdicts given by the judges.Mr. Rudra Prakash,Human Rights Activist,Chitrakut
Mr. Baig started by saying that in the year 2000 an Imam was charged under the act of POTA. LawyersMr. Saleem Baig, Human had refused to take his case and did not oblige to theirRights Activist duty. HRLN came to the rescue of the Imam and fought his case. As a result, in 2003, CBI investigated Mr. Baig‟s house and office. The whole nexus of people in power are against human rights activists. Judges have lost their credibility and autonomy; they are nothing but puny puppets in the hands of politicians. The line of separation between the judiciary and the executive has vanished and the balance of power has become misbalanced.Mr. Mahesh Sharma,Human Rights Activist Mr. Sharma focused on the need to stay persistent on the issue of eradication of injustice, and not to deviate. He also expressed that the support from the media is important and indispensible. Media highlights the issue of Human rights, thus directs the attention of the masses towards it and spreads awareness regarding the same. Hence, helping to create a mass base for support is important.
Mr. Anshu started by saying that child rights and its abuse forms an initial part of human rights violations. The old saying of “Prevention is better than cure” needs to be followed in the case of child rights. A secure environment should be created for the children which is the responsibility of youth. In case of violation of the rights of the children, one of the reasons is the lack of a role model, hence they should be their own role models. A strong network is also required for the protection of child rights and integrity between sayings and actions taken, is important to stop prolongedMr. Anshu Mali Sharma, injustice.Child Rights Activist, UP Ms. Ankita specializes in the sphere of Dalit rights. In over 20 villages, women and children were harassed just because they were Dalits. Also many dalit students weren‟t given admissions hence HRLN fought their case. As all the acts mentioned above violate right to equality. In Sultanpur district, women were mentally tortured and harassed. To better the situation it is very important to pressurize the authority to atleast provide the dalits with the four basic rights, that is rights to food, education, and respect and treated with dignity.Ms. Ankita, Dalit RightsActivist, Azamgarh
Mr. K. K. Roy Mr. Roy emphasized on the role of the Human Rights defenders and that their protection is indispensable and their security is important. Also the judiciary cannot be ignored. There have been cases where human rights issues are dealt with sensitivity. Also the judges are of the nature, who would like to stay away from these controversial issues and deny justice. According to Mr. Roy continuous efforts have to be made in the pursuit of justice, one cannot leave this aim in the midst, „cause of repeated failures. He further emphasized that Human Rights Defender‟s are not a separate group of intellectuals. They are a small group of people, but the concept is universal and hence they want to help every person possible.
Action PlanImmediate action should be activities that occur in the remotetaken to create a network of areas of the country and helplawyers and human rights them get reported.activists. The network should be Testimonies, reports andeffective enough so that one campaigns need to be establisheddefender is able to defend the so that it creates widespreadother defender who has been awareness. Also, fact-findingtargeted and harassed. There team needs to visit the site ofshould be consistency of violations and collect data andthoughts and actions among the take the case to the court.people in the network. Patience Using mass communicationneeds to be the core value of the mediums like newspaper,Human Rights defenders. internet etc human rightsMobilizing masses through defenders should get togetherawareness creates pressure and and raise their voice againsteventually things start working injustices. In case where theout. information of the violation isInvolvement of judges and young transmitted through the mediumlawyers in this network and their of newspaper or any other massparticipation in the human rights media device, human rightsmovement will give an edge and defenders should reach the sitevibrancy and certain direction for further investigation.and hope to the movement. Law clinics should be opened toLegal network needs to be educate people and also toestablished .HRLN is one such involve the youth and educatenetwork and is planning to set up them regarding the urgentlegal aids networks at state level requirement of lawyers who areas well district levels. This will human rights defenders.help in eradicating of inhuman
Conclusion The concluding session of the raised several times, it has been ensuredforum on Defending Human Rights that in Uttar Pradesh and many suchDefenders framed an important set of states in India, where violators are morestrategies and action plan. It is necessary powerful than defenders, the legal aidto implement the laws .the discussion network will be established as soon asensured a step ahead in achieving possible so that anyone and everyonejustice for the victims and vulnerable can join the war against injustice,people. The question of implementing valiantly.the provisions of human rights were