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Protecting Human Rights and Democracy in Maharashtra and India: Challenges before the PUCL and Human Rights Movement in India

President’s Concept Note from the Invitation sent to PUCL members and others for the Re-launch on PUCL Maharashtra meeting on 12th August, 2017

Our country is passing through a very challenging, historical phase. Lynchings by Gau Rakshaks and killing in the name of beef, hate crimes and politics of intolerance, targeted attacks and violence on minorities and Dalits have become regular occurrences countrywide. Some of these shocking incidents of mass violence have received media attention; what has gone unnoticed is a whole range of other human rights violations which are equally distressing: targeted attacks of Dalits by non-Dalit castes for demanding equal rights,  dignity and social justice, rising gender crimes, caste and communal violence and a range of other violent responses from majoritarian forces - the most noticeable dimension is the brutal and authoritarian response to people’ struggles seeking to protect their rights and the brazenness and impunity of police response.

The brutal force of the law is used by law enforcement agencies and government, who dub anyone questioning state policies as “anti-national, anti-social, anti-development and anti-Indian’ and then book them for sedition, waging war against India, conspiracy and a host of other serious offences under the IPC, UAPA Act, NSA, and so on.  The media is not exempt from such draconian action as arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in Mumbai or attack on journalists in Chhattisgarh or raid on NDTV promoter’s offices highlight. Unfortunately courts have been less than responsive to the massive explosion of rights violations committed by state agencies and the breakdown of the criminal justice system.

The situation in so called `militancy or terrorism’ affected areas of the North East and Kashmir and the Central Indian states is very grim with hundreds being routinely implicated in false cases, subjected to torture and custodial crimes and worse.  The mineral rich tribal areas are also witnessing massive militarization and consequent violent suppression of local leaders in the name of curbing militancy.

The structure of laws meant to protect rights - from labour rights to environmental protections to other social rights, are being systematically dismantled making the laws irrelevant and ineffective. Whether in the Manipur encounters case, or the ongoing Aadhar and citizen’s right to privacy case, the government’s approach has been uniform: deny people their fundamental rights, utilize its full police powers to control people, assert impunity for any violation and demand immunity from accountability.  All of these are chilling indicators of the emergence of an authoritarian, fascist state working to make the Constitution of India a redundant and irrelevant document.

The task before concerned citizens is daunting. The challenges are manifold. From campaigns to protect life, liberty and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable, marginalised people across India to combating hate crimes and politics of intolerance to challenging the dismantling of laws protecting right to environment, food security, education, health and the fundamental rights – the task is humongous. In effect both human rights, as also democracy, in India is under siege.

For us, as citizens concerned about preserving the Indian Constitution and democracy in India, we have no choice but to fight to preserve, protect and promote human rights, and thereby protect the pluralist, socialist, secular character of Indian society which values, dignity, equity, equality and social justice. Our fight has to be across different levels – from the grass roots situation to policy realms; from legal battles to public campaigns to educate and empower people.

PUCL has initiated wide ranging discussions on these and related issues in different states.  It is as part of this process that we are organising a half day discussion in Mumbai on 12th August, 2017.

We invite you to participate in the meeting and look forward to meeting you on 12th August, 2017.



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Related Bulletin : Sep 2017