April 12, Even as India goes to polls on April 11 in an atmosphere allegedly causing deep concern, several UK-based human rights and Dalits organisations held a vigil outside the Indian High Commission in London Pointing out that this was part of a global day of action with a similar protests taking place in New York and in solidarity with people’s agenda 2019 event which took place in Delhi, they released a set of demands on rights situation in India.
Participants included representatives from the South Asia Solidarity Group, CasteWatch UK, SOAS India Society, Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB, and the Ambedkar International Mission.
A note by the organisers:
The demonstrators held pictures of Mohamed Aqhlakh, Zafar, Gauri Lankesh, Junaid Khan and Asifa and placards saying ‘Ambedkar Bhagat Singh! Democracy will win!’
The shouted slogans such as ‘Modi! Modi! Shame! Shame! No more killings in our name!’, ‘Hands Off Dr Teltumde! Hands Off Dr Saibaba!’ and ‘Justice for Junaid! Justice for Gauri Lankesh! Justice for Asifa! Justice for Judge Loya!’
They expressed their deep concern that lynchings of Muslims, Dalits and Christians by RSS-led mobs, assassinations of dissenters, rapes and escalating violence against women and girls, the arrests and incarceration of human rights defenders and progressive intellectuals have indeed turned India into a republic of fear.
They noted that a media loyal to the government whips up hate and hysteria on a daily basis, while journalists who speak out are persecuted and even murdered. The independence of the judiciary has been systematically compromised and even judges are not safe from assassination if they dare to remain impartial.
They condemned the increasing repression and daily human rights violations in Kashmir, which is happening as the military occupation is intensified and extended, and warmongering jingoistic rhetoric is used cynically for electoral gain leading the country to the brink of a devastating war with Pakistan.
They expressed their concern that blatantly anti-people and pro-corporate economic policies coupled with shameless corruption have led to massive unemployment, corporate takeover of land, indebtedness and an epidemic of farmer suicides. Adivasi communities are being displaced and facing acute violence when they resist, and forests destroyed on an unprecedented scale; that basic economic rights are being denied to the vast majority of India’s people.
They condemned the open calls from prominent Hindutva figures to do away with the Indian Constitution – the cornerstone of the country’s democracy and civil liberties, written by Dr BR Ambedkar after India’s independence and the fact that these figures want to replace it with the Manusmriti, an ancient Brahminical legal text which is known for its misogyny and its contempt for oppressed castes.
On Mob Lynching and RSS-sponsored terror:
- Ensure justice for the victims and survivors of lynch mobs, and that all those who perpetrate and incite mob lynchings, caste, communal and ethnic massacres and rapes, and extra-judicial killings are arrested and prosecuted.
- Enact The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) law;
- Enact a law against discrimination, hate crimes and atrocities against religious, ethnic and racial minorities;
- Scrap all ‘cow protection’ and ‘anti-conversion’ laws;
- Enact a law for protection of inter-caste, inter-faith and same-gotra couples;
- Set up a Task Force specifically to counter and dismantle communal and far-right terror groups; bring the perpetrators of assassinations of dissenters and journalists to justice
On Bhima Koregaon
- Immediately arrest and prosecute Milind Ekbote, Sambhaji Bhide and others from the Hindutva groups responsible for conspiracy, hate, incitement and violence against Dalits during the 200th anniversary commemorations of Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018;
- Close FIRs and unconditionally withdraw charges against all those who participated in protests on 2 January 2018 against the violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon, and all those arrested in the witch hunt of Dalit youth and children which followed.
- Immediately release all human rights activists, lawyers, academics and artists arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon incidents and drop the fake charges against them.
On Dr GN Saibaba
- End the torture of disabled academic and human rights activist Dr GN Saibaba and immediately release him.
Against Draconian Laws and State Repression
- Scrap all draconian laws including Sections124A (sedition), 499 (criminal defamation), Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act (UAPA), National Security Act (NSA), Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and free all prisoners arrested under these and older draconian laws like TADA;
- Set up a Supreme Court monitored high-powered tribunal to look into countrywide cases of custodial torture and killings;
- Enact police reforms to ensure the police force is held accountable to the Constitution and FIR is registered in every encounter, and every incident of custodial violence;
- End militarisation of civilian areas in Kashmir, Bastar and the Northeast;
- End detention camps for “suspected illegal immigrants” in all states.
For Dalit and Adivasi People’s Rights
- Implement the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 2018, punish police officials for failing to file FIRs/record evidence;
- Increase funding, and utilise all funds allocated for scholarships and schemes for members of SCs and STs;
- Enact a law (Rohith Act) against caste discrimination in educational institutions;
- Approach the Supreme Court to fast-track pending appeals against acquittals in Dalit massacre cases in Bihar and other states;
- Enforce the Forest Rights Act, accept all community and individual claims;
- Release the thousands of adivasi under-trial prisoners languishing in jails on false charges, especially in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana.