12/10/2009, 00.00
INDIA – HUMAN RIGHTS
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Human rights violated by extremism as well as religious and social discrimination

by Nirmala Carvalho
For activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, “the human rights situation in India is shameful”. Religious fundamentalism but also “torture by police” and the “collapse of rule of law” are to blame. The country suffers from a “mindset” that hurts the weakest and non-Hindu minorities.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), does not mince words when it comes to human rights protection and basic rights in the world’s so-called largest democracy.  For him, “the human rights situation in India is shameful”, starting with the “lack of religious freedom” and the “conditions in which the weakest groups in society live”.

The 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Award laureate said that human rights are under attack in India on a number of fronts. On the one hand, we have “torture by police” and the “collapse of the rule of law at the grassroots level”; on the other, there is the extremism by rebel and secessionist movements and “religious fundamentalism” fuelled by certain political parties.

This year’s human rights celebration is dedicated to minorities, an apt venue to reveal the situation of the country.

In India, the weakest segments of society are also the most vulnerable: Dalits, women and children. Of course, these groups are not minorities in terms of numbers but are in a minority situation as far as power and social status are concerned.

Religious minorities are another major problem. “Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right,” the PVCHR president said. However, “despite constitutional guarantees, the reality is quite different.”

India’s religious minorities are often caught between a “feudal system based on Hindu-dominated castes” and “Hindu extremist groups who are opposed to religious freedom in the country.”

For Raghuvanshi, these two problems are an expression of the same “mindset” that finds complicities or inaction among political leaders and supporters inside the security apparatus and the legal system. The holy city of Varanasi is a case in point. Here, the number of complaints filed against the police is the same as against members of the Hindu extremists group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Other examples are anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat and anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal (Orissa).

In view of this situation, Raghuvanshi calls on the authorities to “reform the police” and debureaucratise agencies like the National Human Rights Commission. Violence by Maoist rebels and religious fundamentalists should also end.

“Without changes at this level, the human rights situation in the country is bound to end in tragedy,” he said.

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