NIA Objection Dismissed
Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) welcomes the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, dismissing a plea of the NIA (National Investigation Agency) which had challenged the ruling of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court to grant bail to noted human rights activist and lawyer Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj. One hopes to see Bharadwaj out of the prison soon and demand that she be granted immunity from further questioning and arrest on the same charges. No restrictions should be placed on the movements and activities of the sexagenarian activist within the country and all possible support should be made available to enable her in accessing adequate medical care for her failing health which got severely aggravated during her long stay in the prison.

The penchant of most ruling dispensations at present to view acts of dissent as anti-national activities signals a dangerous trend in a society built on democratic ideals. The nervousness of the political leadership is writ large on the high handedness meted out to trade union activists and human rights defenders on voicing concerns about the state of affairs in the nation. PBKMS condemns the brash display of fascist traits by the central government and the agencies under their jurisdiction to silence the voices of dissent. The blatant use of the sedition law and the demagoguery of the political leadership have turned the nation into a police state. Use of UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967) and related laws and section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code should be reviewed by the Indian parliament against the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. After 75 years of Independence, the nation should progress on the ideals laid out in the preamble to the Constitution and not be held back by colonial-era mindsets and an archaic criminal justice system.

PBKMS demands:

* Unconditional release of all the human rights activists and political prisoners languishing in prisons after being framed under sedition and anti-terrorism laws.

* Immediate granting of bail to the human rights activists incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon case. Jesuit priest and human rights activist Fr Stan Swamy could not even secure bail before breathing his last breath. The other aged and ailing activists should not meet the same fate.

* Revoking section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code and anti-terrorism laws that are used indiscriminately, especially by the central investigation agencies.

* Disbanding of the NIA and transferring all the cases under the central agency to the respective state police forces.
Uttam Gayen,
Swapan Gangopadhay, ,
Anuradha Talwar,

Caste discrimination in US foreign Policy
The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR), together with Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Sadhana, Boston Study Group, Dalit Solidarity Forum and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), submitted a policy memo to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labur at the US Department of State requesting the Department recognise and elevate the importance of fighting caste discrimination internationally. ICDR strongly believes that recognising and elevating caste discrimination internationally represents a fundamental human rights issue and aligns with US foreign policy goals, especially as it champions democracy and inclusion in its upcoming Democracy Summit.

Most urgently, ICDR recommended that the Department include caste discrimination within the human rights section of the White House Summit for Democracy on December 9th and 10th, as well as within the commitments that relevant national governments are expected to bring to the Summit. ICDR further recommended for action the Department take a renewed focus on caste discrimination by increasing programming and research funding to the issue, reviewing and refining existent policies—including immigration policies—to account for caste discrimination, and engage with interagency partners and non-governmental organisation partners to advance the issue.

According to recent estimates in South Asia, over 300 million Dalits are impacted everyday by caste-based atrocities, lynching, and discriminatory practices that were formally outlawed by national constitutions and international laws. Congress has already recognised that caste-based discrimination exists and is unacceptable in India and other South Asian countries. In 2007, the 110th Congress (2007-2008) passed the historic House Concurrent Resolution (H.Con. Res.139), “expressing that ‘caste-based discrimination’ is unacceptable and the United States is committed to eliminating it and ensuring the human dignity and rights of Dalits by the US government or US organisations.”
D B Sagar,
President / Founder (ICDR)

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Vol. 54, No. 25, Dec 19 - 25, 2021