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Upholding victims’ rights difficult with AFSPA in force: Activists

Agencies

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New Delhi, Dec 3: Renewing calls for scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives immunity to the military from prosecution for actions in disturbed areas, human rights activists have said that upholding the rights and interests of victims is difficult in places where such “archaic” laws are in force.

“In an environment of impunity and intimidation fostered by archaic laws such as AFSPA, truth-seeking and truth-telling is very difficult as is upholding the rights and the interests of the victims,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a non-governmental organisation headquartered in New Delhi.

“These laws defy logic and need to go,” said Hazarika, author of “Strangers Of The Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India’s Northeast”.

Hazarika was speaking at a consultation on “Potential Transitional Justice Framework for Manipur” organised by the Centre for Human Rights Studies (CHRS) and the Centre for the Study of Knowledge Systems of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) on December 1 here.

The consultation analysed the applicability of a suitable transitional justice model with a strong focus on effective transition from conflict to peace and reconciliation in the state of Manipur.

Transitional justice consists of both judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms, including prosecution initiatives, truth-seeking, reparations programmes, institutional reform or an appropriate combination thereof, according to the United Nations.

Panellists deliberated on factors which lead to the erosion of accountability in relation to human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces and insurgent groups in the region.

At the centre of the discussion was an investigation into as many as 1,528 alleged cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur.

The Supreme Court last year set up a Special Investigation Team comprising CBI officers and ordered registration of FIRs and investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings in the northeastern state.

The court had ordered the registration of FIRs in 81 cases, including 32 probed by a Commission of Inquiry, 32 investigated by judicial authorities, 11 in which compensation was awarded and six probed by a Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde.

The investigation followed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed jointly by Imphal-based Extra Judicial Execution Victims’ Families Manipur (EEVFAM) and Human Rights Alert.

Among those present at the consultation was Babloo Loitongbam, Director, Human Rights Alert, Manipur.

“We have organised the victims together and have filed 1,528 cases in the Supreme Court which is a class in itself. We started this journey six years back in 2012 by filing a PIL in Supreme Court and till now we have not seen any clear indication that justice will be done for sure,” Loitongbam said.

“We are making good progress but still seem to be as far from justice as we were when we started in 2012. It is time for us to look at the whole phenomena of this impunity, promoted by AFSPA, and its effects over a prolonged period of time,” Loitongbam said.

Speaking on the occasion, W.A.Shishak, former Chief Justice, High Court of Chhattisgarh and former Chairperson, Manipur State Human Rights Commission, stressed on the need for appointment of people with honesty, integrity and impeccable character to strengthen the Manipur State Human Rights Commission in order to address human rights violations.

“Torture, disappearances and extra-judicial killings are very serious human rights violations and each such allegation must be thoroughly investigated and justice is provided to victims or to their next of kin,” said Y.S.R. Murthy, Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights Studies, JGU.

“In this context, the situation of widows and children orphaned by conflict must be fully addressed. Our Centre is preparing a report in this regard to advance the cause of rule of law and justice,” Murthy said.


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Need to replace idea of ‘Azad Kashmir’: Mehbooba

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Dec 14: Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti Friday said there was a need to replace the idea of ‘Azaad Kashmir’ with a better one within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

Addressing a seminar ‘Kashmir – The Way Forward’ at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, Mehbooba said, “We need to replace the idea of Azad Kashmir with a better idea within the framework of the Indian Constitution. We cannot go back to 1947, we have to move forward.”

Mehbooba, who led the PDP-BJP coalition government for over two years, said governance was only possible when there is peace.

“Thank God we are living in a democracy where people are allowed to vote and not cows,” she said.

“Kashmiris are the sufferers. Till when will our people keep witnessing this farce of people getting killed? Youngsters are taking up the guns. A 17-year-old boy who played a role in Hyder movie and 14-year-old boy recently got killed after they took up the arms.”

Referring to her coalition government with the BhartiyaJanta Party (BJP) in 2014, Mufti said it was a “suicide”.

“We put everything at stake because we hoped that Narendra Modi will pick up where Vajpayee Ji had left. Unfortunately, Modi ji could not rise to the occasion. Like Vajpayee, we invited him to address a gathering of around 30,000 people in Srinagar. Instead reaching out to people, he said he did not need anybody’s advice. We (Kashmir) are sufferers. If he does not listen to us, whom will he listen to?” she asked.

She said there was a total “distrust and disconnect” between people of Kashmir and New Delhi Delhi.

“They look inwards or outwards (outside the border) for support. During the time of Vajpayee, the people of Kashmir thought of him as a leader who cared,” she said.

“Even Pakistan responded positively resulting in reduction of militancy and ceasefire. Between 2002-05, it was the golden period of Kashmir, since for the first time the CM of Kashmir and PM of India were on the same page. Even Mirwaiz Umar, Yasin Malik, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat went  New Delhi and met Vajpayee.”

She asked New Delhi to make Kashmiris its integral part instead talking only about the land.

“Vajpayee did not hand over Kashmir to Pakistan but he realised the pain of Kashmiris. But the Indian leadership is only stuck that Kashmir is an integral part of India without talking about its people. New Delhi has to make Kashmiris its integral part.”

While her party is losing more people in last few days, including former cabinet ministers, Mehbooba said she felt that SAARC countries were being held hostage to the animosity between India and Pakistan.

“For example, why can’t we have a SAARC Handicrafts University in Kashmir?” she asked.

“India is never an issue during Pakistan elections. However, that is not the case in India. It is for the country to rise up, reach the Kashmiris and find a solution. All the SAARC nations must come together and make Jammu and Kashmir a model of cooperation.”

“Unfortunately, the media which is an important stakeholder in this discussion, is only adding fuel to the fire. The shaking of fists and shouting at one another is not representative of the real Kashmir. We need to change the discourse,” she said.

 

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JK first state with explicit law banning ‘sextortion’

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Jammu, Dec 14: J&K has become first state in India to have a law explicitly banning sexual exploitation of women by those in positions of authority, having a fiduciary relationship or a public servant.

The State Administrative Council (SAC) under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik approved the‘Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018’.

The bill seeks to amend the Ranbir Penal Code whereby specific offence under section 354 E is being inserted to provide for the offence of ‘Sextortion’, said an official handout.

“Amendments are being made in section 154, 161 and Schedule of Criminal Procedure Code and section 53 A of the Evidence Act so as to bring sextortion at par with similar offences prescribed under Ranbir Penal Code and amendment is being made in Prevention of Corruption Act to amend the definition of misconduct and to provide that demand for sexual favors would also constitute misconduct within the meaning of section 5,” said the handout.

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Real Kashmir ‘ill-treated’ by Gokulam Kerala

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Kerala/Srinagar, Dec 14: Real Kashmir FC Friday said they were hurled abuses and manhandled by officials of Gokulam Kerala, who “deprived” the visitors of training facilities ahead of their I-League game in Kozhikode.

Lying third after a sensational start to their maiden season in top-flight, Real Kashmir are scheduled to face seventh-placed Gokulam Kerala at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday. Real Kashmir even threatened to pull out of the game if they are not provided police protection.

The visiting Real Kashmir issued a statement, giving the sequence of events.

“An unfortunate incident happened today morning in Kozhikode in Kerala when the coach and other members of RKFC were abused and heckled by officials of Gokulam Kerala FC,” the Kashmir club said in a statement.

“As per protocol, the home team is supposed to provide a ground two days ahead of the main game for practice. However, RKFC was deprived of that. This morning no transport was provided to ferry the team from hotel to the ground and when they managed to reach themselves, the home team officials prevented physically from entering the ground,” it added in the statement.

Real Kashmir go into the match after a thumping 6-1 win against ShillongLajong at home.

They further said, “Abuses were hurled at the team members including their coach and finally the RKFC members were asked to leave the ground and stay indoors till the match tomorrow with Gokulam Kerala FC.

“There was no team bus, no proper training ground was provided by the host Gokulam Kerala FC, which is a mandatory requirement as per the guidelines of the I-League.”

This is Real Kashmir’s first season in the I-League after winning the second division last year while this is the second season when Gokulam are playing in the competition.

“We condemn the treatment that has been met by our team members who have been asked to stay inside the hotel till tomorrow’s game.

“Our coach and staff was abused by the officials of Gokulam Kerala FC. We need police protection and assurance that none of our players or staff members will be harmed. If we feel threatened, we may not play the game tomorrow. The matter has been taken up with appropriate authorities of law enforcement agencies as well as football federation,” said Real Kashmir.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has demanded safety of the team.

“Have been told @realkashmirfcare facing numerous difficulties down south in the run up to their clash against Gokulam Kerala FC to the point where they are unsure they will be safe playing tomorrow. Request local authorities to intervene to ensure safety of players & staff”.

On their part, Gokulam Kerala FC issued a clarification and alleged “poor and irresponsible
behaviour by Real Kashmir FC.

Gokulam also took to Twitter to issue a clarification. Gokulam said that they had arranged for a bus for the club officials to the Medical College training ground — a bus they “never took” for training at Medical College.

Gokulam said that Real Kashmir invaded the EMS stadium where training a day before the match is not allowed. Gokulam also alleged that Real Kashmir officials manhandled the groundsman and used foul language.

“Today is ‘Harthal’ (Strike) organised by a political party. After a long previous night of arrangements to get the transport for both the teams, we managed to send the bus for RKFC. Medical college ground was booked for RKFCs training,” Gokulam wrote on their twitter handle.

“Before the bus arrived, RKFCs officials who are staying in a nearby hotel invaded the EMS Stadium, where training a day before the match is not allowed by any MC. To keep this in track, we refused to let them train in the EMS.

“RKFC officials stormed the FOP and manhandled the groundsman and threw his phone away when he tried to capture what Mr. Robertson and his club members tried to do.”

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