Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Henri Tiphagne from India

Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Henri Tiphagne from India

Award ceremony to be held on April 25 at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin,Germany

BERLIN, 25 JANUARY 2016 – Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne will be awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award, which will be presented at an official ceremony on April 25 at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many
decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“Henri Tiphagne and his organisation People’s Watch, while fighting to ensure the rights of others, are themselves being harassed and hampered in their work by the authorities. And there are other civil society organisations in India that are in a similar position. The award is therefore meant to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement,” adds Selmin Çalışkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany. Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations in India. People’s Watch has been
researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.

In recent years, many organisations have come under intense pressure by the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organisation’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012. This meant that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes needed to be abandoned. The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign
Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending. The same legal framework is being instrumentalised for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organisations as well as activists and local protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions to make way for new coal mining projects.
Whenever activists and organisations are forced to limit the scope of their work due to this kind of harassment, human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are under threat. The Human Rights Award is presented by Amnesty Germany every two years in recognition of individuals or organisations campaigning for human rights under very difficult conditions. With the award, Amnesty International aims to honour and support the awardees’ exceptional human rights commitment and raise awareness of their work amongst the German public. The award is endowed with 10,000 Euros, provided by Amnesty Germany’s foundation Stiftung Menschenrechte, Förderstiftung Amnesty. The Human Rights Award
will be presented for the eighth time in 2016. Former award recipients include: Monira Rahman from Bangladesh (2006), Women of Zimbabwe Arise from Zimbabwe (2008), Abel Barrera from Mexico (2011) and Alice Nkom from Cameroon (2014).
Henri Tiphagne will be coming to Germany several days ahead of the award ceremony in April and will be available for interviews. For more information about Henri Tiphagne’s personal background and the situation in India please contact the Press Office of Amnesty Germany.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Chhattisgarh: Seeking Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission’s intervention in respect of continued incarceration, persecution and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders, Mr. Somaru Nag and Mr. Santosh Yadav of South Chhattisgarh by Chhattisgarh police and administration.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Chhattisgarh: Seeking Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission’s intervention in respect of continued incarceration, persecution and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders, Mr. Somaru Nag and Mr. Santosh Yadav of South Chhattisgarh by Chhattisgarh police and administration.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action– Uttarakhand: Brutal physical assault, illegal arrest and detention of a pro bono lawyer, human rights defender and president of Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, Mr. P C Tewari and his colleagues, by the goons of Jindal Group in Nainisar village, district Almora of northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action– Uttarakhand: Brutal physical assault, illegal arrest and detention of a pro bono lawyer, human rights defender and president of Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, Mr. P C Tewari and his colleagues, by the goons of Jindal Group in Nainisar village, district Almora of northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Seeking Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission’s intervention in respect of 27-year-old Dalit PhD. scholar and student human rights defender Mr. Rohith Vemula, a member of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), who died at the University of Hyderabad campus on January 17, 2016.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Seeking Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission’s intervention in respect of 27-year-old Dalit PhD. scholar and student human rights defender Mr. Rohith Vemula, a member of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), who died at the University of Hyderabad campus on January 17, 2016.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Tamilnadu – Mr. Jonas Anton Pulendrarasa – Case of physical assault and ill treatment of Mr. Jonas Anton Pulendrarasa, a French national of Sri Lankan Tamil origin and a PG student of International Relations at Madras University by Madras University teaching and non teaching staff for raising questions about flood relief operations at a seminar organized by the educational body

 HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Tamilnadu – Mr. Jonas Anton Pulendrarasa – Case of physical assault and ill treatment of Mr. Jonas Anton Pulendrarasa, a French national of Sri Lankan Tamil origin and a PG student of International Relations at Madras University by  Madras University teaching and non teaching staff for raising questions about flood relief operations at a seminar organized by the educational body

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Rajasthan: RTI activists and human rights defenders from Soochana Evam Rozgar Ka Adhikar Abhiyan, Rajasthan and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan were brutally assaulted / denied of their rights to freedom of free assembly/association and right to protest on 16 January 2016 in Aklera Block in Jhalawar district of Rajasthan

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Rajasthan: RTI activists and human rights defenders from Soochana Evam Rozgar Ka Adhikar Abhiyan, Rajasthan and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan were brutally assaulted / denied of their rights to freedom of free assembly/association and right to protest on 16 January 2016 in Aklera Block in Jhalawar district of Rajasthan

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action– Odisha: RTI activist and human rights defender, Mr. N. A. Saha Ansari, Vice President, Community Radio Association of India was physically assaulted in Konark, district Puri of Odisha.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action– Odisha: RTI activist and human rights defender, Mr. N. A. Saha Ansari, Vice President, Community Radio Association of India was physically assaulted in Konark, district Puri of Odisha.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Uttar Pradesh – Mr. Tanveer Ahmed Siddiqui: Case of ill treatment, verbal abuse and physical assault on RTI activist and human rights defender Mr. Tanveer Ahmed Siddiqui allegedly by the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissioner, Mr. Arvind Singh Bisht for demanding information through Right to Information Act in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Uttar Pradesh – Mr. Tanveer Ahmed Siddiqui: Case of ill treatment, verbal abuse and physical assault on RTI activist and human rights defender Mr. Tanveer Ahmed Siddiqui allegedly by the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissioner, Mr. Arvind Singh Bisht for demanding information through Right to Information Act in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Uttar Pradesh – Dr. Sandeep Pandey, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Harassment and intimidation of a social activist and human rights defender Dr. Sandeep Pandey by arbitrarily and prematurely terminating his teaching contract on frivolous grounds such as being a “Naxalite”, engaging in “anti-national” activities by the authorities of IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Uttar Pradesh – Dr. Sandeep Pandey, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Harassment and intimidation of a social activist and human rights defender Dr. Sandeep Pandey by arbitrarily and prematurely terminating his teaching contract on frivolous grounds such as being a “Naxalite”, engaging in “anti-national” activities by the authorities of IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?

Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?

Pushkar Raj*

The Bombay high court judgment cancelling Prof. Sai Baba’s bail and initiating contempt proceedings against the writer Arundhati Roy is a major blow to the human rights defenders in the country.

Dr. Sai Baba was arrested by the police in 2014 for allegedly indulging in maoist activities. He was charged under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and later denied bail. In an article in a magazine Arundhati Roy had questioned the manner of arrest of the professor and grounds on which he was denied bail. She had criticized the courts in the country for following different set of rules while granting bail depending on person’s ideology and proximity with the government of the day.

Dr. Sai Baba organized and participated in the meetings in the capital that highlighted the misery of the indigenous population who face displacement and crisis of survival in light of the governments’ big project centric development agenda. Arundhati Roy stressed that Dr. Sai Baba is primarily a human rights defender who should be treated humanely in light of his 90 per cent disability and the jurisprudence principle of presumption of innocence till proven guilty.

Ideally the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should have come out in support of activists like Dr. Sai Baba. However, its record for defending the HRDs, despite having a dedicated cell for this purpose, has been dismal for various reasons. Therefore, the burden of speaking on the behalf of people like Dr. Sai Baba has fallen on the shoulders of the civil society in the country.

However, the civil society organizations too require support of the writers, artists and intellectuals to lend weight to their voice, especially when the present government, erroneously, treats the rights based human rights activities in the country as an anathema to its development and ideological agenda.

As a writer, one would assume, Arundhati Roy may feel that branding people naxalites and then treating them inhumanely before their guilt is proven is an outrageous practice in a constitutional democracy. In the outlook article which is the subject of ‘interference in administration of justice’ charge against her, the writer puts her perspective with her own set of arguments. These arguments may be right or wrong. The judgment of the court castigates the writer’s right to hold that perspective or opinion which is a disturbing trend.

It is a matter of concern that the contempt proceedings against Arundhati Roy, might serve as a warning to the writers and thinkers of the country to stay away from the public issues. Already, a section of the government has vilified a large number of writers because they dared to voice against encouraging and growing intolerance in the Indian society.

Any kind of threatening message coming from any branch of the government on thought and its expression is an erosion of our constitutional values and detrimental to the interest of our society. The writer, as Chinua Achebe, doyen of African literature, argued, creates the values of a society. When we silence the writer, we create a value vacuum in the society, i.e., a breeding ground for the mob driven justice and fascism.

The Bombay high court judgment is regrettable that it has come from an institution- the judiciary- that the writers and HRDs of the country look up for protection of their life and civil liberties. Several of courts’ landmark judgments preserved and expanded the rights of the individual rather than shrinking them.  In that light, the Bombay high court bench judgment is an exception.

The present case is sure to go to the Supreme Court. One hopes that it will be reviewed and nullified in the interest of civil liberties and constitutional values of the country.

********

*Pushkar Raj is an independent writer based in Melbourne (Australia). Earlier, he taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India.