Photo credit: DiplomatTesterMan, Wikimedia Commons

IADL CONDEMNS THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT’S INCITEMENT OF
VIOLENCE AGAINST THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AND
DEMANDS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ITS ILLEGAL ACTIONS

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a non-governmental organization with consultative status with ECOSOC and affiliates throughout the world, has been closely monitoring the disturbing events, horrific violence and growing religious intolerance in India.

There is currently a major threat by the leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to subvert the secular state, which is the cornerstone of the Indian Constitution, and to deprive Indian citizens of the equality guaranteed by the constitution regardless of religion.

IADL is informed that the recent violence in Delhi was perpetrated by paramilitary groups associated with the ruling BJP party against protesters of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Horrific acts of violence were perpetrated after politicians using virulent hate speech incited assaults while police stood by with no attempt to protect those under attack.  At least one judge who tried to rebuke the police for their inaction has faced retaliation.  Lawyers trying to defend protesters have been beaten.  It  has been reported that over forty people were killed in Delhi and hundreds were injured.

This anti-Muslim sentiment has been amplified by the Modi government through various acts including (1) the revocation of the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the jailing of leaders; (2) the action of the National Citizens Registry (NRC) in stripping almost 2 million people, mainly Muslims in Assam, of their citizenship, threatening to put non-citizens in detention camps, and warning that these actions will be applied throughout the country; (3) the passage of the CAA, which fast-tracks citizenship for members of religious groups other than Muslims, who have entered India from certain Muslim-majority countries with claims of religious persecution;  (4) the incitement of violence against Muslims by the leaders of the BJP, and (5) use of anti-sedition laws to criminalize anti CAA protests.

These actions violate several provisions of international law as well as the Indian Constitution.

As to the NRC process, IADL has been informed that many of the people whose names are not on the Registry have been living in India for several decades. Many of them served in the Indian military and state government and have contributed to the Indian economy for a long time.

The right to a nationality is recognized in a series of international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The issue of nationality is also regulated by the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Both general and explicit prohibitions of arbitrary deprivation of nationality can be found in numerous international instruments. In particular, article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly provides that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality. The UN General Assembly, in resolution 50/152, also recognized the fundamental nature of the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality. Depriving people of their nationality is a flagrant violation of Indian and international law.   The directive principles of the Indian Constitution require the courts to implement Indian Law consistent with its obligations under international law.

The CAA violates the Indian Constitution as well as international law.  It allows discrimination on the basis of religion by giving access to citizenship to migrants living in India who are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but who are non-Muslim. The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees lists race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion as grounds for an individual to be recognised as a refugee.   The CAA clearly makes distinctions on the basis of religion which violates anti-discrimination principles and opens the door to more discrimination against Muslims.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which India has ratified protects the freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching and prohibits coercion which would impair this freedom.   The CAA’s discriminatory selection of religious groups for a benefit of citizenship implicates and impairs these rights.

IADL is further alarmed by reports that anti-CAA protesters are being subjected to charges under Indian anti-sedition laws which are a relic of colonial times.  The sedition provision punishes anyone seen to “excite, or attempt to excite feelings of disaffection against the government”, even though this may be by their words alone. It is a non-bailable offence, and has life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.  Article 19 of the India’s Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression.  India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political also protects freedom of expression.  Using anti-sedition laws to muzzle protestors of the CAA violates these rights which India is duty bound to uphold.

Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also requires states parties to prohibit by law any advocacy of racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. India has passed laws which have criminalized hate speech which incites violence.

Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states:

Whoever (a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, . . . shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 295(A) of the IPC states:

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.

The incitement of violence by leaders of the current BJP government is evident to the global community. The ongoing violence against the Muslim community and those who have opposed the impact of the CAA or the NRC violates both Indian Law and international law. The BJP government must end this illegal conduct and be held accountable for it.   The actions of the Indian government are not merely an internal Indian matter, the actions of the Indian government in inciting anti-Muslim hatred and violence threatens international peace and security.

IADL therefore calls upon the international community to condemn the Indian Government for fomenting violence against the Muslim community and demands accountability for the deaths and destruction the incitement has caused.  IADL further calls on the international community to demand the Indian government provide reparation and other remediation to the affected communities.