Ubair Ul Hameed
Human rights organizations including the Amnesty International, CSW, Front Line Defenders (FLD), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), Minority Rights Group International (MRG), together with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, following up on their respective letters to the office of the HR/VP from January, have written to the representatives of the European Union including European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell Fontelles and EU Special Representative Eamon Gilmore asking them to raise concerns over the condition of human rights defenders during the EU-India Summit 2020.
The letter makes mention of the 2nd anniversary of the arrest of human rights activists in the Bhima Koregaon case which include Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, the organizations have said that the bail applications of these activists have been systematically rejected.
According to the human rights organizations, human rights defenders who peacefully protest against the “discriminatory” Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) are being arrested since December 2019, according to the letter defenders are often targetted by the ruling party, BJP and it’s supporters and is often responded with bais; the organizations have these attempts to silence dissenting Muslim Voices. While calling the UAPA and sedition law draconian, the organizations have raised concerns over the arrests of human rights defenders including Dr. Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal, Meeran Haider among many others. The letter also mentions Safoora Zargar, a woman in the 23rd month of pregnancy who recently obtained bail on humanitarian basis.
Human rights organizations according to the letter are “alarmed” by the Delhi Minority Rights Commission Chairman, Zafarul Islam Khan being booked under the “draconian” Sedition law. The organizations have called it a planned attempt to target the Muslim community during Covid 19. The letter has also mentioned human rights defenders who have criticized the government’s response towards Covid-19.
Human rights defenders from Kashmir have also found a mention in the letter, Journalists from Kashmir, Masrat Zahra, Gowhar Geelani who were recently booked under the UAPA are also one of the “concerns” of the rights organizations.
While calling the EU-India summit an important step in determining the future of the strategic partnership, the human rights organizations have asked the EU to stand firm on the commitments made in the past which are based on human rights, democracy, and rule of law. The organizations have called human rights as a paramount part of modern-day democracies.
While laying stress on the conditions of human rights and human rights defenders, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the organizations have urged the EU to ensure support to the human rights defenders in India’s abs have also asked to raise human rights concerns with India.
Ubair Ul Hameed, a student of journalism at Aligarh Muslim University is one among the editorial interns of Maktoob