Amnesty International Issues Rebuttal to Sedition Charges
Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
At the Broken Families Journey for Justice event on August 13 in Bangalore / PTI, via the Wire
Amnesty International India, which was booked in a case of “sedition” and “promoting enmity” by Bengaluru police on Independence Day, has issued a detailed rebuttal of the allegations levelled against it. The organisation was booked for putting together an event on the violation of human rights experienced by families from Jammu and Kashmir.
The organisation has said it is independent of any political, economic or ideological interests, stating that its vision is for every person in India to enjoy the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights standards and those guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Amnesty said the allegations levelled against it were baseless, pointing out that three of the families interviewed for a report titled, “Denied: Failures in Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Security Force Personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”, published in July 2015, were invited “to share their stories at the event”.
Giving a “point-by-point rebuttal” to the allegations raised in the complaint, Amnesty said the first allegation was that “Sindhujaa Iyengar, a political science lecturer at a private university in Bengaluru, Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi sang anti-national songs and raised anti-national slogans.”
To this the organisation responded saying, “Sindhujaa Iyengar is an employee of Amnesty International India. She was not present on stage at any point during the event. Seema Mustafa is a senior journalist. She moderated a discussion with affected families at the event. Neither of them sang any songs or raised any slogans at any point. The only musical performance was a song by Roushan Illahi (also known as MC Kash) at the end of the event, about growing up amid violence in Kashmir.”
Amnesty also said that the video footage of the event, which was recorded by it, had been shared with the police.
On the allegation that “Sindhujaa Iyengar, Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi… delivered anti-national speeches against soldiers”, Amnesty India said, “The only speech delivered at the event was by Amnesty International India’s Programmes Director, Tara Rao, which referred to allegations of human rights violations by security force personnel. These allegations are laid out in detail in Amnesty International India’s 2015 report, and have been widely reported and discussed. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is part of the current ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, had welcomed the recommendations of the report when it was published.”
The organisation also stated that the families who attended the event spoke of their own personal stories of loss, as per the programme of the event. One of the families which attended the event was that of Shahzad Ahmad Khan. He was one of the men killed in the Machil extra-judicial execution, for which five security force personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Amnesty International India said it had also invited R.K. Mattoo, a representative of the Kashmiri Pandit community in Bengaluru, to speak about the human rights violations faced by members of the community.
On the charge that “slogans were raised that Indian Kashmir should be part of Pakistan,” it said, “no Amnesty International India employee shouted any slogans at any point” but did not comment on others present at the venue.
On the charge that “the event indirectly supported terrorists”, Amnesty India said, “the only discussion at the event was about allegations of human rights violations and the denial of justice to families in Kashmir. These are issues that have regularly been discussed in the media. They have been written about at length by members of Parliament, politicians, judges and civil society. In July 2016, the Supreme Court, in a ruling relevant to the issues discussed at the event, stated that the armed forces do not enjoy impunity for human rights violations.”
As for the charge that “the event … indirectly supported Pakistan and the ISI”, it said, “the focus of the event was squarely on allegations of human rights violations and the denial of justice in Jammu and Kashmir. Amnesty International has worked extensively on human rights violations in Pakistan, including the enforced disappearances and unlawful killings of political activists in Balochistan, violations by security forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and violence against journalists by groups including the ISI.”
Rebutting the allegation that “when ABVP activists tried stopping the attack, people tried to assault them,” it said, “no Amnesty International India employee was involved in any form of assault against anyone.” Again it did not comment on the conduct of others at the venue.
Towards the end of the event, the organisation did admit, as it had stated in its statement on Monday as well, that “some of those who attended raised slogans, some of which referred to calls for azaadi (freedom).”
Amnesty International India said it “considers that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate political solutions.”
First published in the Wire. Also see this song by MC Kash:
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