Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Comeback: 2.0

This video of a remarkable little Egyptian boy has been doing the rounds of the internet lately. It shows this twelve year old boy talking about the revolution in his country, its impact on their development, the difference between political and social development, he talks strongly about gender equality and, even as the interviewer admits to not know the meaning of the word, he explains 'fascist theocracy' and why it is ruining a nation. I, like the many who watched this video, was so impressed by the little man's intelligence, knowledge and rationality. Hell, I would give my first born girl to him in marriage! It is also particularly noteworthy that, that little boy credits his sanity to reading a lot and having brains. Just the other day, I and my boyfriend were talking about how even those few who read, do not read right. People are forever whining about crappy media that doesn't provide the necessary intellectual simulations to a needy reader, but so few take the effort to follow through on even that information that concerns them directly. Anyway, I digress. The thing is that many a times people forget what the entire point of the uprising was, and just take what they get and go back to their lives. But in the last two years of Egypt's history, it has shown a consistent demand to want to move forward, a trend previously not witnessed by our generation. We sometimes forget that while Egyptians have persistently been asking for much more and much better, they are also simultaneously struggling with the same demons of 21st century as we are. This little boy's talk of a fight for a better nation shows the determination of a people, of a generation, demanding for a healthy space to grow—socially, politically, intellectually and emotionally.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Celebrating the 'God Particle'...

...Like a boson!

With the confirmed discovery of the Higgs/ God particle, it seemed like a good enough time to restart this blog. I'm delighted that they finally have the proof of existence of all the 12 particles, including the most coveted Higgs boson, famously known as the God particle, that comprised the Standard Model - the holy grail of physicists world over. This will help them not only understand the big bang better (yes, undisputedly it did happen) but will also explain 'dark matter' that constitutes 96% of our universe. even perhaps understand parallel universes.

It is a brilliant discovery of our times and I feel very happy for team that worked on this and Peter Higgs himself, who was lucky to have had 'God' particle found during his life time; I strongly feel he should from here on be referred to as the 'messiah' particle for having led the scientist of today to it.

What I find amusing though is that it seems to be offending/ disturbing a lot of people of 'religion'. The fact that it will now scientifically refute their theories if origin, the fact that it is called 'God' particle, even the fact that hadron collider exist. As scientific probabilities of origin narrow, so does the humankind's threshold of acceptance. Lawrence Krauss' lecture on 'A universe from nothing' elaborates how incidental human existence is. He gives a very compelling argument about how our existence is matter of right circumstances at the right time. Now one may say that those circumstance were made so by a external force or God, but a non-believer (in statistical probability) can never have the faith, or the brains, to understand what is obvious. If I may, I would compare it to moss growing on bread - nobody made it happen, its existence on that piece of bread has no purpose, it means nothing more or anything less than that it was left there and with the right circumstances and time it just happen. People will argue that some 'external power' could have left the bread there on purpose, creating conditions suitable for the moss to grow. Well, like I said earlier, it requires faith (and common sense)..

Anyhoo, contrary to Krauss' theory, I believe that there exists an intelligent energy that connects us all and that energy provides a flow chart direction and collective meaning to our existence. I do not want to ever call it God because that immediately give it a whole different personality full human flaws. However, Krauss makes perfect sense when he says your life is a co-incidence - that doesn't mean that your life is meaningless just that the meaning doesn't come from a narcissistic, egoist, so called 'higher power'. It is all the more reason to make more worthwhile rather than spend it over trivial issues of religious supremacy.

So rejoice tonight - cos we are one step closer to understanding how meaningless our existences really are; and how meaningful our lives truly can be!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A Request to India: Help stop the bloodshed in Syria

It has been over four months since the beginning of largely peaceful protests in Syria calling for political reform and for the Syrian President to step down. The Syrian authorities’ response to their people’s demands has so far been brutal.

According to Amnesty International’s research, the human rights violations committed by the Syrian security forces and army since mass protests began in mid-March include unlawful killings and torture. They appear to have been committed as part of a widespread - as well as systematic - attack on the civilian population and, in some cases, to amount to crimes against humanity.

That is why Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to impose an arms embargo and to freeze the assets abroad of the Syrian President and his senior associates.

So far the UN Security Council has been silent on Syria – failing to take action to help protect peaceful dissent in the country.

Some members of the Council have introduced a resolution on Syria which could be a first step towards a referral to the ICC. However, voting on the resolution is currently blocked by six other members. We believe that, three of those six, Brazil, South Africa and India, could be persuaded to change their position with sufficient international pressure.

Brazil, South Africa and India aspire to become permanent members of the UN Security Council and, as such, we believe that they have an increasing responsibility to try to bring an end to the violent crackdown in Syria. Please sign this petition to help ensure that Brazil, South Africa and India do not shy away from their responsibilities. As an Indian you need to pressure your government to change its position. Sign here to let the government hear your voice.


Take Action Now
Send an email to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, South Africa and India urging them to join other members of the UN Security Council in supporting the current draft resolution on Syria and calling on the Syrian authorities to help bring an end to the violent crackdown in the country.

Dear Minister,

I am writing to urge you, as representatives of the governments of Brazil, South Africa and India, to support the current draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria and thereby to join other members of the Council in calling on the Syrian government to stop the use of tanks, snipers and torture to suppress peaceful dissent.

So far the UN Security Council has remained silent on the situation in Syria. This is despite reports of widespread human rights violations across the country and Amnesty International’s assessment that crimes against humanity are being committed by the Syrian security forces and army in their crackdown on dissent.

As key players in the international arena and members of the UN Security Council, India has the possibility and we believe the responsibility to change this.

I appeal to you and your governments to show leadership and to use your international influence to help stop the bloodshed in Syria and ensure accountability for abuses committed there.

Yours sincerely,

S M Krishna, Minister of External Affairs
E-mail: eam@mea.gov.in

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Press: J&K detentions used to keep people ‘out of circulation’ - Amnesty Report

On 21 March 2011, Amnesty International will launch a new report revealing how administrative detention in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is being used to detain people for years at a time, without trial, depriving them of basic human rights otherwise provided under Indian law.

A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, documents how authorities are using the Public Safety Act to secure the long-term detention of political activists, suspected members or supporters of armed groups and a range of other individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial or conviction to ‘keep them out of circulation’.

It is the first report by Amnesty International about Jammu and Kashmir since 2000.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A message from Amnesty International

Libya has witnessed horrific levels of violence in the last few days. Hundreds of innocent people have died, among them protesters who were peacefully demanding basic political and human rights reform.

Across the Middle East and North Africa region, people have taken to the streets in their thousands to demand change. In far too many cases, they have been met with bullets, shotguns, grenade launchers, riot guns, electro-shock batons, armoured vehicles and police trucks. A number of states from around the world have supplied arms to these countries. Wouldn’t it help to have a treaty that would stop arms from getting into the hands of those who will use them to commit human rights violations?

You can do something to make this happen.

At the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in March, Amnesty International will call on governments to push for a treaty that is strong enough to prevent the horrors now taking place in Libya from taking place in other countries in the future.

Help us show world governments that thousands of people like you support this. Stop arms from getting into the wrong hands.

I’m sorry, India. It’s not you, it’s me!

Of the many times that the United States of America has been accused of being hypocritically silent towards distress situations of international importance, a few have been, directed to favor India. India has more or less always been found a strong ally in the US, even more in the last few years. We are only speaking politically, of course!

The decade has seen a rise in general cynicism from the Indian public towards the US and ever encroaching people. And although it’s easy and rather affordable to purchase loyalty in India, there is a looming distrust in almost every economic stratum in the country; likewise in the United States. The Americans people have not trusted the low cost, union free and hard working Indians with their food and population problems, since the dawn of this era of capitalism. They no longer care about the Indian street cows and snake charmers. And they’ve also come to realize that the Indian food is too spicy for their taste.

They want their industries back; they want their jobs back; heck, they even want their money back. And now, after eight years of noise, they finally have a government that will listen to them, even if only in parts. It’s undeniable that some of Obama’s popularity lies in his speeches that promise to deliver the nation from India, much to the displeasure of a small but wealthy section of corporate. It’s not his fault; he has to after all, serve the interest of his people.

A break up seems to be rearing at the horizon.

So, take back your jobs, America! And take your industries as well; and while you are at it, take away your free markets, and start paying us for all the tax-free exports of products that we don’t really need. Give us our industries back, and let our producers sell their wares. Give us back our agrarian produce so we can feed our hungry, or at least pay us what it’s really worth. And how about you also start paying the bills for all the tax-free investments that lost us more jobs and earned you some more money? Also don’t forget to take back all those harmful drugs & chemical industries & research facilities, and pay up for the environmental and human resource damages they’ve caused. You can even keep Monsanto! But, we want the custody of our fine doctors, engineers &technicians, with annual support payments. Don’t think we didn’t see you flirt around with Pakistan for a while, not that we hold it against you.

It won’t be easy, it never is. This divorce, if it ever happens, will be a messy one. Makes you wish, we’d signed a pre-nup, doesn’t it? So, how about we try and sort it out between us; make a few trips to the marriage counselor’s; see other people for a while; but in the end let’s just suck it up and stay together for the kids!

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Czech Book

4th January 2011

My cheeks began to hurt from smiling so much. I would swivel my hips and jump a little every couple of minutes. The people around me were starting to stare. To them, I probably came across this desperate little Asian from an under privileged third world nation, travelling to Europe for the first time in her life. They were right.

I was at the height of every emotion; every feeling magnified; happiness, accomplishment, pride, fear, dread, excitement… I was going to Prague!

I had been accepted into an International Conference on Youth Leadership at Czech Republic and I couldn’t have been happier.

I prepared myself for the trip, the winter, the snow and meeting new people. People, from countries around the world; big and small; rich and not so rich; democratic, socialist, communist and monarchies, they would all be there.

I had so much to say, I had so many questions. I simply couldn’t wait.

5th January 11, 2011

It wasn’t best of flights to Paris. Noisy, Uncomfortable and cramped, I have definitely been on better flights in my life. My co-passenger in the seat besides me was starting to annoy me. I was irritated and a bit cranky. The excitement was long gone, replaced with a much darker emotion, an urge to punch the guy next to me square in the nose. The Euro tour hadn’t even started and I already wanted to go home. There was also this growing fear of not being able to fit in amongst some of the intellectual best from around the globe. God, what was I thinking?

My flight reached Paris Airport around six in the morning. The fear and doubts that were building inside of me vanished in the instant I saw the Eiffel tower shining from the crappy Air France window. The smile that tore across my face, stayed there for the next 5 hours. I was in Europe and I was going to make the best of it.

I had a cappuccino at a French coffee shop called Rizatta. Czech.
I had some French red wine. Cezch
I used the only two French words in my vocabulary – Merci & Si. Czech.
I was referred to as ‘Mademoiselle’. *Sigh* Czech [swoons and falls back]

My flight from Paris to Prague was much better, lifting my spirits back to its infinite peak. As we approached Czech, I could see the rusty colored, snow covered roof tops of little red, yellow and blue houses. Vast fields of pure white snow blanketed parts of the landscape. I fell in love in a heartbeat.

Much to my surprise, I was greeted at the airport by Kyril, a facilitator from the conference. Since I knew I was going to be a day early, I had booked myself into a hostel close to the conference venue and wasn’t really expecting to meet anyone from the conference till about a day later. In the events that followed later, I would be thanking my stars for running into Kyril. He helped me out with the tickets and the directions to the Sir Toby’s hostel and I set along to explore the city of Prague, armed with a bag in each hand. I stepped out of the airport into the cold. The icy winds slapped me in the face, but I smiled right back and kept on smiling, unaware of the lessons that waited.

I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but somewhere along my journey, I lost my way in this east European city, in this sub freezing temperature, with no pay phones or internet facilities in the vicinity and where neither the street signs nor people spoke English, if they spoke at all. I had lost the map with the directions to a gust of strong wind and was left wandering around in the cold by the equally cold hearted locals. I was falling out of all that love. It wasn’t till an hour and three panic attacks later that a kind couple (who understood & spoke English) helped me find my way.

I was at Sir Toby’s by 3 after noon, checked into my room, took a shower, had a cup of warm coffee, went grocery shopping, went down to their pub, chatted with some really friendly locals; now I was ready to fall back in love with the city all over again.

6th January 2011

A little shaken, but feeling more confident after yesterday’s escapades, I decided to go see the city today. I went to the old town square and joined the walking tour. For the next two hours I just walked the city by myself, admiring the buildings, their architecture, the history within them, the people and they rich culture.

The famous Astronomical clock
Charles bridge
The castle
A Jewish synagogue that looked like a mosque, marking the happier days between the two religions
Another synagogue that exhibited the paintings of the children from the Nazi concentration camps
The Kubics house
The museum of Communism
The ticker that marks the end of communist regime in Czech…

I was mesmerized by every sight, sound and smell. I tasted a lot of local food, the hot wine, the bread, the croissants and bagels. It was a pure delight and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

But I had to go. I had to be at the conference venue soon.

Later that night, I sat with my allotted group, The A-Team. A brilliantly diverse group that was more alike in so many ways. It was while before the ice was cracked, but when we reached out to another, it was home. It was here that I met some really inspiring individuals, young thinkers and visionaries I may ever cross paths with. Led by our warm & friendly facilitator Amazing Amina [yes, the ‘A’ in the A-Team has something to do with her], our group consisted of Ernesto, the ladies man; Zingy Zahan, my compatriot; Brave Bon, the super cool Indonesian who promised to take me shopping someday; Eric, the silent observer; Sporty Sonja, my newest, smartest, awesomest & coolest Serbian [not Siberian!] best friend; Awesome Alberto & Wise Wilmarie, the sweetest and the most fun Puerto Ricans; Wonderful Wendy, the super intelligent Singaporean; Sheila, exceptionally smart and enterprising Kenyan; Magical Marija, the cute Macedonian; Terrific Tory, Ravishing Rose and Liam, the sweet crazy Australians and of course, me. [I miss you all so much!]

That night I lay in bed, with the smile still carved on my face, and in a rare moment of spiritual gratefulness, I thanked the universe for making this happen.

7th January 2011 and beyond…

At breakfast I was met with colorful bright faces of people chatting merrily soaking in the flavors of the many cultures surrounding them. I eavesdropped on some of the most intellectual and some of the craziest breakfast table conversations; Right from democracy in China to why Indians don’t kiss in public and everything in between, we discussed it all in our breakfast gatherings, during lunches, dinners, bus rides, and the late nights at Tousters. I met more people with bright and shining personalities from all corners of the globe.

The cultural night, was the moment, if there was any, that I felt a change in my identity to a more integral part of a global community. The world isn’t as small a place as we make it to be. It is huge, one that engulfs within it cultures and histories of so many people, so many groups, so many individuals and their communities. The three hours of one of the most multi cultural experience of my life, concluded with a prodigious change in world views.

(Forgive me, if I repeat adjective, English includes only so many words to describe Awesomeness!)

My fellow Indian, were some of the magnificent people I met, highly opinionated Divya; the future lobbyist Zahan; Mansha, the smart little one; the pretty eyed damsel Reema [with a drinking face!] and lastly our very own Bollywood villain, Kanan. [Thank you, all]

My conversations with the Afghans changed my perspectives on what the world in that part is like, and my dear friends, believe me it isn’t as bad as they want you to believe it to be. Zulfia spoke such fluent hindi that she learnt from watching countless Bollywood films movies; and Gufhran made the most adorable Speaker to European Parliament. [I really wish to meet both of you again sooner. Thank you]

I was left spellbound by the brilliance and optimism of David, the Chinese. [You were awesome and it would be an honor to meet you once again]

Dominic, the pseudo Chinese, from Hong Kong made some of most intelligent breakfast table conversations. I wished I spent more time with. [I love Hong Kong and will be there probably really soon, and I would love to catch up with you over some long breakfast conversations!]

The Singaporeans, are definitely the next select evolution of the Human race. They are all brains, all fun, all the time. Wendy & Augustine, had all of us, super-impressed with their intelligence beyond bounds. [I miss you, Wendy!]

The Indonesians are some of the warmest, soft-spoken and the friendliest people I met. Bon, my group mate was another super-intelligent life form from this side of the world, who knows all the super shopping places in Indonesia. [Bon, I’m looking forward to that shopping trip we planned!]

Amir, the friendly Malaysian was brilliant. I really enjoyed our breakfast, lunch and dinner table conversation, specially the ones about food. [I’m really looking forward to that Malaysian food excursion, you promised!]

Amina, our facilitator, probably the most dynamic of all [sorry guys, but its true], was another beautiful person I had the fortune of crossing path with, and definitely look forward to it again.

The world is soon going to see an awesome German take over with his brilliance [yes, again]. Oliver, is by far the most sweetest and adorable German around. Period. [I’m really looking forward to meeting you again. Thank you, Oli!]

The Israelis Danielle and Dor, have left me full of awe and respect for them, specially after their questions and rebuttals at the panel discussion. [I really wish I spent more time with you, but nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing you again soon!]

The Puerto Rican, probably the liveliest from amongst us, [except Jennavive, I suppose] dancing and expressing themselves at all times. Albert was such a sweetheart and Wilmarie was another awesome friend I made there. [I miss both you guys so much!]

Ernesto, the Mexican, the ladies man.

Seren, from everywhere, was truly remarkable individual with a pretty smile and a lovely hat. [I wish we had more time to talk!]

Oh and let’s not forget the crazy crazy Australians... Liam, the ever equanimous social entrepreneur; Tory, she is such a sweet doll, with amazing intelligence and rationality [Great job on that amendment, Tor!] and Roslyn, I really hope things get better in your town! [I miss you, guys]

The Americans I met there, they were brilliant [I’m not kidding!]. Michael, Lauren, Kent & our very own Obama, Demetrius, one of the most amazing bunch, I’ve had the honor to associate with. [I hope our paths cross again. Kent, I thank you once again for helping me out with the adapter!]

The Canadians, probably the most multicultural group representing one nation was the fun bunch. Maryam, my nonexistent roomie; Sandy, the Punjabi; Jennavieve from Saskatchewan and my now most favorite person, Sonja!!

Sonja, was really from Serbia [NOT Siberia!] and is one of the most amazing people I met there. She was brilliant, funny and amazing with the map. She knew a lot about food, one of my most favorite things in the world! She had travelled and lived in over 10 countries and was a really wise and rational individual [much like me, except the travelling to ten countries part]. I had some of the loveliest conversations with her. [Sigh! I miss you so much.. can’t wait to see you again!]

And to everybody else I didn’t mention here, I still do miss and think of all of you all the time

These places eventually became our little forums for opinions, analysis or simply for being really crazy. Mac, his workshops and the gripping conversations that followed left us all touched.

The academics were very expository, but it was the people around me who made the real difference in my learning curve. These were some of the best people from their respective countries. They comprised the crème of the present youth, the catalysts to the future. These were some of the awesomest people in the world and I was sitting amongst them. We shared so much in common and yet we all represented the diversity on this planet. Each one got with them a bit of their cultures, a manifestation of where they come from, and yet here we all were in a medley of everything in the world as it should be. It was a reflection of what Utopia must be like.

Further beyond…

I am ecstatic and more. I learned so much from this experience. There is a new found clarity in my ideas and the world seems so much closer now. I have re-prioritized so much in my life since I got back. But I miss them and can’t wait to see them again. It is amazing to know I have friends waiting for me in countries across the globe, while I wait for them here in Bombay, India. The feeling is something I can’t explain; what I feel for these people that I have known for less than a week, some I didn’t even get a chance to speak with. It is unusually strong. It is mutual. It is life changing.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Convicted for Blogging - Kareem Amer

I started blogging about 4 years ago. It was around the same time they threw, the Egyptian blogger, Kareem Amer into prison. Of course, I hadn't heard of him then. I spent the next four year writing about what I thought of the world around me. I had an opinion to give and the Internet was the limit. While I was busy exercising my freedom of expression, telling the governments/ruling elites around the world, what they were doing wrong, Kareem Amer was being beaten up in the jail for having done just that.

I have often criticised the Indian government and bureaucrats for their underhanded activities that suppress the people’s right to expression, but never in my short years as an independent blogger and writer, could I have dreamt of being thrown into a jail and tortured for my opinions on national and community issues. So you can only imagine my surprise when I read about Kareem Amer's arbitrary detention beyond its due date of 5th November (Ironic!).

Kareem Amer, was convicted, in what was a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for "defaming the religion of Islam and insulting the President Hosni Mubarak" through the writings on his blog. I am trying to find the original text of the said blog post that got Mr. Amer a four year term that was ameliorate with abuse and torture at the hands of the State Security Intelligence (SSI) officers. Nevertheless, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has declared Kareem Amer's detention "arbitrary" on the grounds that being arrested for online criticism and for exercising his right to freedom of expression violated freedoms guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

To add to what is already a matter of national shame for Egypt, Kareem Amer continues to be detained by the SSI at Alexandria now even after having served his term of four years.

What's most remarkable about this whole incident is blatant arrogance of the Egyptian government. Egypt, like many small nations, has real world issues to deal with rather than spend resources trying to portray a conscience writer as a threat to national security and yet they continue to mock their people and the world with their pointless show of authority. Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Kareem Amer and also to President Hosni Mubarak, to curb the powers of the SSI.

Let us all come together in support of our brother behind bars and uphold our right to free speech and expression, simply because we can.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Press: Myanmar: Political prisoners must be freed

On the third anniversary of the violent crackdown on the “Saffron Revolution”, Amnesty International calls on the Myanmar government to immediately and unconditionally free all political prisoners arrested for their peaceful activism.

The Myanmar authorities continue to imprison over 2,200 political prisoners—more than double the number held before the August 2007 protests against sharp fuel and commodity price rises.

“While the international community, including Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours, has been calling for free, fair and inclusive elections there, the plight of thousands of political prisoners has been overlooked,” said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar Researcher.

Amnesty International believes the vast majority of those held are prisoners of conscience who are being punished merely for peacefully exercising their rights to free expression, assembly and association.

The Myanmar government will hold its first elections in 20 years on 7 November 2010 against a backdrop of political repression and systematic violence. Under Electoral Laws enacted in March 2010, no political prisoner can take part in the elections or hold membership in any political party.

International attention in recent months has focused on the power-play between the military and the government’s proxy parties on the one hand; and the armed ethnic minority groups, the National League for Democracy, and a small number of new opposition parties on the other.

“The long-standing problem of political imprisonment in Myanmar remains very much at the heart of the political impasse in the country”, said Benjamin Zawacki. “These prisoners constitute a significant part of the political opposition”.

In the largest show of public discontent against the military government in Myanmar since the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, tens of thousands of protesters—led by Buddhist monks—took to the streets in August and September 2007, demanding economic and political reforms.

The peaceful country-wide demonstrations were violently put down by the authorities in late September 2007. At least 31 (and possibly more than a hundred) people were killed—with many more injured and at least 74 disappeared—and thousands detained.

The brutal crackdown provoked international condemnation, including an unprecedented expression of revulsion and demands for change from the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Yet even as Myanmar prepares for its first elections in two decades, as part of what it calls a “Roadmap to Democracy”, it continues to repress political opposition.

“It beggars belief that the government can attempt to burnish its democratic credentials by holding elections, while it also holds more than 2,200 political prisoners behind bars and out of sight of the campaigns and polls”, said Benjamin Zawacki . “The international community should point out to Myanmar that these practices cannot be reconciled under any genuine Roadmap to Democracy”.

Political prisoners in Myanmar are held in deplorable conditions.

Many of those who took part in the Saffron Revolution, such as labour rights campaigner Su Su Nway, monk leader and activist U Gambira, and 88 Generation Student group members Min Ko Naing, Htay Kywe, Mie Mie, Ko Mya Aye and Zaw Htet Ko Ko, are in poor health. In the past two years, at least 238 political prisoners have been moved to extremely remote prisons, restricting their access to relatives, lawyers and medical care. Reports of torture and other ill-treatment are rife. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access to prisons in Myanmar since late 2005.

“On this third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, Amnesty International calls on world leaders to demand that the Myanmar government free all political prisoners at once, and ensure human rights protection throughout the elections period and beyond”, said Benjamin Zawacki.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Press: India: Urgent need for Government to act as death toll rises in Kashmir

With an increasing death toll in protests in Kashmir, Amnesty International calls on the Indian authorities to take urgent steps to ensure respect for the right to life and to investigate past killings of demonstrators by police.
With two more protestors shot dead today, Amnesty International urges the Indian government to immediately instruct the security forces not to use firearms against demonstrators. Security forces should use the minimum force necessary to defend themselves or others against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. They should not employ intentional lethal use of firearms except where such use is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
Ninety-six people have been killed since June when protests broke out in Jammu and Kashmir after the killings of three young men, reportedly by the security forces, in March. The vast majority of these killings have been at the hands of police and paramilitary forces.
An inquiry ordered by the authorities into 11 of the deaths by shooting in July has failed to make headway. Amnesty International renews its call to the government to initiate an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into all the killings. Members of the security forces responsible for excessive use of force in demonstrations should be brought to justice.
In the last week alone, at least 23 people were killed and 80 others injured in shootings by the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) paramilitary personnel. Protestors defied curfew regulations, held demonstrations and often clashed with the security personnel.
Protests in several places turned violent as demonstrators hurled stones at the security forces in the last week. Reports about threats to burn the Quran in the United States increased tensions. Demonstrators attacked two Christian schools and a hospital, burning one of the schools.
At the same time human rights activists in Srinagar told Amnesty International that on a number of occasions the security forces shot protestors who were throwing stones at them.
A number of towns in the Kashmir valley including Srinagar have been under 24 hour curfew for the last five days.
Information about these events has been restricted as a result of strict enforcement of the curfew regulations. Journalists have informed Amnesty International that, despite possessing curfew passes issued by the authorities, they have been prevented by the police and the paramilitary personnel from leaving their homes. With journalists unable to report on the situation, a number of regional television stations and newspapers have suspended their work.
Any restrictions on the rights to freedom of movement or freedom of expression imposed for the protection of public order should only be such as are necessary and proportionate for that purpose and should be consistent with the state’s other human rights obligations. In view of the key role of journalists in facilitating exercise the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive information. Amnesty International calls on the Indian authorities to ensure that journalists can obtain curfew passes and are not harassed or otherwise obstructed while carrying out their professional functions of reporting and imparting information on issues of public concern.
More public protests have been announced for 21 September by the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), one of the largest political formations in Jammu and Kashmir. This underlines the urgency for the Indian authorities to instruct the security forces not to use lethal force when dealing with demonstrations.
The demonstrations began in late May over the reported extrajudicial execution of three young men by the Army at Machil in Baramulla district. Protests increased after 17-year old Tufail Mattoo was killed by security forces in Srinagar during a demonstration on 11 June. They have intensified during repeated cycles of protests and further killings of demonstrators by security forces.
The demonstrators have raised various concerns about the lack of accountability of the security forces; the withdrawal of Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958; the removal of Army camps – along with an underlying demand of independence for Kashmir.
The AFSPA, which gives special powers of immunity to the security forces, has been in force in parts of Jammu and Kashmir since 1990. The Central Government is currently debating the withdrawal of the AFSPA from a few of its districts.
One of the key demands of the state authorities and protesting organizations, namely the withdrawal of the AFSPA, does not appear to figure in the agenda of the all-party team from Delhi scheduled to visit Srinagar on 20 September.
Under the AFSPA, soldiers are protected from any legal proceedings unless specifically sanctioned by the Central Government. This rarely happens in practice, allowing armed forces personnel to violate human rights with impunity.