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HR groups join hands to fight assault on activists

Srinagar, May 06, 2007 (Kashmir Newz Desk) :

The human rights groups from the North East, Indian administered Kashmir and other Indian states joined hands to form a network to counter repeated assaults on human rights activists here today.

An ad hoc body ‘Asian Human Rights Defenders Network’ was floated here after a three day meet of human rights activists in Srinagar.

The activists from the North East, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir deliberated on the repeated instances of assault, obstructions and risks, human rights defenders are subjected to by the state agencies.

Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society chairman Parvez Imroz said that there was a need to create a broad-based alliance of human rights defenders to effectively counter the state reprisal.

Just a night earlier, one of the participant activists was allegedly abducted and tortured for his association with the network.

Naseer Khora, a human rights activist from the mountainous Doda district of Indian administered Kashmir, said he was abducted by five unidentified gunmen and tortured before release. Khora is also the correspondent of the Indian daily English newspaper Hindustan Times.

Showing torture marks and clipped beard, Khora claimed that he was assaulted for working with Imroz, a prominent human rights activist in the state.

“Persons working in defense of people’s rights are subjected to attacks and obstructions by state agencies in all countries. Organisations to which these activists belong and the local society, are often unable to provide adequate protection and assistance to such activists, which result in crippling human rights activism,” Imroz said.

K Balagopal of the Human Rights Forum of Andhra Pradesh said that while the troops were indulging in atrocities of all kinds, New Delhi was trying to give a contrary impression as if “the state is a teacher of human rights”.

N Babaiah of the Peoples Democratic Forum of Karnataka termed the Indian state “oppressive”. “Indian state is becoming more and more oppressive in the North East, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir. Today Muslims are being isolated in Karnataka like they were in Gujarat,” said Babaiah, recalling the ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ unleashed in Gujarat by Narinder Modi led Bharatiya Janta Party government.

He said New Delhi was conscious about its international image and human rights defenders were subjected to extreme forms of oppression.

Babloo Loitongbam of the Human Rights Alert said that the ‘Asian Human Rights Defenders Network’ would help the human rights activists stand up against the violations carried by the state on them.

“Most of the human rights defenders don’t known how much people are suffering in this corner,” Loitongbam said about the excesses committed by troops and paramilitary forces on the people of Kashmir.

He said that there was a need for reducing the number of troops in the state, which is one of most heavily militarised region in the world.

The demand for demilitarisation or the withdrawal of troops and the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which grants extra-special powers to the troops to work in conflict-regions, has already picked momentum in the state.

Even pro-India political parties like the coalition government allies in the state, Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition National Conference have stood up for the troops withdrawal and called for the abrogation of AFSPA.

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