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“It is not enough to have just a politically independent India. What is also needed is to have an Indian nation where every citizen will have religious and political rights, so that every person will have equal opportunity to develop.”

– Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956)

The seminar on 30 June 2017 is going to be multidimensional in character and shall focus on major issues that affect millions of people’s human and fundamental rights.

The proposed seminar aims at identifying a number of specific areas for intervention with special attention to rights of indigenous people, Kashmir, the greatest human rights tragedy of Dalits, caste oppression and women’s rights, humanitarian aspects of Interstate rivalries and water issues.

The seminar also aims at creating awareness for human rights among all relevant stakeholders

Sub Themes:

1.  Rights of Indigenous and tribal people.     Robert Gallimore

The “tribals” (also known as the Adivasi) are India’s original indigenous people --- they are spread out all across the subcontinent and number some 700 distinct tribes, according to the Constitution. The Adivasi are believed to account for about 10 percent of India’s total enormous population.

More than half of the tribal population resides in six states: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand and Gujarat. The Northeast of India has a particularly heavy tribal element. These ancient aboriginal peoples tend to live in isolated communities in hills and forestlands, far from urban centres.

India is home to the largest population of indigenous peoples of any country in the world. Roughly a quarter of the world’s indigenous population – around 120 million people – are scattered across India, their numbers a staggering diversity of ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic situations. They range from some of the least contacted indigenous communities in the world, like the Sentinelese of the Andamans, to some of the largest, such as the Gonds and Santhals of central India. They include communities who live under conditions of extreme destitution.

At the United Nations, the government of India consistently denied existence or applicability of the concept of “indigenous peoples” to India. India had consistently opposed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations though it voted in favour at the General Assembly on 13 September 2007.

India is signatory to the ILO Convention No. 107 concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries and it has legal responsibilities for its implementation

2.   Crimes against women and lower caste people in India and South Asia    Dr Bogdan

Crimes against the historically marginalized Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC and ST) by the upper castes in India represent an extreme form of prejudice and discrimination. In India, former untouchable castes and several tribal groups continue to be subjected to discrimination, economic and social exclusion and a stigmatized identity.

These groups have been victims of crimes and atrocities at the hands of the upper castes – largely on account of their low caste identity – in the form of rape of women, abuse by police personnel, harassment of lower caste village council heads, illegal land encroachments, forced evictions and so on (Human Rights Watch, 1999).

Statistics reveal that maximum crimes against women in India are amongst the lower caste women. However equally worrisome is the fact that in recent years the crimes against women of all categories have shown rapid increase. It has become a prominent topic of discussion in India in recent years. Incidents of rape, gang rape, and insult to modesty, domestic violence, acid throwing and forced child marriages have registered sharp rise in the last five years.

Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 200 million people in India has been justified on the basis of caste. Caste is descent-based and hereditary in nature. It is a characteristic determined by one’s birth into a particular caste, irrespective of the faith practiced by the individual. Caste denotes a traditional system of rigid social stratification into ranked groups defined by descent and occupation. Caste divisions in India dominate in housing, marriage, employment, and general social interaction. The practice of “untouchability” in this modern age should not be acceptable by any nation. This practice relegates Dalits, or so-called untouchables (known in Indian legal parlance as scheduled castes), to a lifetime of discrimination, exploitation and violence, including severe forms of torture perpetrated by state and private actors in violation of the rights guaranteed by the Convention.

3. Kashmir and Human Rights    Soraya Boyd

Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory administered by India, are an ongoing issue. The allegations range from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech. The Indian army, central reserve police force, border security personnel and various militant groups have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians. A Wiki Leaks issue accused India of systemic human rights abuses; it stated that US diplomats possessed evidence of the apparent widespread use of torture by Indian police and security forces.

4. Water Issues in South Asia and Human Rights   Clive Hambidge

For many years, water has been one of the most commonly contested bilateral and multilateral issues between and among the countries of South Asia. Conflict over water has, for example, strained India’s relations with three of its neighbours: Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.

The rapid retreat of the Himalayan glaciers, increasing effects of climate change, deteriorating river ecology, and growing urbanization of the region have all impacted flows of fresh water in South Asia. India’s unilateral approach to the problem has also made maintaining good relations among South Asian countries more complex. As a result, major trans-boundary rivers including the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra, which straddle international boarders and support the lives of an estimated 700 million people, can be adversely affected without agreement with international guarantees

5. Interstate rivalries and consequences for humanity. Nick Fielding

The intra-state conflict dynamics in the region are multifarious. It is also true that most of the internal conflicts in the region are caused by the unsettled inter-state conflicts. Intra-state conflicts have long been hampering real progress in the region. The security dynamics of South Asia is very unstable as two of the world nuclear power are neighbours and have fought three wars yet the causes for trouble are not resolved.

Due to constant inter and intra-state conflicts, the influx of refugees and internally displaced people cause problems especially between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and India and Bangladesh. Insurgency, sectarian and communal violence, political instability and politically-instigated violence is also high in this region.

The region also remains at the mercy of international powers politics disturbing domestic and external policies. In general the security of South Asia greatly depends upon the stable and progressive internal environment of the states. In South Asia intra-state conflicts have amplified in the last few decades. Whether there are communal riots in India, sectarian and ethnic violence in Pakistan, rift between monarchy and the communist party in Nepal, rivalry and conflict between the main political parties in Bangladesh or the power struggle in Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal, South Asia faces regional security threats because of internal crisis and conflicts of the states..

The human cost of interstate rivalry has been felt in virtually every corner of the South Asia. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have suffered the heaviest in terms of human, economic   and societal loss in the last decade. Interstate rivalries can destabilize Governments, undermine civil society, jeopardize peace and security, and threaten social and economic development.

  • Pakistan has been accused by India of involvement in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan but Pakistan denies it vehemently and insists that specific UN Resolutions exist  on Kashmir  and moral and legal support to the Kashmiris is its abiding obligation but India is adamant to continue military occupation by well over 600,000 troops.

  • India was accused by Sri Lanka of supporting terrorism and accused Indian intelligence agency (RAW) of training and arming the Sri Lankan Tamil group LTTE.

  • India has been accused by Pakistan, for breakup of Pakistan where India trained, armed and supported Mukti Bahini a very efficient terror group and later invading East Pakistan by its military might.

  • Pakistani Government has accused Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, Afghanistan, for providing arms, training and financial aid to the BLA and Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in an attempt to destabilize Pakistan.

  • Pakistan and Afghanistan accuse each other of supporting terrorist outfits in their countries.

  • After India and Pakistan became nuclear the chances of a conventional warfare are remote and now the trend appears to be to inflict damage through terror and proxy wars. The scope of economic and human loss is very high e.g. Pakistanis claim that they lost over 66,000 civilians and security persons and over $120 Billion in the last decade. These figures are way higher than the total accumulative loss in three Indo- Pakistan wars.

  • Major Powers role in Afghanistan and South Asia andits impact on human life.