Shailesh Subramanian exposes the double standards of Human Rights Activists

human rights activists army

Every other day, we hear various self proclaimed human rights activists issue statements that the Indian army must show restraint while dealing with pro-separatist elements in Kashmir. These activists have gone out of their way to establish the ‘atrocities’ committed by our army on these supposedly peaceful protestors. Even the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was criticized by these activists and their claim is that dialogue with the pro-separatists is the only way forward to restore peace in the region.

There has been a lot of debate over the use of pellet guns that have resulted in a lot of protestors losing their eyesight. In this backdrop, Amnesty India, a human rights campaign group, held a public meeting in Bangalore with the intention of raising public awareness about the abuses of the Indian security forces in the Kashmir Valley. During the event to hold the Indian security forces accountable for the extra judicial killings, some of the participants started raising Azadi slogans and thereby a sedition charge has been raised against Amnesty International.

Whenever any terrorist gets killed or is awarded the capital punishment, we hear voices by these activists calling for abolishment of capital punishment. The argument cited by them is that sentencing someone to death denies him the right to life, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They go further to state that death penalty is irreversible and there are chances of mistakes whereby an innocent person is wrongly awarded the death penalty. Also, they say that the death penalty can be discriminatory, whereby people belonging to poor or racial and religious minority would be targeted.

When Yakub Memon was hanged, well-known and eminent personalities across the country submitted a petition to President Pranab Mukherjee to request him to consider a mercy plea against the execution of death sentence. People who endorsed this petition included Brinda Karat, Shatrughan Sinha, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Naseeruddin Shah, Tushar Gandhi among others. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is a well known critic of the capital punishment. They did their best to stop the death penalty, but the penalty was upheld by the President and Yakub Memon is now no more. Nobody can forget the headline in Indian Express after the hanging, which said: And they killed Yakub.

We saw the human rights activists go berserk when Lashkar operative Ishrat Jahan was killed in an encounter. Ishrat Jahan was given the task of assassinating the then CM of Gujarat Narendra Modi by the LeT and this was intercepted by the local police, who then killed her and her associates in an encounter.

There have been various other occasions when the human rights activists have fought against what they perceive as extra-judicial killings. Are these human rights activists right in their arguments? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?

The activists are required to look at things completely instead of a one-eyed approach. They have spoken at length about the sufferings of the pro-separatist protestors, but why not think about the sufferings of our army personnel and the conditions they work under? Pelting stones at the army personnel has been going on for a few days now.

There are a lot of misguided teenage boys in Kashmir throwing rocks at the police and paramilitary personnel to protest the killing of Burhan Wani. Make no mistake, Burhan Wani was no martyr. He was an Islamist terrorist responsible for the death of many innocent civilians and got what he deserved. These stone pelters are supported and organized by the likes of Asiya Andrabi, chairperson of the Jihadi pro-separatist outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat and Hafeez Sayed.

Now when stones and rocks are being thrown at them, do the activists expect the army personnel to just stand there and take blows? There has been a lot of criticism over the use of pellet guns, which is supposed to be the most non lethal weapon. If pellet guns are banned, the security personnel will have no option but to fire bullets and this can cause more fatalities. One point to note here is that pellet guns were first introduced during the Congress-NC regime in 2010 and now, Congress and NC are the most bitter critics of the use of pellet guns.

Can the human rights activists suggest any better option of containing these anti-social elements? Do our army personnel not have a right to live? Are they not supposed to defend themselves when they are being attacked?

Why do the activists assume that human rights violations are done only by the state actors and why does violence against the state not count as human rights violations?

Anyone who says that the state is supposed to hold higher standards of behavior and thereby show mercy is living in a utopian and unrealistic world. Violations by the non-state actors far outweigh the violations done by the state. Any form of violence is unfortunate, but when the security forces are being attacked ruthlessly, they are left with no other option but to retaliate. It doesn’t matter if the attacker is the son of a school headmaster or if he is a misguided teenager disenchanted with India. When an army man is being attacked by these pro-separatists, his right to life warrants him to retaliate back and this should not be seen as a human rights violation. It is extremely unfortunate that in all this, innocent civilians are getting injured. But the blame for this should be placed on people like Asiya Andrabi and not on our security forces.

Coming to the death sentence, the human rights activists seem to only be concerned about the rights of terrorists like Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab. Why not spare a thought for all those innocent people who lost their lives because of these terrorists? When these terrorists don’t have value for human life and kill people aplenty, why do human rights suddenly become so important and valuable when they are at the receiving end?

Activists will argue that this thought process is all about retribution. Yes, it is about retribution. Some amount of retribution is required to keep things in place and preventing people to take laws into their own hands. Forgive and forget sounds great on paper, but for society to not sink into lawlessness, retribution is required. Have the human rights activists for once thought about the cost that was incurred to keep Ajmal Kasab alive for 4 years? The estimated cost to keep him alive was somewhere in the region of 50 crore rupees. This involved special security at the Arthur Road jail, expenses on judicial officers, special public prosecutor and special security cover for the judge and lawyers associated with the case.

For a developing country like India where there is still poverty, is it worth spending so much money to keep a terrorist safe? The argument by the activists that the death penalty can be discriminatory against the poor and the religious and ethnic minorities does not hold good for a democracy like India, where the rule of law is expected to operate and the accused are given sufficient chances to prove their innocence. Death penalty must be retained for the rarest of rare crimes and there is no point in keeping people who have committed grave crimes alive.

The human rights activists must let go of their regular rhetoric of how important human life is and how people who have committed various crimes must be dealt with compassion and reforming them is the way forward. In the stone age of today, these concepts are highly impractical and unrealistic. On the contrary, the need of the hour is stricter laws in India to stop people from committing crimes. Retribution is not a bad quality after all and terrorists and rapists must be punished adequately and quickly. As far as Amnesty International is concerned, what happened in the meeting does not amount to sedition, but then Amnesty must seriously introspect their stand and think of the situation in totality.