eNarada, Bengaluru August 20, 2016
POINT BY POINT ACCOUNT AS TO WHAT HAPPENED IN BENGALURU
The pro-Kashmir programme organised in Bengaluru a few days ago has literally turned Bengaluru roads into a battle field between ‘intellectuals’ versus ‘patriots’.
Amnesty International, a reputed NGO had organised a pro-Kashmir programme-Broken families at United Theological College, Bengaluru on August 13.It may be recalled that BJP MLA BN Vijay Kumar (from Jayanagar constituency in Bengaluru) had started Quit India Movement to oppose the hate speech campaign in the JNU.
During the meeting, a group of Kashmiri families were invited to talk about their plight. As a last minute inclusion, a group of Kashmiri pandits were also invited. Senior journalist RK Mattoo said that it was not just Kashmiris but even Kashmiri pandits were subjected to human rights violation. When he continued to say that Indian army was one of the most disciplined force in the country, a few in the audience took objection to it and started raising slogans-“azaadi, azaadi”.
Meanwhile, as the issue turned into a “tu tu main main” contest, police had a tough time to control the crowd. Meanwhile, a few of the ABVP members started gathering outside the venue to protest and police cancelled the programme. Later, ABVP members went and filed a police complaint and an FIR was registered against Amnesty under sedition charge. As the issue hit the headlines across the country, there were pro and anti-protests over the whole issue.
Meanwhile, ABVP activists went to police commissioner’s office demanding why Amnesty International members were arrested.
However, they were not allowed and this resulted in a verbal duel between both the parties and ABVP activists were caned.
The protests by ABVP continued demanding the arrest and Amnesty asked its Bengaluru office goers to work from home.
However, the Congress-led government in the state decided not to take further action against the Amnesty International. In fact, the Home Minister G Parameshwara called Congress activists to take on ABVP members.
According to RK Mattoo, chairman of Kashmiri Hindu Cultural Welfare Trust…………
The main focus of the programme was to facilitate interaction of public with members of three Kashmiri families. Amensty International had described these three families (all of the three families were Muslim families) as victims of human rights violations committed by Indian army. I would like to make it clear that the programme was not designed to include Kashmiri Pandit families who are victims of human rights perpetrated by Islamic militants who led to brutal killing of over 800 innocent Kashmiri pandits in the valley during 1989-90 and subsequent exodus of over five lakh pandits in the valley.
It was only after a Facebook post by me on August 12th night questioning the decision of Amnesty International to keep away Kashmiri pandits from the programme that I received a call from Mrs Tara Rao, director, Amnesty International on August 13 afternoon enquiring about my FB post. I confirmed and pointed out bias and inappropriateness of the scope and nature of the programme. Then, Mrs Rao extended an invitation to me for participation in the panel discussion on August 13th evening.
In her welcome speech, Mrs Rao wrongly quoted the figures of the casualties of Kashmiri pandits and subsequent exodus and this was promptly corrected by participating alert citizens. Some of the audience strongly objected to this correction although finally Mrs Rao agreed to incorporate corrections to her statement. After her welcome, three videos representing the views of three Kashmir Muslim families were screened and members of the families were allowed to speak. The request of Kashmiri Pandits to show one video of eight minutes-“And the world remained silent” by Ashok Pandit was denied by the organisers of the programme on the pretext that the same will not fit into he already set programme.
Later during the panel discussion, I referred to the discipline and responsiveness of Indian army personnel in handling a difficult scenario where thousands of youths are misguided by propaganda unleashed by foreign elements exploiting Islamic militancy. The same section of the audience vehemently objected to positive remarks about the Indian army. Other participants strongly objected to the interference and there was chaos during the programme. My talk was interrupted and after intervention of the organisers and police personnel, the programme continued.
At end of the discussion, there was a rap music programme by a Kashmiri singer and we left the venue. A significant section of the audience remained in the hall. Within minutes of our leaving the hall, we heard loud anti-national slogans from inside the hall. We alerted the press and the police.As there have been many versions to what happened that day, we present you the 360 degree story from each stake holder’s perspective.
MC Kash Rapper said (in his facebook page), “I came to Bangalore as a Hip Hop artist from Kashmir with a lot to say and tell. However, I expected what every Kashmiri expects when he/she travels to India and to be honest, the Indian State did not disappoint. My performance was scheduled for 8 PM and even though the event was running a bit late I was categorically stopped from entering the auditorium by the Bangalore Police whose three-starred officers surrounded me and threatened me with jail if they or the Pandits present in the crowd found my lyrics “anti-national”. They grilled me for over 20 minutes and only allowed me to go inside when the time for the event was nearly up. Even then, they stood beside the stage and looked as if they were ready to pounce on me. But the Heart of a Rebel…
I felt weak. The threats and the intimidation played heavily on my mind. But then I heard the overwhelming cheers coming from the #Kashmiris present in the crowd. They gave me strength to stand as I have stood for years: never compromising with the truth. Because the Heart of a Rebel … As soon as I held the mike, the MC in me became one with my people. The first words I spoke? “Rest in Peace, Inayat. I do this for you.” Because the Heart of a Rebel never forgets. I asked the Bangalore crowd to mourn alongside Kashmiris and to observe a moment’s silence for what is currently happening in Kashmir. And then, Heart of a Rebel …
The Bengaluru Police then ordered the sound guys to cut off the mike and the music as soon as the beat to my second song had begun. I felt the anger, not because it was humiliating, but because this is how India treats genuine Kashmiri voices. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young artist hoping to narrate stories or a victim of Indian oppression hoping to find receptive ears of solidarity in India. If the fascists don’t stop you, the police will. And the good people, who can at least feel a degree of empathy, will vehemently sit scared and quiet. And that is bullshit. Where is the indignation? I went off stage, angry. The first Indian I encountered on the way, two ladies sitting together, I looked at them and screamed, “This is bullshit!”
After that, the place went in flames. #Azadi reverberated in the air. I saw one of the three-starred officers waving his finger at me, charging towards me in anger and screaming, “You did this. You’re going to jail now.” And then another officer joined and grabbed me by my shoulder. That is exactly when Kashmiris formed a circle around me. We hugged and shook hands and smiled.
According to Bangalore City police………….
On 13-08-2016, Amnesty International India organised a cultural programme and interactive discussion of peace and justice in Kashmir called “Broken Families” by inviting three families from Jammu & Kashmir who were to share human rights violations faced by them with the rest of India. This event is supposed to be part of a three-city tour of select families, covering Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. The programme was organized in United Theological College, Benson Town, Bengaluru, from 7.00 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Since it was an indoor function, police permission was neither sought nor given. But, since it was brought to the notice of police, certain police persons were deployed during the function. During the course of the function, it appears that some argument took place among the members of the audience regarding the action taken by Indian army in Kashmir.
Later towards the end of programme, a group of persons who were among the audience raised slogans seeking ‘Azadi’. When the situation was getting volatile, the organisers suspended the programme and the police present there dispersed the people gathered.
On the same day, one Shri. Jayaprakash, Organising Secretary, Akhila Bharathiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bengaluru, gave a written complaint alleging that certain representatives of Amnesty International India and certain participants of the cultural programme and certain others (as seen in the video footage that was submitted by them) had indulged in anti-national songs and slogans and criticized the role of Indian army. The complainant demanded legal action against such persons. After obtaining legal opinion, an FIR was registered on the complaint given by Sri. Jayaprakash on 15-08-2016 in J.C. Nagar P.S. u/s 142, 143, 147, 124A & 153A r/w 149 IPC against the representatives of Amnesty International India and others and investigation was taken up.
In view of the contents of the complaint, investigation of the case has been entrusted to the Asst. Commissioner of Police, J.C. Nagar Sub-division. During the course of investigation, all possible evidence including video footage will be collected and examined and appropriate legal action will be taken against the perpetrators of the alleged offence.
According to BJP state unit president BS Yeddyurappa…
“It is a cruel irony that police have resorted to lathi charge on patriotic students who were shouting nationalistic slogans but let off those who shouted anti-national slogans.I urge the police to identify the individuals who shouted anti-national slogans and file FIR against them. ABVP is right in all respects to protest against anti-national elements. They were protesting peacefully. The students had not taken law into their hands. Resorting to lathi charge was wrong. The police should immediately tender an unconditional and unqualified apology. I express my solidarity with the ABVP. BJP, along with all right thinking people and nationalist forces, is determined not to allow any varsity or educational institution in Karnataka to become another JNU, where anti-national slogans were shouted with impunity.”
According to Home Minister G Parameshwar
“I feel that Amnesty has not done anything wrong that is seditious. If you look at the recent Mahadayi protests at Yamanur, there were losses, and similarly after Kashmir protests, there were losses. But, ABVP is politicising the issue and creating trouble.”
According to Amnesty International India
Amnesty International India’s response to complaint filed by ABVP On 15 August, a First Information Report was reportedly registered against Amnesty International India with regard to an event held on 13 August, based on a complaint filed by an ABVP representative. The allegations mentioned in the complaint are without substance. They are preventing the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir from having their stories heard. And preventing civil society organisations from enabling these families to exercise their constitutional right to justice.
Amnesty International India’s 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 the Constitution of India. We are independent of any political, economic or ideological interests.
The event was held as part of a campaign based on the report “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”, published in July 2015, and publicly available. The report documents the obstacles to justice faced in several cases of human rights violations believed to have been committed by Indian security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. It focuses particularly on Section 7 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA), which grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution in civilian courts for alleged human rights violations. The report was based on in-depth research in Jammu and Kashmir, including interviews with family members of victims, Right to Information applications, examination of police and court records, and interviews with civil society groups, lawyers, and government officials.
The families of three Kashmiri victims that were interviewed for the report were invited to share their stories at the event. Below is a point-by-point rebuttal to the allegations raised in the complaint.
1) “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.” 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. Video footage of the event which was recorded by Amnesty International India has been shared with the police.
2) “Sindhujaa Iyengar, Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi…delivered anti-national speeches against soldiers.” 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 families who attended the event spoke of their own personal stories of loss, as per the programme of the event. One of the families who attended the event was that of Shahzad Ahmad Khan, 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 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.
3) “Slogans were raised that Indian Kashmir should be part of Pakistan.” No Amnesty International India employee shouted any slogans at any point.
4) “The event indirectly supported terrorists.” 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.
5) “The event…indirectly supported Pakistan and the ISI.” 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.
6) “When ABVP activists tried stopping the attack, people tried to assault them.” No Amnesty International India employee was involved in any form of assault against anyone. Towards the end of the event, some of those who attended raised slogans, some of which referred to calls for ‘Azaadi’ (freedom). Amnesty International India as a matter of policy does not take any position in favour of or against demands for self-determination. However, Amnesty International India considers that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate political solutions
Amnesty International India had invited the Bengaluru police to be present at the event, in the interest of the security of the invited families and other attendees. We have shared our footage of the event with the police.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled on multiple occasions, notably in the case of Kedar Nath Singh versus State of Bihar that speech would amount to sedition only if it involved incitement to violence or public disorder. The court ruled: “[C]riticism of public measures or comment on Government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.”
In the case of Shreya Singhal versus Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled: “‘Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of [the right to freedom of expression].” It stated that the right could be restricted “only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement”.