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STATE WATCH

For Amnesty International, the greatest responsibility for the preservation of human rights would seem to rest with the state. The organization’s report unambiguously indicts the “state and non-state” actors in India for eroding the right of minorities to equality. The Gujarat riots comprise a major focus in the report’s discussion of India. There is not only an allegation of a nexus between the state administration and the rioters, but also direct criticism of the role of the chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in the carnage. This is not the first time that the Gujarat administration and Mr Modi have been accused of complicity. Independent reports, both from within the country and from foreign observers, have concluded that without the active role of the state administration, the carnage in Gujarat would not have been possible. These reports have been trashed by the Gujarat government and, more alarmingly, have made no difference to the people who voted Mr Modi and his men back into power. A nightmarish logic would suggest that the reports have actually bolstered their faith in him. Amnesty International’s report hits the same nail on the head, but that too is neither here nor there. The report also criticizes the passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and projects India as a country that allows the persecution of minorities, Dalits and tribal people. It is shameful that India’s ideal of secularism and equality should look so tattered to observers from outside.

Human rights abuses caused by terrorism appear secondary to state aggression in the report, whether in relation to India or the global scenario. For Amnesty International, the United States of America’s “war on terror” has not made the world a safer place. Instead it has increased abuses in the name of state security and undermined international law. As an example of flagrant violation of rights, the detention without charge or trial of hundreds of prisoners from the war in Afghanistan, especially in Guantanamo Bay, has been cited. The report expresses alarm that Iraq might go the way of Afghanistan and regrets that media focus on these two countries has shifted attention away from abuses in Congo, Burundi, Chechnya and other places. Implicit in the fierce criticism mounted against the US and the United Kingdom for their roles after 9/11 is the principle of responsibility. Might cannot establish its superiority by violating human rights, but only by protecting them. Indians may have something to think about in the indirect connection thus established between Iraq and Gujarat.

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