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At UNGA, Sushma slams Pak for promoting terror, calls for global action

With the General Assembly now headed by a woman, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, Swaraj recalled that its first woman president was Vijayalakshmi Pandit.



Sushma Swaraj

United Nations, Sep 29 (IANS) In her speech to the General Assembly that shined a spotlight on Pakistan’s complicity with the “demon of terrorism”, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj warned on Saturday of a “conflagration” if the world does not act against terrorists and their supporters.

Her speech in Hindi gave an overview of the domestic and global concerns of India, that listed terrorism and climate change as the two biggest existential threats to the world.

With an eye on the domestic audience — a component of many leaders’ speeches — she listed the various development programmes of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s government, melding them with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Striking a note of internationalism as a symbol of the global role India seeks, she began her speech offering help to Indonesia, which took a double-hit on Saturday from both an earthquake and tsunami.

With the General Assembly now headed by a woman, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, Swaraj recalled that its first woman president was Vijayalakshmi Pandit.

In a scathing attack on Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorists, she said, “The demon of terrorism now stalks the world, at a faster pace somewhere, a slower pace elsewhere, but life-threatening everywhere.”

“In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west,” she added.

“The killers of 9/11 met their fate; but the mastermind of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity.”

She accused Pakistan of “duplicity” and “hypocrisy,” citing the shelter it gave Osama bin Laden.

She called for going beyond listing terrorists for sanctions by the UN and taking on their protectors, a direct reference to Pakistan.

To decisively act against terrorists and nations protecting them, she said, “Each year, for last five years, India has been arguing from this podium that lists are not enough to check terrorists and their protectors. We need to bring them to accountability through international law.”

Swaraj called accusations by Pakistan that India was “sabotaging the process of talks” between them “a complete lie.”

“We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes,” she reiterated.

Many Indian governments under different parties tried to hold talks and pursue a peace process, but “if they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour,” she said.

“Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed,” she asked.

She hit back at Pakistan’s criticism of India’s human rights record saying that Islamabad throws “the dust of deceit and deception against India in order to provide some thin cover for its own guilt.”

“Those who take innocent human lives in pursuit of war by other means are defenders of inhuman behaviour, not of human rights. Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents,” she said.

She recalled Pakistani debacle last year when its Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi displayed a picture at the General Assembly of an injured Palestinian girl claiming she was a Kashmiri.

She called for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which was proposed by India in 1996 and has been stalled because of UN members can’t agree on a definition of terrorism.

While India has risen to meet the challenge of climate change, she said that the developed countries bore a special responsibility. “Those who have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot abdicate their responsibilities. If we have to save the world from the adverse effects of climate change, then developed nations must lift the deprived with financial and technical resources,” she said.

She noted the recent announcement of the UN Champions of the Earth award to Modi and spoke of the International Solar Alliance launched in cooperation with France and based on his concept of “One Sun, One Grid.”

She issued a warning to the UN that it was headed the way of the League of Nations, the failed international organisation that preceded it, if it did not reform and spiraled into a meltdown.

One of the major reforms that New Delhi has been advocating is remaking the Security Council to make it more representative of the contemporary world by expanding its permanent membership to include India.

“India does not believe that the United Nations should become the instrument of a few at the cost of the many,” she said.

Swaraj said, “The United Nations must accept that it needs fundamental reform. Reform cannot be cosmetic. We need to change the institution’s head and heart to make both compatible to contemporary reality. Reform must begin today; tomorrow could be too late.”

To reach the UN’s sustainable development goals, she said India had launched a massive collection of programmes and gave an assurance that it would reach the UN’s vision.

She listed what she described as the biggest programmes in the world: Jan Dhan Yojana for financial inclusion; Ayushman Bharat health insurance, and the housing scheme to ensure a home for everyone, as well as skills development, and Mudra entrepreneurship plans.

She said that by 2022 — the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence — Modi wanted a clean, healthy, prosperous, secure, educated, developed, energised and strong nation and listed more of India’s development initiatives.

Referring to the many warnings during the current session that multlateralism was ebbing, she declared, “We will never weaken the multilateral mechanism.”

Offering a novel solution for the UN, she said that “India believes that the world is a family” and it “must be based on the principles of the family. The UN cannot be run by the I, it only works by We.”

“A family is shaped by love and is not transactional; a family is nurtured by consideration not greed; a family believes in harmony not jealousy,” she added.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)


Deputy Collector held for torturing wife in Odisha

The official and his associates allegedly thrashed her and brandished a gun threatening to kill her.





Bhubaneswar, Sep 29 : A Deputy Collector posted in Odisha’s Boudh district has been arrested for allegedly torturing his wife, police said on Tuesday.

Jharsuguda Town police arrested the Deputy Collector Sarat Bag after his wife lodged a complaint against her husband.

She also accused Bag of having an extramarital affair with a girl.

The complainant alleged that she had caught her husband red-handed with a girl inside a house.

The official and his associates allegedly thrashed her and brandished a gun threatening to kill her.

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‘Human Rights Cannot Be An Excuse To Defy Law Of The Land’: MHA Responds To Amnesty International

“A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without the MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions,” the MHA said.



Amnesty International

New Delhi, Sep 29 : The stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday.

The MHA issued a statement after Amnesty International through a statement earlier in the day announced that it has halted its operations in India, saying it had to let go of its staff after its accounts were frozen earlier this month as part of what it called a “witch-hunt” by the government over its adverse reports.

The MHA said that Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago on December 19, 2000.

Since then, the ministry said, the global human rights watchdog, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per the law it is not eligible to get such an approval.

However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amount of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as foreign direct investment (FDI), it said.

“A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without the MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions,” the MHA said.

Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the MHA said the previous government had also rejected its repeated applications to receive funds from overseas.

“This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations,” the MHA statement said.

It added that all the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of the laid down Indian laws.

“Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years,” the ministry said.

The MHA also said that Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations. However, it also clarified that India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations.

“This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well,” the MHA said.

The ministry further said that India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate.

Claiming that the people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government, the ministry said, “Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.”

According to officials in the Home Ministry, the organisation “got money into India through the FDI route”, which is not allowed in the case of non-profit bodies.

Amnesty India did get the government’s permission to receive around Rs 1.69 crore from Amnesty UK in 2011-12. But since 2013, that permission has been denied, said sources.

In 2018, the Enforcement Directorate froze its accounts, after which Amnesty approached the court and won a reprieve. But their accounts were sealed.

Last year, the CBI also registered a case based on a complaint that Amnesty International UK allegedly transferred Rs 10 crore to Amnesty India entities as FDI without the ministry’s approval.

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Amnesty International to cease work in India, citing government harassment



Narendra Modi Amit Shah

NEW DELHI — Amnesty International said Tuesday that it would halt operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by financial authorities, the latest steps in what the human rights group called a two-year campaign of harassment.

The announcement reflects the diminishing space for dissent in the world’s largest democracy, where critics of government policies increasingly face probes by authorities or even arrest.

The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”

Amnesty said it would lay off more than 100 staff members and cease its human rights campaigns in India. Its recent work included reports alleging police complicity in deadly interreligious riots in Delhi earlier this year and an investigation into India’s crackdown in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Tuesday’s announcement puts India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016. The director of its Turkey arm was arrested, but its office in the country remains functional. The group does not have a presence in China.

Amnesty said it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, it said. It plans to challenge the freezing of its accounts in court but said it did not expect a ruling soon.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs alleged in a statement that Amnesty India was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the law, a practice that had invited action from the previous government, as well. “All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power” are a “ploy to divert attention,” it said.

A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate — an investigative agency that enforces laws regarding money laundering and foreign exchange — did not respond to a request for comment.

Amnesty is not the only international watchdog under pressure from the government. Greenpeace India has been the subject of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate since 2018. The probe forced the group to reduce its staff by a third and scale back its work on climate change.

The investigation puts a “psychological strain on the staff,” said Binu Jacob, executive director of Greenpeace India. “It is also a drain on the system when you have to give your time and energy to legal matters.”

Rights groups in India have been harsh critics of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which they accuse of stifling dissent and undermining the country’s secular founding ideals.

In turn, such groups have faced greater scrutiny from the government. Since 2014, when Modi swept to power, thousands of nongovernmental organizations have been banned from receiving funds from abroad. This month, lawmakers passed a contentious bill tightening these rules further.

In other instances, prominent critics of the government have faced more severe consequences. Several such figures are in jail awaiting trial. They include a well-known academic, lawyers and student leaders, all of whom were charged under a draconian anti-terrorism law.

Amnesty said it has faced sustained harassment for several years. In 2016, the group was charged with sedition after anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted at an event it held. The organization was acquitted by a court three years later.

Its office in Bangalore was raided in 2018 over alleged violations related to receiving foreign funds and its accounts were frozen, forcing layoffs. A court reprieve enabled the group to access the accounts again.

Some of Amnesty’s regular donors were sent notices by tax authorities in 2019, adversely affecting fundraising campaigns, it said.

In August, the group released a report on the February Delhi riots, in which more than 50 people were killed, the majority of them Muslims. It alleged that the Delhi police participated in the violence, an accusation rejected by the authorities, who called the report “lopsided, biased.”

Rajat Khosla, a senior director at Amnesty International’s office in London, said the group’s executives in India were repeatedly summoned this month for questioning and subjected to “all sorts of threats and intimidation.” The interrogations went on for hours, Khosla said, and included questions about why Amnesty did research into the Delhi riots.

Khosla said the probe into Amnesty’s work was part of a “systematic pattern” of conduct by the government toward civil society groups.

“What worries me tremendously,” he said, “is what is happening to core democratic values in a country like India.”


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