Human rights in India

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Human rights in India is an issue complicated by the country's large size and population, widespread poverty, lack of proper education, as well as its diverse culture, despite its status as the world's largest sovereign, secular, democratic republic.

Quotes[edit]

  • At most periods of her history India, though a cultural unit, has been torn by internecine war. In statecraft, her rulers were cunning and unscrupulous. Famine, flood and plague visited her from time to time, and killed millions of her people. Inequality of birth was given religious sanction, and the lot of the humble was generally hard. Yet our overall impression is that in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilisation were slaves so few in number, and in no other ancient lawbook are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants…There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but, in comparison with conditions in other early cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilisation is its humanity.
    • A.L.Basham in his “The Wonder That Was India” quoted in [1] [This article is a major extract from the article "Sita Ram Goel, memories and ideas" by S. Talageri, written for the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume, entitled "India's Only Communalist", edited by Koenraad Elst, published in 2005.
  • Most Westerners have never heard about the Hindu refugee problem, for most journalists including reputed India hands have simply kept it out of the picture.
    • About the Hindu refugees from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 250
  • Western human rights activists and non-Westerners trained and funded by them, go around the world creating new categories of ‘victims’ that can be used in divide-and-conquer strategies against other cultures. In India’s case, the largest funding of this type goes to middlemen who can deliver narratives about ‘abused’ Dalits and native (especially Hindu) women.
    • Rajiv Malhotra. Academic Hinduphobia (2016) (p.219)
  • One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma.
    • The Mahabharata XII 113.8, cited in Rajiv Malhotra:Indra's Net. p. 182
  • This might appear ironic, but in spite of a comparatively higher degree of repression, the lack of popular protest is more because of the success of the regime in constructing and popularising a narrative that not just delegitimises but simply denies the existence of suffering, injustice and victimhood. This is the narrative of subverting reality into its opposite. In this world of alternative reality, the victim is the offender (as in case of Muslims), suffering is sacrifice if not ill-informed exaggeration (as in the case of migrants’ plight) and marginalisation or exclusion are outcomes of past politics (as in the case of Dalits or Adivasis). This narrative posits two contrasting social camps. One is the nation. It represents unity, progress and a possible millennium. All else is fragmentary and divisive. So any voice speaking of a particular group's suffering becomes a hurdle in the march of the nation; any coalition of the marginalised by definition assumes an anti-national tenor. Such is the power of the narrative that the facts of suffering, humiliation or injustice lose their evocative potential; they cease to scandalise, they are unable to evoke a moral response. Democracy can thus afford the co-existence of multiple injustices and a quiet citizenry when such narratives are able to reconstruct facts and convince the masses of the validity of that reconstruction. The silence today is a result of the popular acceptance of reconstructed reality and adherence to an alternative morality.
  • You must make a difference between Hindu refugees and Muslim immigrants and the country must take responsibility of the refugees.
    • – Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter to the then chief minister of Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi, May 1949, quoted in Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar, and Prerna Malhotra, 2020. Chapter 3
  • I refuse the fact that we should not care about the Hindus of Pakistan since they are Pakistani citizens. Irrespective of citizenship of Pakistan’s Hindus, it is our duty to protect them like we protect Indian Muslims and Hindus.
    • – Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (translated) as quoted by PM Narendra Modi in his speech in parliament, 6 February 2020., quoted in Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar, and Prerna Malhotra, 2020. Chapter 3

Quotes about refugees in India[edit]

  • There were thousands of people standing out in the open here all night in the rain. Women were with babies in their arms. They could not lie down because the water came up to their knees in places. There was not enough shelter and in the morning there were always many sick and dying of pneumonia. We could not get out serious cholera cases to the hospital. And there was no one to take away the dead. They just lay around on the ground or in the water. High pressure syringes have speeded vaccination and reduced the cholera threat, but camp health officials have already counted about 500 dead and an estimated 35,000 have been stricken by the convulsive vomiting and diarrhea that accompany the diseases. Now officials fear that pneumonia, diphtheria and tuberculosis will also begin to take a toll among the weakened refugees.
    • Mathis Bromberger, a German doctor helping at one of these camps quoted in R.J. Rummel, DEATH BY GOVERNMENT, by R.J. Rummel New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994
  • Most Westerners have never heard about the Hindu refugee problem, for most journalists including reputed India hands have simply kept it out of the picture.
    • About the Hindu refugees from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 250

The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (2013)[edit]

Bass, G. J. The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (2013)
  • Someone is saying we are contemplating sending aid to help the Pakistani refugees. I hope to hell we’re not.
    • Richaerd Nixon about the East Pakistani refugees fleeing into India. FRUS, Nixon-Haig telcon, 29 April 1971, p. 99. quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • The Indian prime minister’s secretariat knew that there was sure to be a rush of refugees, likely to overwhelm the local authorities in West Bengal. But the actual scale was a shock: the lieutenant governor of Tripura, an Indian state jutting deep into East Pakistan, alerted Gandhi to “the unexpectedly large influx of refugees.” As one of Gandhi’s senior aides remembered, her government now really began to worry. The expulsions seemed massive and systematic.
  • One reputable Indian government official, himself a Bengali, relied on his local sources to remind Haksar what the refugees were fleeing: with encouragement from the Pakistan army, volunteers deliberately killed the Hindu men. He darkly wrote that it was not hard to imagine what had happened to the women. There were some Hindu families hidden in the granaries of “kind hearted Muslims who are against these deliberate atrocities but who find themselves entirely helpless.”
  • These kinds of stories were echoed six million times—the number of refugees that India officially estimated it was now sheltering. That number was, the Indian foreign ministry claimed, unparalleled in the world’s history.
  • Anyway, the donations were, as Haksar told Gandhi, “very disappointing.” India would need some $400 million to look after these refugees for half a year, and more were coming every day. By the White House’s reckoning, the Indians netted merely about $20 million from the whole world, as well as roughly $12 million from the Soviet Union.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • It was Biblical,” remembers Sydney Schanberg, who reported on the refugees for the New York Times. Schanberg, steeped in the worst horrors of war from Vietnam and Cambodia, goes quiet at the memory of the desperate millions who fled into India. “You don’t tune out,” he says, “but there’s a numbness. Either that or you feel like crying. There was a tremendous loss of life on those treks out.” He remembers, “Their bodies have adjusted to those germs in their water, but suddenly they’re drinking different water with different germs. Suddenly they’ve got cholera. People were dying all around us. You’d see that someone had left a body on the side of the road, wrapped in pieces of bamboo, and there’d be a vulture trying to get inside to eat the body. You would come into a schoolyard, and a mother was losing her child. He was in her lap. He coughed and coughed and then died.” He pauses and composes himself. “They went through holy hell and back.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • It was all too easy for Schanberg to fill the pages of the New York Times with horror. At a railway station, he was overcome by the sight of some five thousand refugees pressed together on the concrete floor: “someone vomits, someone moans. A baby wails. An old man lies writhing on his back on the floor, delirious, dying. Emaciated, fly-covered infants thrash and roll.” Filing from a border town in West Bengal, Schanberg reported the unclean sounds of the cholera epidemic: “coughing, vomiting, groaning and weeping.” An emaciated seventy-year-old man had just died. His son and granddaughter sat sobbing beside the body, as flies gathered. When a young mother died of cholera, her baby continued to nurse until a doctor pulled the infant away. The husband of that dead woman, a rice farmer, cried to Schanberg that the family had fled Pakistani soldiers who burned down their house. “My wife is dead,” he wailed. “Three of my children are dead. What else can happen?”
    • Sydney H. Schanberg, “Bengalis Ride a Refugee Train of Despair,” New York Times, 17 June 1971. Sydney H. Schanberg, “Disease, Hunger and Death Stalk Refugees Along India’s Border,” New York Times, 9 June 1971., quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Major General Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob, the gruff, battle-hardened chief of staff of the Indian army’s Eastern Command, went to the border to watch the refugees streaming in. “It was terrible, pathetic,” he recalls. The displaced throngs inescapably called to mind nightmare memories of Partition in 1947, not so long before. “It’s a terrible human agony,” says Jaswant Singh, a former Indian foreign minister. “It was as if we were reliving the Partition.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • The Indian government, from Indira Gandhi on down, worked hard to hide an ugly reality from its own people: by an official reckoning, as many as 90 percent of the refugees were Hindus. This skew was the inevitable consequence of Pakistani targeting of Hindus in East Pakistan—what Archer Blood and his staffers had condemned as genocide. The population of East Pakistan was only 16 or 17 percent Hindu, but this minority comprised the overwhelming bulk of the refugees. India secretly recorded that by the middle of June, there were some 5,330,000 Hindus, as against 443,000 Muslims and 150,000 from other groups. Many Indian diplomats believed that the Hindus would be too afraid ever to go back...
    But the Indian government assiduously hid this stark fact from Indians. “In India we have tried to cover that up,” Swaran Singh candidly told a meeting of Indian diplomats in London, “but we have no hesitation in stating the figure to foreigners.” (Sydney Schanberg and John Kenneth Galbraith, the Kennedy administration’s ambassador to India, separately highlighted the fact in the New York Times.) Singh instructed his staff to distort for their country: “We should avoid making this into an Indo-Pakistan or Hindu[-]Muslim conflict. We should point out that there are Buddhists and Christians besides the Muslims among the refugees, who had felt the brunt of repression.” In a major speech, Gandhi misleadingly described refugees of “every religious persuasion—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian.”...
    The Indian government feared that the plain truth would splinter its own country between Hindus and Muslims... And Indian officials did not want to provide further ammunition to the irate Hindu nationalists in the Jana Sangh party. From Moscow, D. P. Dhar, India’s ambassador there, decried the Pakistan army’s “preplanned policy of selecting Hindus for butchery,” but, fearing inflammatory politicking from “rightist reactionary Hindu chauvinist parties like Jana Sangh,” he wrote, “We were doing our best not to allow this aspect of the matter to be publicised in India.” ... Rather than basing this accusation primarily on the victimization of Hindus, India tended to focus on the decimation of the Bengalis as a group.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Perhaps the most striking Indian policy was something that it did not do. India did not stop masses of Bengali refugees from flooding into India. Unimaginably huge numbers of Bengalis escaped into safety on Indian soil, eventually totaling as many as ten million—five times the number of people displaced in Bosnia in the 1990s. The needs of this new, desperate population were far beyond the capacities of the feeble governments of India’s border states, and Indira Gandhi’s government at the center. But at that overcharged moment, the Indian public would have found it hard to accept the sight of its own soldiers and border troops opening fire to keep out these desperate and terrified people. Here, at least, was something like real humanitarianism. As payment for this kindness, India found itself crushed under the unsustainable burden of one of the biggest refugee flows in world history—which galvanized the public and the government to new heights of self-righteous fury against Pakistan.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • By September, India estimated it had taken in some eight million refugees, with no end in sight. This represented as much as a tenth of the overall population of East Pakistan, by the CIA’s estimation. The economic and political consequences were dire... And as a result of the Pakistan army’s onslaught against Hindus, seven million out of over eight million refugees were Hindus.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Kennedy earned his hero status with fervent speeches ripping into Pakistan’s repression. Jabbing at the Nixon administration’s underbelly, he said that Yahya’s terror had generated more refugees in less than two hundred days than the total from the entire Vietnam War.
    • About Ted Kennedy, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 14
  • Kennedy brought along seasoned American experts on development and refugee relief. One of them was Nevin Scrimshaw, a nutrition professor at MIT who had done cutting-edge work fighting malnutrition in children in Guatemala and India. Scrimshaw had a clinical familiarity with what they saw. “Edema, profound apathy, hair loss, pallor of the hair, and so forth,” he recalls. “To me, what was so devastating was the scale.” It was worse than anything he had seen in his long years in the field, from Panama to Egypt. He was stunned at the size of the first camp they visited, near Calcutta, where some ten thousand refugees were sheltering. “Imagine looking out on a field, hundreds of people squatting, most of them with diarrhea,” he says, still appalled by the memory at the age of ninety-four. “Imagine the people politely inviting you into their tent, and while they’re talking, picking up a rag in a corner, and seeing a child that’s going to be dead in a few hours.”... Hundreds of people massed around the visitors, many carrying desperately malnourished children. “This was something beyond anything Kennedy had seen or imagined,” says Scrimshaw. The senator was visibly overwhelmed... Hiking along a road north of Calcutta, Kennedy heard stories of massacre from dozens of Bengali peasant farmers—a small sample of the seven thousand refugees along the banks of the river crossing to East Pakistan. There were children dying along the road as their parents pleaded for help. Many were obviously in shock, sitting in despair by the side of the road or wandering blindly. Most of them, he realized, were Hindus.
    Despite the efforts of the Indians, the camps were racked with despair and gloom. “The conditions in the tents, camps, makeshift shelters, were horrible,” says Scrimshaw. The whole state of West Bengal seemed like a huge refugee camp, with its muddy roads jammed with endless lines for inoculations or registration cards. The youngest children and the elderly had been the first to die. Again and again, Kennedy saw little ones, under the age of five, who would obviously be dead within days or hours. He saw dead children. When Kennedy asked the director of one of the refugee camps what he most urgently needed, he replied, “a crematorium.”
    • About Ted Kennedy visiting refugee camps, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 14
  • He had just witnessed, he told the Beltway crowd at the National Press Club, “the most appalling tide of human misery in modern times.” He unsparingly told of hearing “stories of atrocities, of slaughter, of looting and burning.” He was harrowed by seeing listless infants with “skin hanging loosely in folds from their tiny bones,” children with “legs and feet swollen from edema and malnutrition, limp in the arms of their mothers,” and, worst of all, “the corpse of the child who died just the night before.” He could not forget “the look on the face of a child paralyzed from the waist down, never to walk again; or a child quivering in fear on a mat in a small tent still in shock from seeing his parents, his brothers and his sisters executed before his eyes; or the anxiety of a 10-year-old girl out foraging for something to cover the body of her baby brother who had died of cholera a few moments before our arrival.” This, he thundered, was what the United States was supporting. This misery should “particularly distress Americans, since it is our military hardware—our guns and tanks and aircraft delivered over a decade—which are contributing substantially to the suffering.”
    • About Ted Kennedy visiting refugee camps, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 15
  • But this U.S. aid was overshadowed by something approaching ten million refugees. India was buckling under that burden, which cost far more than anything on offer from the United States, or any outside power. By a White House account, the expense of the refugees was by now roughly between $700 million and $1 billion annually—at least a sixth of India’s normal spending on development for its own people. To date, the United States had met perhaps a tenth of the cost of looking after the refugees for this year only, and the rest of the world had covered another tenth—leaving roughly 80 percent of the expense on poverty-stricken India. And this was at the peak of international concern for the refugees, before the world’s attention inevitably moved on to other matters, leaving India to cope alone.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.

External links[edit]

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