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400 Indian CSOs to Launch Campaign on Protection of Democracy and Constitutional Rights on September 5

More than 400 women’s groups, human rights organisations and LGBTQIA collectives across the country are organizing a 7-day campaign on September 5, 2020, marking the third anniversary of the assassination of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. “The campaign is aimed at uniting voices against targeted attacks on the constitutional rights of the people of India”, a joint statement issued by them, a release of the campaign organisers, LGBTQIA, said.

It said, as part of the campaign, thousands of individuals and groups will come together across the country to raise their voices on the issues mentioned both on-line and on the ground.

“We begin with India’s democracy and Constitution which are facing an unprecedented crisis. Democratic institutions in the country are wavering. The independence of the judiciary and other institutions of oversight has come under a serious cloud. The functioning of the Parliament has been gravely compromised. The dilution of the Right to Information Act has hit at the fundamental democratic right of citizens to question the government and hold it accountable,” the release said.

It added, the country has witnessed a systematic attempt to spread communal hatred to divide people on religious lines. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) pushed through Parliament by the government, together with the NRC and NPR, destroys the secular fabric of India’s Constitution by making religion a basis for giving Indian citizenship. People all over India rose up in a peaceful and unique, women led movement to protect the Constitution. Unfortunately, targeted communal violence was unleashed in response to the movement. Instead of arresting leaders who made hate speeches inciting violence, the women and people who worked for unity, peace and the Constitution are being arrested and incarcerated.

In August, 2019, the Government assaulted India’s Constitution and federalism by abrogating Article 370 and destroying the statehood of Jammu & Kashmir. The internet service has not been fully restored even one year on, the release added.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution, the release reminded.  Voices of dissent have been systematically silenced and labelled anti-national. Activists, journalists and academics engaged in various movements are languishing in jails, without access to the legal provision of bail. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (2019) has been amended and used to implicate dissenters and arrest them, it added.

It further claimed that there has been a steady deterioration in the rule of law with alarming cases of police excesses, including custodial deaths. Regressive laws like the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act have adversely impacted the rights of Transgender persons. There are very few provisions in place to protect the safety and rights of the entire LGBTQIA community.

It also listed a number of issues it things everybody should be worried about. One of the key concerns in recent times  has been the number of projects that have been cleared by the MoEF which if not stopped will be detrimental to the northeast region, and will be a big loss at a national as well at a global level. The hydropower projects in Dibang Valley, the coal mining in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, the proposed highway across Pakke Tiger Reserve, extension drilling and testing of hydrocarbons under Dibru Saikhowa National Park are a few examples. Above all this is the EIA draft, if passed the way it is, will leave little hope for environment and wildlife as well as community well being across the North Eastern Region as well as India. The emphasis on Oil palm cultivation, and promotion of mono cultivations in the NER, will destroy the ecological security communities have through their agro-ecological and sustainable agricultural practices. There have also been several moves to dilute SC/ST/OBC reservations and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Members of the LGBTQIA communities are victimized, shamed and constantly under attack.

The COVID 19 crisis contributed to the Centre’s unplanned and harsh lockdown imposed to combat the pandemic. This resulted in economic devastation leading to unemployment, hunger and destitution among the working poor, especially migrant workers. The pandemic has also exposed the dismal state of the country’s public health system. For instance, there is a lack of transparency in the funcitoning of PHCs, eg. Churachandpur, Manipur and in similar Centres all over the north east region, it further said

It claimed that the New Education Policy is also riddled with several problems – it seeks to ensure greater centralisation and commercialisation of the education system. There have been moves to dilute laws to protect women in the name of mitigating COVID19 revealing the anti-women attitude of the regime.

There are systematic growing attacks on religious, sexual and languistic minorities as well as gender based violence creating insecure environment in the society. For women, homes, workplaces and public spaces are unsafe in both patrilineal and matrilineal societies despite their positions as equal citizen and rights holders. The pandemic has further pushed them to precarious circumstances and is disproportionately affecting lives and livelihood, it said.

It appeled that “if we do not rise” campaign is an initiative to safeguard constitutional values and principles.

The Northeast Chapter of the campaign will be launched on 29 August and continue with different programmes till 5 September 2020. The campaign will cover the Voices of resistance of Activists, LGBTQAI community members, Human Rights Activists, Film Screening, Discussions, testimonies, poem reading, songs, play, sharing of fact sheets, posters, paintings, submission of memorandum to local authorities etc. The date wise issues are:

  1. Environment issues on 30th August 2020
  2. LGBTQAI issues on 31st August 2020
  3. “Where the mind is without fear”-United Voices for Democracy- Issues related to NRC and Citizenship, Freedom of Expression and Attack on HRDs on 1st September 2020.
  4. Issues of Violence against Women, Health, Safe Space on 2nd September 2020.
  5. Migrant workers, Farmers’, Tea Garden workers, Domestic Workers’ issues on 3rd September 2020
  6. Young people’s rights, Child Rights, Education issues on 4th September 2020
  7. The final day of resistance will be observed on 5th September 2020

As part of the campaign we will also be releasing factsheets on various themes including violence against women, transgender people, health, political participation of women, migrant workers, women farmers and sex workers, it said.

The organisers also appealed “to all artists, intellectuals, academicians, media and concerned citizens to join the campaign on the 5th of September”, asking all to “stand together to defend our Constitution and our democracy”.

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