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Between Two Sets of Guns

Aug 07, 2012

The report Between Two Sets of Guns: Attacks on Civil Society Activists in India’s Maoist Conflict published by Human Rights Watch documents human rights abuses against activists in India’s Orissa, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh states.

Human Rights Watch found that grassroots activists who deliver development assistance and publicize abuses in Maoist conflict areas are at particular risk of being targeted by government security forces and Maoist insurgents, known as Naxalites. Maoists frequently accuse activists of being informers and warn them against implementing government programs. The police demand that they serve as informers, and those that refuse risk being accused of being Maoist supporters and subject to arbitrary arrest and torture. The authorities use sedition laws to curtail free speech and also concoct criminal cases to lock up critics of the government.

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Human Rights Watch called for an immediate end to harassment, attacks, and other abuses against activists by both government forces and the Maoists.

“The Maoists and government forces seem to have little in common except a willingness to target civil society activists who report on rights abuses against local communities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Aid workers and rights defenders need to be allowed to do their work safely and not be accused of having a political agenda simply because they bring attention to abuses.”

The report is largely based on more than 60 interviews with local residents, activists, journalists, and lawyers who were witnesses to or familiar with abuses by Indian security forces and the Maoists primarily in Orissa, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh from July 2011 to April 2012.

While human rights defenders have rarely come under direct attack from Maoists, they operate in a climate of fear and are at great risk if they criticize Maoist abuses. The Maoists have been particularly brutal towards those perceived to be government informers or “class enemies” and do not hesitate to punish them by shooting or beheading after a summary “trial” in a self-declared “people’s court” (jan adalat). Jan adalats do not come close to meeting international standards of independence, impartiality, competence of judges, the presumption of innocence, or access to defense.

Read the complete report here.

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