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Amnesty faces criminal charges in India

August 16, 2016

Indian authorities have charged Amnesty with sedition after several Kashmiris allegedly called for independence at an event organized by the rights group. The complaint was lodged by a Hindu nationalist student group.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Khan

Police in the southern city of Bangalore filed criminal charges against the Indian branch of Amnesty International following complaints by a Hindu nationalist student organization whose members recorded the event.

The criminal charges stem from the British colonial era and include sedition, promoting enmity between different groups and unlawful assembly.

"We have booked a case of sedition and rioting under various sections of the Indian penal code against Amnesty on a complaint that anti-India slogans were raised at an event it organized," deputy police commissioner T.R. Suresh told the AFP news agency. "We are investigating the complaint and checking a video to ascertain the charges and identify those who raised the slogans for culpability."

A panel discussion at United Theological College in Bangalore turned chaotic on Saturday as some "pro-freedom" Kashmiris got into a heated debate with a Kashmiri Pandit leader for praising the Indian army.

Deadly unrest in Kashmir is in its second month as security forces clash with protesters in the Muslim-majority territory that is claimed by both Pakistan and India. At least 58 civilians have been killed since July as much of the disputed region remains under curfew in efforts to suppress pro-independence insurgents and sympathizers with neighboring Pakistan.

Members of the All India Students Council aligned with India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party staged protests against the event. They complained that it was "anti-national" and filed a complaint along with a CD containing the video recording of the panel and debate as evidence.

Amnesty India criticized the charges. It said police had been invited to monitor the event, which was organized to discuss human rights for those living in the troubled Himalayan region.

"The filing of a complaint against us now, and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India," Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement.

Amnesty said it takes no position in the Kashmir conflict, but international human rights law protects the right to peacefully advocate political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

jar/mkg (AFP, PTI)