World’s Largest Democracy Really Good at Detaining Kids without Charge

November 19, 2010

Protests Against Indian Rule in Kashmir - copyright Majid Pandit, used by permission

Take action to free 14-year old boy from jail in Kashmir

US President Barack Obama hailed the total awesomeness of India during his state visit to the country last week.  While it certainly didn’t cost the $200 million per day that the tabloids in the US and India made up, it was certainly worth its weight in lofty rhetoric except in the realm of human rights.  Not only did he NOT mention any human rights concerns that the US ought to have regarding India (nor did India mention any human rights concerns that India ought to have about the US), he also went out of his way to extol India’s place on the center stage (including when he was talking about the human rights situation in Burma).  As if to highlight all the bling that India has to offer (and boy does it have the bling), he dragged (kicking and screaming presumably since Obama’s opponents allege that he is anti-business) 200 business executives to ink various weapons deals mainly to pump up American Empire’s gigantic military-industrial complex on the backs of the 380 million Indians still living on $1 per day (more than the entire population of the United States).  What better way to end malnutrition than to have really awesome chest-thumping parades in New Delhi with all that fancy weaponry!  Yummy, tanks.

Indian security forces are already pretty well armed as far as I can tell and probably don’t need all those weapons.  They have a few lakh security forces in the Kashmir Valley armed to the teeth and killing protesters.  Although news about Kashmir has quieted down somewhat due to various factors (the news media in India got bored, it’s getting cold, the histrionics over Arundhati Roy), it’s not altogether clear what motivations Kashmiris have to keep quiet over what seems to them (and many Indians) as an occupation.

Now, I know I’m sounding a bit cynical and sarcastic here (people who know me say that’s normal).  Human rights activists are supposed to be idealistic and hopeful in their demand for justice for all victims of human rights.  But, then I hear about this and I saw all the coverage of Obama’s trip to India and my hopefulness dissipates a bit.  That link by the way, is an action on Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, a 14-year old boy accused of throwing some rocks at police in Srinagar, the capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.   Now, you’re probably thinking, OK, he is accused of throwing rocks and throwing rocks is not good, so he must be charged with something, right?  Nope.  He has not only NOT been charged with any crime, but he is being held in a jail built for adults.  I really think that Meera Shankar, India’s Ambassador in Washington should hear about this illegal detention of a child, which is why I’m asking you to click on the link and take action to ensure that Mushtaq’s detention is in line with Indian law and with India’s treaty obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Please help Mushtaq and help me get some of my idealism back.