Threat to freedom in India, claims activist

Vrinda Grover

Lawyer and human rights activist Vrinda Grover delivers the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Annual Lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, on Tuesday.(HT Photo)

Vrinda Grover, a lawyer and human rights activist, on Tuesday cited incidents in recent public discourse in India to allege that fundamental freedoms and civil liberties were under threat, and called for global alliances to counter such forces.

Delivering the first Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Annual Lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), Grover mentioned incidents of rape in Muzaffarnagar and elsewhere, and said that if the legal system stayed hostile to women, they would not come forward to seek justice.

“Do not make the December 2012 rape in New Delhi as the benchmark. There is a false dichotomy between ordinary-time rape and extraordinary-time rape,” she told the packed audience, referring to the incident that evoked major protests and changes to law.

Alleging that mobilisation of hate was a “tried and trusted method of polarisation” that “yielded desired results”, Grover said in the lecture titled “The Struggle for Human Rights in India” that the relationship between communalism and elections needed to be explored.

According to her, mobilisation of hate was witnessed as much during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as during and after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Citing instances of alleged “enforced disappearances” in Jammu and Kashmir, Grover said there were serious questions about cases such as the killing of Ishrat Jahan, attacks on Soni Sori in Chattisgarh, and also about the amendments proposed to the Citizenship Act.

The lecture was introduced by Shrabani Basu, author of “Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan” (2006). A decorated Indian-origin intelligence operative for Britain in World War 2, Khan, 30, was captured and executed in September 1944.