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India: The Observatory: India: Acts of harassment and death threats against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi

Action requested

Friday 20 April 2018, by siawi3

Source: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, April 20, 2018

The Observatory: India: Acts of harassment and death threats against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

IND 003 / 0418 / OBS 052
Harassment / Death threats
India

April 20, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about acts of harassment and death threats against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi, a journalist based in Hyderabad, India[1].

According to the information received, on April 10, 2018, Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi published a cartoon on her Twitter and Facebook accounts commenting on recent incidents of rape and kidnapping in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir State, and Unnao, Uttar Pradesh State, which have sparked widespread protests and public outcry across India.

The cartoon depicts the mythical Hindu Gods Ram and Sita commenting on these recent cases, in which Sita remarks “I was so glad I was kidnapped by Ravan and not your bhakts!”[2]. The cartoon, which criticizes rape apologists and those protecting individuals accused of rape, was published in response to recent protests by Hindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing group, seeking the release of Deepak Khajuria, one of the prime suspects in the recent Kathua rape case[3].

Since the cartoon’s publication, Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi has been subjected to extensive online harassment and intimidation, including several death threats. For instance, she was threatened with the same fate as Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who was killed outside her residence in Bangalore in 2017,[4] as well as with attacks similar to those carried out in France in response to a cartoon published by the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. In some cases of online abuse, she was also accused of being connected with terrorist groups who allegedly would have paid her to publish this so-called ‘anti-Hindu’ cartoon.

Furthermore, on April 14, 2018, Karuna Sagar Kashimshetty, President of the Hindu Sanghatan, a subset of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad, filed a police complaint against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi at the Saidabad police station in Hyderabad under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code for “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” The Hindu Sanghatan also filed a complaint against Mr. Shabbir Ahmed, Deputy Editor of the news channel Times Now, for sharing Ms. Vadlamudi’s cartoon on his Twitter account.

The Observatory strongly condemns these acts of harassment and death threats targeting Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi, which seem aimed at punishing her for her peaceful and legitimate human rights and journalistic activities and in particular at infringing on her freedom of expression.
The Observatory urges the Indian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi’s physical and psychological integrity.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity ofMs. Swathi Vadlamudi and all journalists and human rights defenders in India;

ii. Conduct a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation into the aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidation against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi and Mr.Shabbir Ahmed as well as against all journalists and human rights defenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which India is a State party.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb pmo.nic.in / manmo sansad.in
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha gov.in
· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso nic.in
· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt nic.in
· Mr. K. Chandrashekar Rao, Chief Minister, Government of Telangana, Email: cm telangana.gov.in
· Dr. Rajliv Sharma, Chief Secretary, Government of Telangana, Email: cs telangana.gov.in
· Mr. Anjani Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad City Police, Email: cp hyd.tspolice.gov.in
· Justice Mr. H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc nic.in
· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc nic.in
· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india ties.itu.int
· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, April 20, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi is notably associated with the national daily The Hindu. She is also known for drawing cartoons on sensitive social issues.
[2] Bhakts generally refer to supporters to current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
[3] The Kathua rape case has shocked many across India owing to the brutality unleashed on the child by her attackers. The eight-year-old victim had been missing since January 10, 2018. On January 17, her mutilated body was found, bearing evidence of gang rape.
[4] See Observatory Urgent Appeal IND 004 / 0917 / OBS 098, published on September 12, 2017.