AHRC TV: Indian police fire at protesters without warning and other stories in JUST ASIA, Episode 244

This week Just Asia begins with India’s north eastern state of Tripura, where police opened fire without any warning against protesters on January 8. Two young men were shot in the chest and are in critical condition. They were peacefully protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, which is seen as highly inimical to the indigenous peoples of the North East Region. Suddenly, several police vans arrived and started firing indiscriminately at the protestors.

Next, in Nepal, a mother and her two sons died of suspected smoke inhalation last week, after spending the night in a “menstrual hut”. This is part of the ancient practice of ‘Chhaupadi’, which bars women from touching food, religious icons, cattle and men during their period, and requires them to sleep away from others. While exiled in isolation, women often face bitter cold, attacks by wild animals, and even sexual assaults. Although the practice is illegal, it is still enforced in remote parts of Nepal.

Moving to Bangladesh, the country saw 466 extrajudicial killings in 2018, the highest ever recorded number, said a local human rights group. In its recent report, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) noted that half of these victims were killed during the country’s 7-month long drug war operations, resulting in 292 deaths. Another 67 were victims of political violence, with 34 of them killed in election related violence prior to the December 30 polls.

In India, the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) recently took cognizance of the alarming increase in extrajudicial killings in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. In a letter to the provincial government, the OHCHR noted 15 such cases, killing over 59 people, most of them Muslims. Since the new Bhartiya Janata Party government took over in March 2017, Uttar Pradesh has seen over 1000 ‘encounters’. The majority of victims belong to marginalized communities.

In Cambodia, a 26-year-old chicken vendor has been jailed for three years for insulting the king in his Facebook posts. This is the second conviction under Cambodia’s lese majeste law, unanimously adopted by parliament in February 2018. Rights groups had expressed concerns at the enactment; that the law, similar to legislation in neighbouring Thailand, could be used to silence government critics.

Lastly, in Pakistan, the Supreme Court suspended the Tuesday scheduled execution of a mentally ill former policeman. Khizar Hayat was sentenced to death in 2003 for killing a fellow officer. Hayat was first diagnosed with schizophrenia by prison authorities and a court-assigned medical board back in 2008 and in 2015. Chief Justice Saqib Nisar in the city of Lahore ordered a new hearing in Hayat’s case.

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