Vanishing Hindu, Sikh minorities in Pakistan

BY MALOY KRISHNA DHAR

I was inspired to write this essay by a Pakistani journalist friend. Later, during a lecture tour in South East Asian countries, where Indian and Chinese origin minorities are also discriminated, I noticed that the minorities are palpably anguished. The latest incidents of organized attacks by Bengali Muslims on hill dwelling Chakma tribals in Khagrachari areas firmed up my decision to chronicle a preliminary account of the conditions of the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. I had earlier written a piece on the plight of the Pakistani Christians. I have not touched upon the plight of the Shia and Ahmadiya (non-Muslim) communities in Pakistan, which require international attention. Not a single Indian Muslim religious seminary has so far condemned Pakistan for inhuman treatment of the Shia and Ahmadiya communities.

I am indebted to a member of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and several young Pakistani writers who have boldly portrayed the pitiable condition of the minorities in Pakistan. Their voices are drowned in wilderness. The normal civil society members are also ashamed of these developments. However, I do not want to name them fearing visitations by the ISI goons.

Jinnah had said in his speech to the new nation created, called Pakistan, on August 17, 1947 to assure that his fiefdom, for which he fought relentlessly and even organized the Great Direct Action Pogrom of Calcutta in August 1946, to assure the national minorities, after 3 millions were killed in communal riots and several million escaped to the safety of Hindustan: “You are free; free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State…We are starting with this fundamental principles that we are all citizens and equal citizens of our State.”

People conversant with Jinnah’s rise as a rabid communal Muslim leader (Jaswant Singh’s white washing aside) know that Jinnah Kathiawadi lived by deceit and died in neglect (recall his Quetta visit, breakdown of his car on way to Karachi and apathetic attitude of the people in power). He was not even a practicing Muslim (a Shia), but pleaded fanatic Muslim causes. He never tried to rescue Muslim politics from the clutches of the maulanas. He was the person who boycotted the 1937 interim governments in the Central Legislative Assembly and Congress led provinces. He fabricated or organized the fabrication of charges against Congress’ ruthless suppression of the Muslims. One after another memorandum was submitted to the Governor General; all bundles of lies. The grand finale of Jinnah’s bunches of lies and prevarication included Calcutta pogrom in collaboration with Suhrawardy government, deceitful refusal to sign the Mountbatten Plan for partition, backing out from original agreement that Mountbatten would be the common Governor General for India and Pakistan and finally throwing a grand inaugural lunch on 16th August, a day of Ramadan (later shifted to dinner).

With such track record of prevarication, fabrication and falsehood, Jinnah’s 17th August 1947 speech, assuring the minority was then and even now treated as crocodile’s tears. If he were a democrat he would have not chosen the machetes to kill. He could not stop killing of the Hindu and other minorities in Pakistan even after he assumed the gaddi of the Governor General in true Hollywood style. Since Jinnah, the Hindu minorities have continued to suffer in Pakistan and now they have become an endangered community. Those interested may read Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert and Mountbatten’s Report on the Last Vice-royalty, edited by Lionel Carter.

For which Pakistan Jinnah had struggled? His idea of Pakistan was limited to the vision of Dr. Iqbal-whole of Punjab, Sind, Balochistan, NWFP, FATA areas and Kashmir. He had no plan for Bengal and Assam and other Muslim majority areas in India. Later the Bangistan theory of Chaudhry Rahmat Ali propelled the Pakistan protagonists to amalgamate Bengal and Assam and create the eastern wing of Pakistan.

However, it must be said to the credit of Jinnah that in the absence of Dr. Iqbal and any other Muslim poet he could trust, he had commissioned a Hindu to write the original national anthem of Pakistan. India and Pakistan have another anomalous situation in common. Iqbal, the progenitor of Pakistan, had composed the national song Sare Jahan se Accha. It is still used as one of the national songs. Jinnah, on the other hand had summoned Jagannath Azad, son of Lahore-based poet Tilok Chand Mahroom, just three days before the creation of Pakistan, to write the country’s first national anthem. It had stirred up a debate in that country. It is claimed that Jinnah sowed the seed of secularism by inviting Jagannath Azad to write the national anthem. However, Pakistan’s first national anthem composed by a Hindu was discarded by Pakistan in 1950. What a great disrespect to the father of the nation! Some leading Pakistani thinkers correctly said that Pakistan exists on the venom of anti-Hindu elixir.

Demographic distribution of Hindus in Pakistan (Source: Wikipedia)

At the time of Partition in 1947, the Hindu population of Pakistan was estimated at approximately a quarter of the total population. For example, the population of Karachi, Pakistan in 1947 was 450,000, of which 51% was Hindu, and 42% was Muslim. By 1951, Karachi’s population had increased to 1.137 million because of the influx of 600,000 Muslim refugees from India. In 1951, the Muslim population of Karachi was 96% and the Hindu population was 2%. In 1998, the Hindu population in all of Pakistan was 1.6%, and the most recent census would certainly be expected to demonstrate consistent dwindling demographic trends and further diminution of Hindu population.

According to certain official estimates NWFP has slightly over 4,924 Hindus, whereas in FATA area total known Hindu population is 1,921. After the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and military operations hundreds of Hindus had escaped under dual pressure-demand of Jizya, a Sharia tax by the Taliban and army harassment.

Limits on freedom

Pakistan’s Constitution, prima facie, provides for freedom of religion. In practice, however, the government imposes limits on this freedom by using several subterfuges. Since Pakistan proclaimed itself an Islamic republic at the time of independence, Islam has become a core element of the national ideology. Since the struggle for separate homeland for the Muslims was seemingly waged against the Hindus and not the British Pakistan’s political soul is filled with hatred against the Hindus. Thus, religious freedom is subject to law, public order, and morality as decided by the reigning government. Actions or speech deemed derogatory to Islam or to its Prophet are not protected. In addition, the Constitution requires that laws must be consistent with Islam and imposes some elements of Quranic law on both Muslims and religious minorities. This observation has been supported even by the U.S. State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom report of 2004. After spate of riots against the Pakistani Christians the IRF had expressed similar views.

Government regulations and laws shaped by Islamic Sharia injunctions discriminate against the Hindu minority as well as other minorities in Pakistan. Section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code mandates the death sentence for blasphemy against the Prophet or desecration of the Koran. Dozens of blasphemy cases are pending in the courts, and the accused spend long periods in jails under brutal conditions once the accusation has been made, although most such allegations of desecration are the result of personal grudges. On March 24, 2005, Pakistan restored the discriminatory practice of mandating the mention of religious identity of individuals in all new passports. The Pakistan federal cabinet, with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in chair, had directed the Ministry of Interior to reintroduce the rule after its repeal under the Zafaraullah Khan Jamali government. The move was seen as a concession to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of hard-line religious parties that supported Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf.

The rights of minorities continue to erode at an alarming pace in Pakistan. I.A. Rehman, Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, associates this erosion with the continued Islamization of Pakistan that President General Zia-ul-Haq initiated in the 1980s. Upon Pakistan’s declaration as an Islamic republic, the rights of religious minorities, particularly Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadiyas, diminished dramatically. These minorities live under the fear of threats to their lives and property, desecration of their places of worship, and the Blasphemy Act that carries a penalty of death. Nuzzhat Shirin of the Aurat Foundation adds, “It’s Muslims winning by intimidation. It’s Muslims overcoming a culture by threatening it, by abducting young girls so that an entire community moves out or succumbs to the Muslim murderers.”

There are several instances of attacks against the Shias by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipha Sahaba, two hardcore Sunni militant outfits. “Justice M. Munir commission investigated the large-scale riots against the Ahmadiya sect in Pakistan in 1953. His report is an eye-opener. It shows that our ulema are not even able to agree on a definition of who a Muslim is. Justice Munir had called heads of all Islamic schools of thought and asked them the definition of a Muslim. No two ulema agreed. It also exposes the pusillanimity of our so-called scholars of Islam and their near-total disregard of the beauty and generosity of Islam.” Sultan Shahin, Editor, New age Islam.

Violence against women

Violence against women in general continues throughout the world, but more so in Pakistan, particularly against Hindu women. Violence against women is rampant in the forms of rape, honor killings, and domestic abuse. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours on average, and at least ten women a day die in honor killings. Moreover, Pakistan’s existing Hudood Ordinance is used to imprison thousands of women who report rapes. The Hudood Ordinances are a set of laws that were introduced by Presidential decree in 1979 under the then President General Zia Ul Haq. These laws were intended “to bring in conformity with the injunctions of Islam” certain aspects of the criminal justice system and make certain offences punishable by hadd, which is defined as “punishment ordained by the Holy Quran or Sunnah.”

The quotations are from the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, Ordinance No. VII of 1979, 9 February 1979, preamble and sec. 2(b), respectively. Hereinafter: Zina Ordinance. . The laws introduced under the Hudood Ordinances cover the offences of Zina (various forms of unlawful sexual intercourse) Qazf (wrongful accusation of Zina crimes), and offences Against Property and Prohibition. An offence of Zina occurs, under the Ordinance, whenever “a man and a woman… willfully have sexual intercourse without being validly married to each other.” Section 4 of the Zina Ordinance. Offences of rape are called Zina bil Jabr (literally meaning ‘forced adultery’ in the Arabic original) as they have occurred without the consent of the victim. Significantly, however, the Zina Ordinance excludes marital rape from the definition of that offence.

According to the Ordinance, a rape victim must present four male witnesses to the crime in order to prove the rape occurred. If the victim is unable to do so, she is at risk for being whipped for adultery because she has acknowledged illicit sex, which is banned in Islam. Despite repeated calls by women’s rights and human rights groups for the reform and repeal of the Hudood Ordinance, the Pakistan government has yet to take action. Readers may have not forgotten the famous case of Mukhtar Mai that had created international indignation. Women, Muslim or Hindu, can expect very little from the majority sections of people in a country that still lives in the barbaric Middle Ages.

Hindus continue to be the target of kidnappings, rape, and intimidation in Pakistan. There are reports of desecration and destruction of Hindu temples and lands, theft and looting of Hindu property, discrimination, abuse, and abduction of Hindu females. Unfortunately, few reports about specific and targeted human rights abuses against Hindus are available, not only due to the continued decreasing population of Hindus in Pakistan, but also because reports of such attacks are either poorly covered in the local media or completely ignored. In most cases police do not register cases reported by Hindu victims.

A worrisome trend in Pakistan, particularly in the Sind province, is that of Muslims kidnapping Hindu girls and forcing them to convert to Islam. One of the most egregious cases of intimidation and kidnapping of young Hindu women occurred in September 2005. On September 14, Hindu parents alleged that four men abducted their daughter in Sind, and forced her to marry one of the accused and convert to Islam. The authorities arrested two of the abductors, but the court dismissed the case when the girl was forced to provide a legal statement that she willfully married and converted. Gayan Chand Singh, than a legislator in Pakistan’s Parliament, said that the kidnapping should be categorized as rape and should be registered as such an offense for the abductors.

In a similar case, Sapna Giyanchand was taken to a shrine in the Shikarpur District by Shamsuddin Dasti, a Muslim married man and father of two children. The custodian of the shrine, Maulvi Abdul Aziz converted Sapna to Islam, changed her name to Mehek, and married her to Dasti. When Sapna’s case was presented in court, Muslim extremists deluged her with rose petals and chanted religious verses. Sapna, terrified by the setting, could not manage to speak to her parents, who were also present in court. Aziz, also in attendance, is claimed to have said, “How can a Muslim girl live and maintain contact with kafirs; non-believers of Islam?”

Kidnapping Hindu girls

In a recent investigative report it is described how young girls, as young as 12 or 13, have been kidnapped in Sind, converted to Islam, and forcibly married to Muslim boys. “Kidnapping Hindu girls like this has become a normal practice. The girls are then forced to sign stamped papers stating that they’ve become Muslims,” said Laljee Menghwar, a member of Karachi’s Hindu Panchayat (council of village leaders). At least twenty nine similar abduction cases have taken place in Karachi alone, and six in the Jacobabad and Larkana districts. Wasim Shahzad, the Minister of State for Interior, had upset legislators in the National Assembly when he was quoted by the state-run APP news agency as saying, “These incidents are taking place to force the Hindus to leave Pakistan where they have been living for the past 5,000 years.”

In a shocking incident, it was reported that three young Hindu girls had suddenly converted to Islam.  The three girls, Reena (21), Usha (19) and Rima (17) – daughters of Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple living in the Punjab Colony section of Karachi, Pakistan – went missing on October 18, 2005. According to a widely circulated report in the Pakistan newspaper Dawn, entitled “Conversion losses,” the London based Pakistani commentator, Irfan Hussain, described the shock experienced by Sanno Amra and Champa when they returned home after work on October 18, 2005 to discover their three daughters had unexpectedly disappeared.  Only after desperate queries to the police, the parents received affidavits stating the daughters’ conversions to Islam.  Private visits with their daughters, free from chaperones and even police officers that have supervised their only interactions thus far, have been consistently denied.  After their disappearance from home, the girls have been living at a madrassa (Islamic seminary) in the vicinity of their home and may potentially be denied the freedom to return home.

Earlier in 2005, Shazia Khalid, a doctor, reported that she was gang-raped in a government natural gas plant. Instead of providing her with medical treatment, officials drugged her into unconsciousness for three days and then transported her to a psychiatric hospital to prevent her from reporting the rape.  Due to her persistence of reporting the rape, Khalid was placed under house arrest in Karachi.  The police insinuated that the presence of cash in her house meant that she was working as a prostitute.  Although her husband has stood by her, his grandfather was quoted as saying that Dr. Shazi disgraced the family and should be killed.

Although violence against women transcends their religion, it is disproportionately focused on Hindu women in Pakistan.  In May 2005, a group of middle-class Pakistani women held a demonstration for equal rights in Lahore.  In response, the police beat them and took them to police stations.  In particular, they targeted Asma Jahangir, a U.N. special rapporteur, who was also the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.  Ms. Jahangir said an intelligence official close to General Musharraf told the police to “teach the (expletive) a lesson (and) strip her in public.”  The police tore her shirt off and tried to remove her trouser. That was General Musharraf, the Kargil invader and soldier of fortune in a military dominated country.

Between 2003 and 2009 about 100 cases of kidnapping of Hindu women were reported from Punjab. Besides a temple in Lahore two other temples in Multan and Gujranwala were desecrated. According to estimates over 900 acres of Hindu land were forcibly occupied in Sialkot, Lahore, Multan, Zhang etc places. Hindu students studying in government schools are made to read Quran and offer namaj.

I have personal respect for the liberation struggle of the Baloch people and had written two essays in this portal. However, in Balochistan there are about 36, 686 Hindus. There are several instances of Hindu traders being kidnapped and released after hefty ransom. They are pressed both by the rebellious Baloch elements and the Pakistan army. The police and armed forces suspect that the Hindus are used as conduit by the Indian Intelligence agencies. Only in 2009 five Hindu traders were kidnapped from Quetta for ransom. Only three lucky traders returned; the two others could not pay in cash, but paid with life. Minorities, particularly Hindus and Ahmadiyas, continue to face a wave of violations in Balochistan, the area where Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests on the orders of President Musharraf in October 1999.  The native Balochis experience a severely degraded status since the occupation.  Although the exact number is unknown, more than 5,000 Hindus were forced to escape from the unrest in Balochistan and enter Sind in 2005.  Militant Muslim groups have desecrated Hindu temples, set their homes on fire, and destroyed Hindu shops and property.  Here too, Hindu females, particularly school students, are forcibly converted to Islam.

On March 21, 2005, sixty civilians were killed and one hundred and fifty were injured in Dera Bugti, Balochistan when Pakistan’s Frontier Corps attacked the town with “artillery shelling, rockets, and indiscriminate machine gun fire.”  Among those killed were innocent Hindu women and children as well as dozens of Bugti tribesmen

Minority hatred

The famous Hindu temple town of Hinglaj, in a narrow valley of Hingol river is however, respected by the Baloch political leaders. In 2008 Pakistan government had urged the Baloch provincial agency to confirm a resolution for construction of a damn on Hingol River. Balochistan’s Irrigation and Power Minister Sardar Mohammad Aslam Bizenjo and other provincial ministers moved a resolution on the floor of the assembly over the weekend that categorically objected to the dam being constructed near the historical Hinglaj Mata Temple, where an annual festival is held every April. The Baloch Assembly resolution warned that if the dam was constructed, the temple could go under water sooner than later, and this would hurt the sentiments of all Hindus. It requested the federal government to have the dam constructed elsewhere. Taking into consideration the plight of the Hindus in Sind and Punjab it can be said that Balochi Hindus generally enjoy trust of the original Baloch tribes; but they are under pressure from Punjabi settlers.

Pakistan’s education system is constructed in such ways that Hindu, Sikh and Christian students are automatically discriminated. Extracts, translated from Urdu to English, from the government-sponsored textbooks approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education demonstrate the derogatory and inflammatory portrayal of Hinduism to the youth of Pakistan:

  • Grade IV: “The religion of Hindus did not teach them good things, and the Hindus did not respect women.”
  • Grade V:  “The Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.”
  • Grade VI: “The Hindu setup was based on injustice and cruelty.”
  • Grade VII: “Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation and several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase Muslim culture and civilization.”
  • Grade VIII: “Before Islam people lived in untold misery all over the world.”
  • Grade X: “Islam gives a message of peace and brotherhood…There is no such concept in Hinduism.”

Minority hatred and persecution is built in the Pakistani system. Pakistan’s Constitution at face value guarantees fundamental human rights and equality in front of the law to its citizens. However, Article 19 of the Constitution states, “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan,” thus securing the supremacy of Islam in the country. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Article 20 which states, “Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.” Unfortunately, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and the Ahmadiyas continue to be persecuted in Pakistan today despite the assurance provided by the Constitution. Temples are desecrated, deities are destroyed, and they risk persecution, particularly because of the Blasphemy Act.

Article 25 of the Constitution maintains, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law…There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.” Rape, honor killings, and domestic abuse are common types of violence that the women of Pakistan face. Despite the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, these women are left to fend for themselves, as the Pakistani laws do not provide adequate protection.  They continue to face a myriad of inequalities in the judicial system, and will continue to do so, as long as the Hudood Ordinance is not repealed.
Article 35 mandates, “The State shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.”

Article 36 states, “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.” In reality, however, neither families nor minorities are being protected by Pakistan today as kidnappings or forced conversions of Hindu girls continue to occur without convictions of the felons.

Insignificant numbers

Curiously, Pakistan has taken no action toward ratifying or signing the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), although it did ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on September 19, 1966.

However, only in rural and semi-urban Sind, Hindus have some visible presence. As shown on the map the Hindus are more concentrated in Hyderabad and areas bordering India (notice green colour in the map). Besides Soda Rajput, most of the Hindus are classified as “Low Caste”, engaged in scavenging work, night soil carrying job and other menial works. Except for the appointment of Bhagwan Das as the Chief Justice of Pakistan (took oath on Quran) no other Hindu has so far succeeded in climbing up the ladder in the Pakistani armed force, civil services and other spheres of national activities. We propose to discuss several atrocious attacks on the Hindu minority in Pakistan in later chapters of this essay.

Though numerically insignificant the Hindus of Pakistan have organized a few representative bodies to espouse their welfare and other causes with the provincial and federal governments:

Pakistan Hindu Panchayat has branches in all the provinces important towns. They hold annual conferences and represent with the provincial Nazims (district collectors), police officials and political leaders. Pakistan Minority Welfare Council is also a broad representative body which works in close liaison with the Human Rights activists in Pakistan.

In a latest development Ramesh Lal, a PPP MNA and other Hindu MNAs walked out of the Pakistan National Assembly in protest against highly derogatory and biased comments by a Pakistani High Court judge. Chafing at a Lahore high court judge’s comment that Hindus were financing terror attacks in that country, nine Hindu members of Pakistan’s national assembly staged a walkout in protest on Wednesday.

“The sentiments of four million Pakistani Hindus are hurt by Justice Khwaja Sharif’s uncalled for remarks,” said Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Ramesh Lal. He was then joined by other Hindu lawmakers who then walked out. Members of the Awami National Party, too, joined in. Their protest was described as the first in Pakistan’s national assembly against the judiciary. Justice Sharif had made the remark while hearing a petition on barring the deportation of Afghan Taliban leaders on Monday.

The apparent trigger for the comment was a lawyer’s observation that a US security firm was responsible for the blasts in Pakistan, including the recent ones in Lahore. Justice Sharif rebutted him saying, “Muslims, and not Hindus, are involved in terror acts in Pakistan. Hindus might be the financiers of such attacks.”

As a member of ruling PPP, Ramesh Lal called for intervention from President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, saying Justice Sharif’s questioning the patriotism of Pakistani Hindus had left the latter hurt and angry. He also asked Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary to take suo motu note of the “highly objectionable” remark. The protesters later returned to the assembly after some persuasion, as reported in Times of India on March 18. 2010.

On the other hand, the Sikhs are a microscopic community, slightly more than 20,000. They live mostly in Peshawar, Lahore, Nankana Sahib and a few other places of worship. Pakistan’s population is more than 96% Muslims; Hindus 1.6%, Christians 1.6 % and rest are Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists etc. There is one traffic inspector from the Sikh community in Punjab, one army officer, one singer, a poetess and a MLA in the province of Punjab (PPP). After Taliban rampage in Afghanistan a few hundred Sikhs migrated to Pakistan and settled with their relatives in FATA, NWFP and Lahore areas.

They were again uprooted from FATA area when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of Baitullah Mehsud demanded rupees 20 crores (200 million) as Jizya. About 5 Sikhs were taken to custody and they were released after paying rupees 20 lakhs (2 million). Most of the uprooted Sikhs are still living in camps and have not gone back to FATA locations.

Like the Hindus, the Sikhs have also been persecuted. The Sikh temple at Naulakha Bazar in Lahore was taken over by the Muslims in August 2007. The Pakistan Evacuee Trust Property Board (PETPB) had recently taken over lands worth millions of rupees which belonged to Samadh Bhai Man Singh and Gurdwara Deh.

Recent kidnapping of the Sikhs in NWPF area, beheading of two and quarantine of the others demanding Jizya has sent shiver of fear amongst the Sikhs of Pakistan and the world community has also been rattled. The Taliban and local Nazims are demanding Jizya from the Hindus and the Sikhs-a detestable religious tax revived in India by the bigoted Mughal Empire Aurangzeb, which was prevalent off and on till the British had put an end to the barbaric system.

Sikh affairs in Pakistan were in disarray. Pakistan constituted a Gurdwara management body in April 1999 with Lt. General Javed Nasir, the hardcore Tablighi and former ISI chief as the chief. He opened his office inside Gurdwara Nanakmatta, Lahore. After one year the body was disbanded and one Shyam Singh (Sindhi) was appointed Chairman. Shyam Singh had earlier acted ac coordinator between the Sikh terrorists and the ISI. However, there has not been any formal election to the committee and the chairman, a front man of the ISI, manages the religious affairs of the Sikh community in Pakistan. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee of India poses as self appointed caretaker of the Sikhs of Pakistan. They are treated as a pliable tool by Pakistan. It is alleged by certain Pakistani journalists that some figures in the SGPC receive underhand money from Pakistan. It is difficult for the author to probe authenticity of such allegations.

Separate electorates

There are several comments in Pak media that Pakistan gives some preferred treatment to the Sikhs because of its hidden agenda in “Indian Punjab.” Pakistan had earlier encouraged, assisted and armed the Sikh terrorists and even now the ISI has sheltered leaders of the Khalistan Zindabad Force, Babbar Khalsa, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Liberation Force and the International Sikh Youth Federation. Important leaders who live in Pakistan as guests of the ISI are Lakhbir Singh Rode (nephew of Bhindranwale), Wadhwa Singh, Mehal Singh, Vikram Singh Canada, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, Ranjit Singh Nita etc. Pakistan is trying to revive terrorism in Punjab through these desperate tools living at the mercy of the ISI. However, collusion between the Sikh terrorists and the Pakistan establishment does not offer any solace to common Sikhs. They live on the point of threat of the Saif (sword) of Islam.

The Hindus of Pakistan, now reduced in number, have lost all leverages in political, economic and administrative systems of Pakistan. There are only two Captain rank doctors in Pakistan military hospital; Capt. Danish and Capt. Aneel Kumar. There are no Hindu officers in the fighting ranks. In the administrative services no Hindu holds high position and to come by any Hindu in strategic lower position even in the provinces of Punjab and Sind is rather impossible. They are not simply trusted and are not given preference in spite of the fact that some of them are better qualified. We must not forget Dipak Kaneria, the Pakistani leg spinner, who is more shunted out of the team than allowed to display his cricketing skill.

A major issue Hindus faced until 2002 was that of the separate electorates for Muslims and non-Muslims. In the system of separate electorates, members of religious minorities could only vote for members of their group, which resulted in their marginalization in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association convened a national conference on the issue in December 2000. In 2001, Hindus, Christians and Ahmadiyas successfully conducted a partial boycott of the elections. In 2002, Musharraf granted religious minorities the right to vote for mainstream general seats of National and Provincial assemblies, which they did in 2002. While this was definitely a positive step for the well being of Hindus and the democratization of Pakistan, it remains to be seen how this will affect their overall status. Politically the Hindus have no voice in any power structure in Pakistan, whereas in India the Muslims are gaining more political stature.

Despite Musharraf’s assurances minorities are still elected to the National Assembly from reserved constituencies. They are mostly elected from Sind, Punjab (Multan), NWFP (Bannu) etc places. Majority of them were elected to the NA from PPP tickets, though PML, PML N and MQM also had fielded minority candidates in their own concentration areas. Shabaz Bhatti, MNA from Lahore, belongs to an influential family and is minister in charge of minority affairs. But his portfolio has very little to do with minority welfare. Bhatti is treated more as a minority face to a system that is squarely poised against the minorities including the Ahmadiyas (treated as non-Muslims).

The Hindus, who had received assurance from Jinnah, despite his not so mute encouragement to communal killings, the community that counted for one fourth of Pakistan’s population after independence is now shrinking by the day; now they count for 1.6% of the population. Not only the Hindus are discriminated in matters of jobs, services and any other means of livelihood that require some sort of state patronage, they are threatened, induced and even forced to convert to Islam. Their landed properties are forcibly grabbed, their temples destroyed and their women kidnapped systematically. Under such pressure thousands of Hindus have escaped to India from Sind, Punjab and Balochistan. In Rajasthan alone over 20,000 refugees from Pakistan are living in temporary encampments or with relatives. Neither the government of India nor the present Rajasthan government has taken up any welfare programme to settle these refugees from Pakistan.

According to Seemant Lok Sangathan (SLS), a group working for refugees in Rajasthan, over 10,000 Hindu migrants from Pakistan is living in Jodhpur alone. Nearly 20,000 others are scattered in Jaisalmer and other areas of Rajasthan areas bordering Pakistan. Efforts of the SLS resulted in granting of long term visa by the government of India, but no relief work was initiated.

Only during the last BJP government in Rajasthan more than 4,50,000 refugees from Pakistan were given voting rights and one refugee was given ticket to contest election. In contrast to this the new Congress government closes eyes when hundreds of Pir Pagaro followers of Sind (Muslims) cross over to India and settle down in the bordering villages with their relatives and clansmen. The illegal Pir Pagaro followers are given voting right, issued ration cards and are pampered by the vote-bank political sharks. Here exist a situation similar to West Bengal and Assam where political patronage by the ruling parties encourage Pakistani Muslims to settle down on the bordering region. Unfortunately for last 20 years the government has not undertaken any survey of these Muslim dominated villages.

Inhuman condition

Interview of several Hindu refugees conducted during November-December 2009 indicate that they were physically assaulted, they were paid paltry remuneration as against the Muslim employees. Parents have to keep Muslim names for their children with a view to get admission in schools. Besides destruction of temples, desecration of deities the Hindus, mostly of lower casts are subjected to extortion and their women are kidnapped, raped and converted to Islam. Hindus in Pakistan are persecuted for their religious belief. Even the Sindhi rural Muslim landlords indulge in forcible grabbing of lands belonging to Hindu farmers. Few summed up points of inhuman condition in which the Hindus have to live in Pakistan are enumerated below:

  • Hindu Children do not get admission into schools.
  • Hindus are converted into Islam by force.
  • Hindu Girls & Women are abducted, molested & raped.
  • Hindus and Sikhs are forced to pay Jizya Tax by Talibans.
  • Hindu Employees are beaten to death in the factory complex.
  • Provocations against Hindus are inserted in the school text books.
  • Hindu children are forced to pray Namaz & generally called as ‘Kaffir Kutta’ – Infidel Dogs.
  • Hindu farmers and labours are forced to do their jobs as bonded labours, with very paltry payment.
  • 80% of lands are snatched from the Kaffir Hindus to fortify total Islamisation of Pakistan.
  • The about 20% population of Hindus in Pak in 1947 came down to 1.6% in 1991.
  • Hindus in Pakistan are treated as 3rd Class citizens or not the citizen of Pakistan at all.
  • The migrating Pakistani Hindus in India also face various troubles to get long term visa.

The Government of India takes a very biased stand. They do not push back the Pakistani Muslims to Pakistan from India, though their presence is reported by agencies. The Hindus migrating from Pakistan are treated as unwelcome guests and the vote-bank secularists treat them as possible voters for their political opponents.

Besides these general observations certain specific instances may drive home the message that Indians are not all concerned about the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian minorities in Bangladesh and Hindu-Sikh and Christian minorities in Paksitan. Destruction of one mosque at Ayodhya by Hindu fundamentalists had divided the country communally as well as politically. However, when Hindu, Sikh and Christian temples in Pakistan are destroyed these very “secularists” prefer to look the other way. We have mentioned about the destruction of Rangmahal Hindu Temple in Lahore. In the heart of Liyari area of Karachi a part of the Hindu temple at Baghdadi area was forcibly taken over by a group of butchers and the sacred place is now used for slaughtering animals. A huge portion of the temple land has been taken over by the land mafia by forcing the Hindus to surrender the land at a minimal cost. The Human Rights Commission of Punjab protested against these incidents. But the authorities in Karachi and Islamabad did very little to restore the temple and the land in question to the Hindu trustees.

According to BBC reporter Riaz Sohail (March 2007), Garish Kumar, an engineer from Hyderabad was kidnapped and his mutilated body was later discovered near a madrasa. Though police passed on this as an offence by a militant organisation it was known in the area that Garish was kidnapped for ransom and later killed. His is not the isolated case. Kumar’s father Saspal Das is a trader at Kunri town in Umerkot district. He was of the opinion that though more than 90% Hindus of Pakistan live in PPP president and national president Zardari’s home province he has very little time for minority welfare. However, Kishenchand Parwani, adviser on minority affairs to the provincial government openly refutes any atrocity against the Hindus but admits that Hindus are targeted even in Karachi town by the communal Muslim elements. In recent years kidnapping for ransom has become a routine in Sukkur, Hyderabad, Larkana etc areas. Ramesh Lal, MNA agrees that nearly 20 traders were kidnapped by the communal goons and only 12 could buy their release. Others were not rich enough to pay ransom and lost their lives.

From upper Sukkur, four Hindu women were kidnapped in late October by a known fundamentalist listed as a leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They were taken to a mosque, forcibly converted and married away to middle aged married persons with children.

Surprisingly, the Indian Human Rights activists and secular protagonists, who labour beyond all conceivable elasticity of the Indian system, do not shed even crocodile’s tears for the Hindu-Sikh-Christian minorities in Pakistan. These matters are not even taken up either in first track or second track diplomatic talks with Pakistan. Systematic destruction of Hindu temples and desecration of Sikh temples do not attract attention of the Indian political leaders and so-called secularist compradors. They are busy in distributing largesse among the minorities (Muslim) in India but are averse to even look at the plights of the Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The minority situation was created by the partition of the country. Plight of the minorities is an unfinished agenda of of the partition. India is attending to that duty rather with pathological urgency in respect of Indian Muslims. On the other hand in Pakistan and Bangladesh the minorities are persecuted with pathological criminal intentions. Can India not use diplomatic pressure, like other unfinished agenda of the partition, to ensure better deals to the minorities in the neighbouring countries? Would our secular, democratic and human rightist political leaders dare to answer the angry questions asked by the beleaguered Pakistani and Bangladeshi minorities? One Kandhamal incident in Orissa had created political storm amongst certain secularists, but systematic attack on Pakistani Christians, Sikhs and Hindus do not ruffle the feathers of so called secular and democratic leaders, NGO professionals and societal organisations. Mera Bharat Mahan?

(Maloy Krishna Dhar retired as a Joint Director of India’s internal intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)

US will never extradite Headley to India

The Indian Government, it seems, is taking the country for a ride with regard to the David Headley case. The solicitor general has advised the government to push for Headley’s extradition to India. Indian leaders have been saying that the US would grant India access to Headley for questioning. But the US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, said the US is yet to decide on whether to grant India access to Headley.

So while the confusion prevails on whether India will get access to Headley, Canary Trap brings you the details of Headley’s plea bargain. The government knows that Headley has signed a plea agreement while pleading guilty to all the 12 terrorism related charges against him.

The charges, as mentioned in the plea agreement (a copy of which is in the possession of Canary Trap), include:

  • Count One, which charges defendant with conspiracy to bomb places of public use in India, including, but not limited to, the conduct which led to the attacks on places of public use in Mumbai, India, from November 26 to 28, 2008, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332f(a)(2);
  • Count Two, which charges defendant with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, in violation of Title 18, United State Code, Section 956(a)(1);
  • Counts Three through Eight, which charge defendant with aiding and abetting the murders of six United States nationals in Mumbai, India, in violation of Title 18, United States Code,Section 2332(a)(1);
  • Count Nine, which charges defendant with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A;
  • Count Ten, which charges defendant with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 956(a)(1);
  • Count Eleven, which charges defendant with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A;
  • Count Twelve, which charges defendant with providing material support to Lashkar e Tayyiba in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B.

The plea agreement also states that Headley has been cooperating with the US Government since his arrest on October 3, 2009. He has also provided substantial assistance to criminal investigation, and information of significant intelligence value.

Headley has also assured his truthful cooperation in future proceedings and keeping in mind these facts, the US Government has decided to not seek death penalty for him. However, the agreement also states that: “Defendant (Headley) understands that if he should breach this cooperation agreement and if the government, at its sole discretion, voids such agreement, the government will no longer be bound by its decision not to seek the death penalty.”

The plea agreement clearly mentions that Headley will not be extradited to any country.

“Defendant (Headley) shall not be extradited to the Republic of India, the Kingdom of Denmark, or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, respectively, for any offenses for which he has been convicted in accordance with this plea.

Regarding the possibility of questioning Headley by foreign agencies (Indian or Pakistani), the plea agreement states: “Defendant further agrees that, when directed by the United States Attorney’s Office, he will fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, videoconferencing or letters rogatory.”

It is quite clear from the agreement that US wants to control access to David Headley for reasons that Canary Trap has highlighted in a previous post. The Indian Government can make tall claims of questioning/extraditing Headley, but the reality is that it is not being taken seriously by the US administration.

Click here to read Headley’s plea agreement…

(Note: The words in the quotes, highlighted in red, are not part of the actual text but have been added for the understanding of the readers.)

Delhi Police and Batla House encounter

The postmortem reports of the two suspected Indian Mujahideen men killed in the Batla House encounter in September 2008 have again raised questions over the authenticity of the  alleged encounter. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police tried everything to prevent the reports from getting public.

On September 19, 2008, two suspected militants, Atif Amin and Mohammed Sajid, were shot dead in a gunbattle with the police in south Delhi’s Jamia Nagar locality in which a Delhi police officer lost his life.

While human rights activists, media, lawyers, and citizens create holes in the police’s encounter theory (based on the details of the postmortem reports), one thing that the encounter highlighted was the lack of coordination among security agencies in the country and intense competition between them to outdo each other and hog the media limelight.

Canary Trap had earlier raised questions over the murky encounter and even suggested that the encounter might have been a fallout of a tussle between the Mumbai Police and the Delhi Police to hog the limelight. According to various media reports, both Mumbai and Delhi police were behind Atif Amin and the latter went ahead with the encounter in a bid to pre-empt the former.

“We felt there was no need to plot the encounter so hurriedly and things could have been different had it been planned properly,” a senior Mumbai cop was quoted as saying by the news report.

In a hurry to get hold of Atif, the Delhi police lost one of its bright officers. The terror suspects were already under surveillance by various security agencies. Then what was the need for the Delhi Police to rush with the encounter?

As highlighted before, lack of coordination among security agencies and the urge to outdo each other has had a negative impact on India’s fight against terrorism. Let me give you an example of something that I saw myself to explain the point I am making.

I had undertaken a month-long trip to Jammu and Kashmir in 2004 as a part of my M.Phil studies. My thesis tested Johan Galtung’s claims that news coverage of conflict gives more prominence to violent news stories and magnify the conflict. The India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir was chosen as a case study to empirically test Galtung’s claims.

The objective of my visit was to interview journalists (print, radio, tv) from across the state. During one interview session with a journalist from one of the leading English news channel, I got to know how various security agencies in the state were competing with each other to catch and kill the terrorists and earn rewards. The journalist showed me a video footage of an encounter that his cameramen had shot. The footage showed two terrorists behind a wall, in a gunfight with J&K police. The video was shot from an elevated point so the cameraman had a complete view of the encounter.

The video was around 30 minutes long, and at the end of it the state police manage to kill both the militants. After the encounter, the police personnel move towards the slain terrorists at a very slow pace. The reason for this was that they feared the duo could be fidayeen and might be pretending to be dead and blow themselves up once the police personnel come near them. While the police team was moving slowly towards the bodies of terrorists, suddenly another vehicle appeared in the opposite direction. Some people got out of it and quickly ran towards the bodies of the slain terrorists, picked them up and took the bodies away. All this before the eyes of the state police personnel.

On the same day (in the evening), a press conference was held by a central paramilitary forces officer (also covered by the channel), in which he declared proudly that they had killed two dreaded terrorists in the morning. The J&K police team, which actually killed those terrorists, were mute spectators in the press conference and could not do anything.

This was just an example of how multiple security agencies, instead of working in close coordination, are working at cross purposes. Had the Delhi Police attempted to monitor the activities of the suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists for some more time before taking them into custody (not killing them, which they did), they would have got valuable information on the organization’s terror activities across the country.

Nuclear Liability Bill, US Senate, and Indian Parliament

BY GOPAL KRISHNA

A similar civil liability bill in the US Senate could have been thrown out. The US government appears confident that it can buy this Bill as well as our parliamentarians who remain imprisoned by party whips.

Of all the 36 bills that was listed for introduction in the last session of Parliament, the move to introduce the Nuclear Liability Bill, a pre-condition for the entry of American companies in the Indian civil nuclear sector, was the most significant.

Civil society groups and Opposition parties are alarmed at the swiftness with which the Bill was set to be introduced to facilitate the entry of US nuclear power companies into India.

One of the biggest myths being propagated is that nuclear cooperation with the US is the answer to India’s energy crisis, which in any case would not see the light of the day before 2016. Also, Indian Parliament and citizens have been kept in the dark about the cost of electricity from foreign-built nuclear power reactors. Unmindful of the fact that all the countries that produce nuclear energy are facing a crisis in the management of nuclear wastes, India is taking the same route, that too with a plan of 25k megawatt by 2020.

In an interview conducted by EG Weymouth, Editor-at-Large of Newsweek, on November 16, 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “We had a watershed and a landmark agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation. We would like to operationalise it and ensure that the objectives for the nuclear deal are realised in full merit. My sincere hope is that we can persuade the US administration to be more liberal when it comes to transfer of dual-use technologies to us. Now that we are strategic partners these restrictions make no sense. India has an impeccable record of not participating in any proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So, that is my number one concern.”

This was in reference to the consent agreement that the US President would have to sign and send to the US Congress. Responding to the question about the need for Indian Parliament to pass a liability agreement in the matter of nuclear cooperation with US, the prime minister said: “We will do that. Our Cabinet will be taking a decision. I do not see any difficulties in honouring our commitments.”

Notably, when the prime minister was asked about the role of the Indian Parliament, he appears to have highlighted the Union Cabinet.

Deal’s provisions

On October 1, 2008, the Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-Proliferation Enhancement Act came into effect after the US Senate passed it. While the role of the US legislature is quite manifest, the Indian Parliament has not been allowed any role to play, not even to examine the deal’s provisions, and now wants the Indian legislature to pass a special law to provide foreign companies with liability protection in case of nuclear accidents.

This is being done because US nuclear companies, which are in the private sector, are demanding it. So far in India, our nuclear companies, quite like the French and Russians, are State-owned.

The proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, which was to be introduced in the current Parliament session, is an exercise to provide State subsidy to foreign-nuclear reactor builders from the onus of the financial consequences of nuclear disasters, accidents and incidents by shifting the onus for accident liability from the foreign builders to the Indian State and citizens.

The Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania led to 14 years of clean-up costing, $1 billion. The US interests are seeking to avoid open market competition by their companies. Although the US assumes liability for any nuclear catastrophic damages from an accident only above the $10.5 billion figure that is inflation-adjusted every five years and thus variable, which itself is quite low, through its machinations it denies India even that relief which it provides to its own companies.

The Bill must be revisited in the light of the international nuclear accidents the world over, before it is even tabled in Parliament.

“If there was not a cap and if there was no suitable legislation insurance in place, then we wouldn’t be in the nuclear industry,” said Peter Mason, president and chief executive of nuclear supplier GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada while explaining to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Canadian House of Commons on Natural Resources that is dealing with Bill C-20, their Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, November 2009.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2009 is ridden with glaring loopholes and booby traps because it insulates nuclear energy companies from punitive legal consequences.

The Bill seems to pretend the non-existence of the report of the US President’s Commission on The Accident at Three Mile Island that happened in 1979. To begin with, it should be renamed as Liability from Nuclear Damage Bill and it must explicitly inform Parliament and the citizens what all lessons from that report has been incorporated in the Bill.

Need for White Paper

Mere civil liability is totally unacceptable because clearly it has not factored in all the nuclear accidents which have happened in India and the world. Most importantly, before a Bill of this nature is brought in, the central government must come out with a white paper on the status of relief to radioactive radiation victims and the liability therein with regard to existing facilities. The Bill must include mining sites of radioactive minerals like uranium in its definition of nuclear facility.

The Union Cabinet cleared the text of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill on November 19, 2009 for introduction in Parliament. The passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill will allow India to join the international convention on civil liability for nuclear damage. So far, this nuclear Bill is not in the public domain.

While placing a cap on the compensation to be paid in the case of an accident at a nuclear site, the proposed legislation puts the responsibility for paying this compensation on the operator and not the suppliers or foreign companies installing the reactors in India, as has been demanded by the multinational corporations like Union Carbide Company and Dow Chemicals Company. This provision is not in the public interest.

Nuclear power companies in general and US nuclear companies like GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox intend to invest in India if and only they are provided anticipatory bail for their legal liability for nuclear accidents in future.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake informed a US House committee:  “We are hoping to see action on nuclear liability legislation that would reduce liability for American companies and allow them to invest in India.”

The US nuclear industry is addicted to special laws made by the US government that limits their liability from nuclear radiation accidents. It wishes to operate under the law, which has been shaped by it. It has been noted that US companies who are part of the US commercial nuclear mission to India organised jointly by the Nuclear Energy Institute and the US India Business Council informed the media that they are satisfied over the nature of the Bill and are in active discussion with the Nuclear Power Corporation, Tata Power, GMR, Jindal, NTPC, L&T to explore business potential.

Clearly, the US nuclear companies have seen the Bill (may have drafted it as well), which has not even been tabled in our Parliament.

Notably, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s 25 member working group on civil nuclear energy-2009 under the Chairmanship of Dr SK Jain, CMD, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited came out with a 57-page report with the format of the proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2009.

The FICCI report has an annexure that is about Domestic Legislation Dealing with CNL (Civil Nuclear Liability) wherein it states, “As a natural corollary to the liberalisation of the nuclear sector in India, the government of India is mooting the idea of a CNL Bill. Aligning to any international CNL treaty would involve the enactment of a domestic CNL legislation with appropriate provisions. There being no explicit statute or legislation in India, either creating or limiting liability of persons engaged in nuclear installations till now, liability would stand determined by courts, pursuant to actions in tort.”

FICCI’s working group on nuclear energy suggests that the directions and observations of the Supreme Court in Charan Lal Sahu’s case should serve as the object and purpose for enacting such CNL legislation. This entails the basis for damages in case of leakages and accident should be statutorily fixed taking into consideration the nature of damages inflicted, the consequences thereof and the ability and capacity of the parties to pay.

Favouring industry over victims

A law should be enacted to ensure immediate relief to victims — viz, by providing for the constitution of tribunals regulated by special procedure for determining compensation to victims of industrial disasters or accident. The law should also provide for interim relief to victims during the pendency of proceedings. The law should provide for the establishment of a statutory Industrial Disaster Fund, contributions to which may be made by the government and industries, whether they are of transnational corporations or domestic undertakings, public or private. The Public Liability Insurance Act has been constituted pursuant to this, but it excludes damage from ‘accidents caused by radioactivity’.

In the United States, liability for nuclear accidents is set at $10 billion (US), while in Japan the cap will be doubled next year to roughly $1.47 billion (Canadian). Whether a nuclear accident is a $650 million event or a multi-billion dollar catastrophe is determined by the direction and speed of the wind that carries the radioactive radiation.

Currently, Canada is seized with a Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act wherein the bill raises the cap on liability to $650 million from the $75 million limit established in 1976. The damage from Chernobyl is estimated at some $250 billion. In Germany, there is no cap on nuclear liability but an operator must be able to cover at least $4 billion but the civil liability is estimated at Euro 2000-5000 billion.

The international conventions, which provide for the liability regime, also favour the industry and not the possible victims and provides for indemnity to the global nuclear industry: the Paris Convention (1960), the Vienna Convention (VC) revised in 1997 and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC).

One of the worrying things of the new bill is that liability is likely to shift from manufacturer to operator. FICCI’s suggestions for Domestic legislation dealing with CNL may incorporate the following:

  • Single point liability for the operator of the nuclear installation (‘Operator’);
  • Liability of non-operators transferred to the operator;
  • Exceptions to liability to include standard force-major provisions with specific emphasis on terrorist and anti-social activities;
  • Capping of liabilities according to internationally adhered benchmarks may be adopted with the government prescribing the threshold limit;
  • Prescribed liability for the plant must be bench-marked to the risk-magnitude of the installation.

The CSC limits the compensation payable by the operators of nuclear plants for any accidents or damage to $450 million, leaving the responsibility for the rest to national governments almost in the range of compensation paid to the victims of the Bhopal industrial disaster ($470 million) wherein victims were turned from citizens into subjects of the ruling regime.

It is now well known that ‘hazardous corporations’ are a fit case for the application of the principle of Absolute Liability and multinational enterprise liability because they are neither ‘restricted by national boundaries’ nor effectively controlled by international law’ because of their complex corporate structure with ‘networks of subsidiaries and decisions which make it ‘exceedingly difficult or even impossible to pinpoint responsibility for the damage caused by the enterprise’. They operate through a neatly designed network of interlocking directors’, a ‘common operating system’, global distribution and marketing systems’, design development and technology worldwide, financial and other controls and highly sophisticated and technologically capable machines and working staff.

Institutional accountability

Consequently, victims of such daily actions are unable to identify which unit of the enterprise caused the harm. Therefore, faults by even a local subsidiary must be attributed to the parent company because their duty too is non-delegable.

Notably, the Supreme Court also held that the Act only deals with civil liability and as such does not curtail or affect rights in respect of criminal liability. The Civil Liability from Nuclear Damages Bill must be redrafted to include both criminal liabilities and deterrent civil liabilities.

Defence Research and Development Canada, Canadian Department of Defence has suggested that a severe nuclear accident results in wide contamination. The research looked at the impact of a relatively small dirty bomb going off in downtown Toronto. It estimated that cleaning up the contamination using the most stringent standards could cost up to $250 billion, and that the economic toll could reach $23.5 billion. The research was commissioned in 2007. No such research has been commissioned in India.

The institutional accountability for Bhopal and Kaiga like disasters rests with Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs and the Civil Liability from Nuclear Damages Bill shows that it has not learnt any lessons because it has not been made accountable for its past lapses.

Private companies who want to do business with India have been seeking a liability law that protects their nuclear energy business at any cost. Foreign companies wanting to supply nuclear reactors and other equipment have been pressing India for the speedy passage of this crucial Bill. The Indian government is required to make some changes in its Atomic Energy Act as well.

In such a context, the drafters of Green Tribunal Bill and the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill must study the report of the investigative commission appointed by US President Jimmy Carter immediately following the Three Mile Island accident. President Jimmy Carter had appointed a 12-member commission which submitted its report — The Need for Change: The Legacy of TMI — in October 1979. It is advisable to learn from the blunders of the past.

Indian ‘Nuclear Liability Bill’ must take note of the environmental hazards from the nuclear facilities and potential nuclear accidents and incorporate stringent criminal and civil liability provisions taking lessons from worst accident at a civilian nuclear power plant in Three Mile Island occurred on March 28, 1979 in US and the Chernobyl disaster, a nuclear reactor accident that occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. This nuclear accident led to the cessation of new nuclear plant construction in the US.

Before passing the bill an independent and credible multi-disciplinary commission should be constituted with immediate effect to ascertain the potential consequences of nuclear accidents or ‘incidents’ and the liability arising out of it.

(Gopal Krishna is a social activist and lawyer. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)

UPA’s controversial Nuclear Liability Bill

The United Progressive Alliance Government is gearing up for the introduction of a controversial piece of legislation in the Indian Parliament very soon. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, if passed, will enable the civil nuclear commerce in India.

Nuclear power, which is the fourth largest source of electricity in India at present, accounts for just four percent of total electricity generation capacity. Within next 25 years, India aims to increase this to nine percent of the total generated power. And the nuclear liabilities bill is one of the key element in the implementation of the Indo-US Nuclear deal. The Union Cabinet has already approved the bill on November 20, 2009.

The Cabinet approval to the bill raises serious questions on the intentions of the ministers involved  in taking the decision, and even the Prime Minister. Let me put forward some of the most contentious elements of the proposed bill.

1. Limit on total compensation

2. Only operator liable

The passage of the bill would enable foreign companies (GE, Westinghouse, Areva, Rosatom) to supply reactors to India. All the nuclear power plants in the country are operated by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

Now let me explain each point in detail.

1. Limit on total compensation: In case of an accident at the nuclear plant (Three Mile Island – March 28, 1979,  Chernobyl – April 26, 1986, and Tokaimura Criticality Accident – 1999) the liability of the operator is limited. According to the proposed bill, in case of an accident the operator of the plant is liable to pay compensation upto a mere Rs 500 crore. The cap on the overall compensation to be paid in case of an accident has been placed at around Rs 2400 crores, which is much less compared to other countries. So in case of higher compensation, with the operator paying Rs 500 crores, the rest will come from the government coffers (taxpayers money).

Let us compare these figures with some global trends. According to a report on nuclear liability and compensation, in the US, a two-tier system of nuclear insurance provides about $11 billion of coverage for damage to third parties. The Price-Anderson Act governs this arrangement.

In Germany, there is no limit on an nuclear power plant operator’s liability for damage to third parties. Each operator in Germany must provide security of 2.5 billion Euro toward its liability (Click here to read more about liabilities for nuclear damage in other countries).

2. Only operator liable: This is the most contentious point in the proposed bill. In simple words, in case of an accident due to the equipment supplied or any other external reason (design, construction), the damages would have to be paid only by the operator of the facility and not the supplier of the equipment (nuclear reactors) or the builder of the facility. In such a scenario, the foreign companies supplying the reactors will make profits and the state-run and public-funded NPCIL would be liable to pay the compensation in case of an accident. So, while the Indian people would get paid with their own money in case of an accident, foreign companies would make a killing. I have no idea how the Union Cabinet thought this was in the interest of the nation.

The Indian operator would have its own liability agreement with a foreign supplier, which might help them in case the accident occurs due to some problem in the supplied equipment. But the details of this are not in the public domain yet.

The law in US is completely different and it allows the victims to initiate civil lawsuits, both against the operator and against any of the other parties involved (suppliers, designers) in the accident. Why have the Indian government not included this clause in its bill then? Why are they eager to let American companies earn millions in India like this when even the US takes the lives of its citizens seriously.

Also, the 10-year limit to file the claims after an accident is too low compared to other countries. There is no clarity on how to claim compensation for the natural and environmental damage caused by any nuclear accident either.

The Indian government has not learned any lessons after the Bhopal Gas tragedy and its victims are still waiting for the compensation to be paid to them.

Why Indians are being attacked in Afghanistan?

Canary Trap brings you the Why, and How of the high stakes battle that India is engaged in to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan.

“A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in India’s interest,” says a document of the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. With the Taliban out of power, the present situation in Afghanistan is perceived by India as a perfect opportunity to reverse Pakistan’s dominance in Afghanistan. This would help India to advance and strengthen its strategic and geopolitical interests in the central Asian region.

According to some strategic analysts, this would also help India in “shifting the battleground away from Kashmir”. It can also target the terror activities emanating from Afghanistan. India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan can bring huge pressure on Pakistan as it might feel encircled on both sides. Pakistan’s repeated allegations about the involvement of Indian intelligence agencies (from its consulates in Afghanistan) in aiding and abetting the secessionist activities in its Balochistan province also provides insight into India’s interests in Afghanistan. Besides, Pakistan also thinks that India is funding reconstruction projects in Afghanistan to spread its influence in that country.

But what is India doing to increase its influence and neutralize Pakistan in Afghanistan? India is funding projects worth $1.2 billion, thus making it the fifth single largest donor to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The projects funded or undertaken by Indians covers almost all parts of Afghanistan. The sectors where the Indian government is undertaking projects include hydro-electricity, power transmission lines, road construction, agriculture and industry, telecommunications, information and broadcasting, education and health.

According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, some of the major projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan include:

  • Construction of 220 KV Double Circuit Transmission Line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20 KV sub-station at Kabul under the North-East Power System project to bring power from neighbouring countries to Kabul.
  • Humanitarian food assistance of 1 million tons of wheat in the form of high protein biscuits distributed to 1.4 million school kids daily under School Feeding Programme in Afghanistan administered through World Food Programme.
  • Construction of 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram to facilitate movement of goods and commodities from Afghanistan to Iranian border.
  • Reconstruction and completion of Salma Dam Power Project (42 MW) in Herat province.
  • Construction of Afghan Parliament.
  • Reconstruction of IGICH in Kabul in various phases including reconstruction of surgical ward/polyclinic/ diagnostic centre.
  • Reconstruction of Habibia School.
  • Digging of 26 tube wells in North west Afghanistan.
  • Gifting of vehicles (400 buses, 200 mini-buses, 105 municipality and 285 army vehicles).
  • Setting up of 5 toilet-cum-public sanitation complexes in Kabul.
  • Telephone exchanges in 11 provinces connecting to Kabul.
  • Expansion of National TV network by providing an uplink from Kabul and downlinks in all 34 provincial capitals, contributing towards greater integration of the country.