India has no Genocide Crime Punishment and Prevention Law. This leads to a vacuum for criminals of such heinous crimes to get a way out, but also harbours their intent of further carnage.

 

London: Turbulent global crises, increased polarisation have made international solidarity hard to get by. I was impressed to see India secure a jubilant landslide vote for a Non Permanent Seat at UN Security Council; the country’s eighth term.

As an ethnic Indian, it is encouraging to note that India, from its pre-Independence times, was an early signatory to the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942. Post-Independence, India upheld the principles of justice, liberty and equality for all its citizens, enshrined in the Preamble to its written Constitution. It is in this light that the UN membership has been deemed valuable by India as an important guarantee for maintenance of international peace, security and cooperation.

The 1940s were crucial years for it. The world had witnessed enough blood and gore in the form of the Great War, the World War II and on the soils of India, in the form of Partition. It is in the backdrop of these global tragedies, that India became a signatory of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, on 29 November 1949. This was the first time “Genocide” was defined, as were the genocidal crimes punishable by international law. The signatories were contract bound to legislate in their domestic law, the Genocidal Crime Punishment.

A melting pot of global cultures, India has given refuge to many persecuted communities around the world. The Jews arrived in India, having fled persecution and lived a peaceful life here without any instances of anti-Semitism. Refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Sri Lanka live in India in a safe haven. It is no surprise that on 20 June 2020, many refugee communities in India would have reminded the world of their human rights infringement as the UN commemorated the World Refugee Day; India will sympathise.

Closer home, in India, the winter of 1989-90 saw the uprooting and forced, mass exodus of nearly 500,000 Kashmiri Hindus, at the behest of slogans shouted out from local mosques: Ralyiv, Galyivya Tchaliv (Convert, Die or Leave). This was the seventh time the Hindus in Kashmir (Kashmiri Pandits) were targeted and forced out of their homeland. India as a state remained silent. Neither was there an acknowledgement of this genocidal crime, nor recognition of Kashmiri Pandits as refugees in their own land; recognisable by UN as “Internally Displaced Persons”.

Recorded historical evidence as well as confessions of criminals of genocidal crimes are actively available, yet these are all viewed in isolation of one another as individual murder charges. Why is this despite India being a signatory to the UN Convention?

The recent murder of a local Kashmiri Hindu politician, Ajay Pandita shocked the country and was again viewed in isolation as murder. This is a continuing carnage upon the Hindus, daring to return home or worse still, seek justice.

It may be useful, therefore, in this context, to note that India ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 27 August 1959 with a statement: “With reference to article IX of the Convention, the Government of India declares that, for the submission of any dispute in terms of this article to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the consent of all the parties to the dispute is required in each case.”

What started off as a grand intent of intolerance to and punishment of genocidal crimes, adopting the broad definition of genocide, was followed up by an afterthought—to block future course.

Countries around the world, including United Kingdom have as part of their contractual obligation legislated Genocide Crime and Punishment Law in their Parliaments. India has no Genocide Crime Punishment and Prevention Law. This leads to a vacuum for criminals of such heinous crimes to get a way out, but also harbours their intent of further carnage.

That genocide was committed is now at least being recognised in occasional speeches made by legislators in India. However, in absence of a genocide law, this makes India party to genocide crime. Article 3 of the Convention clearly lists complicity in genocide as a punishable crime of genocide.

We live in advanced, digital times and there are online campaigns and petitions; one such was brought to my attention: Panun Kashmir Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Bill 2020, which I studied and was impressed by its detail. I signed it, with the hope that the work put into the drafting of this Bill will not go waste and Government of India will finally fulfil its international obligation, particularly in celebration of its recent popularity at UN Security Council. I am sure there must be at least one legislator in a country of nearly 1.2 billion who will table this Bill in Parliament of India, seeking to adopt it as law.

We live in hope!

Lakshmi Kaul, a British Indian living in London, tweets @KaulLakshmi