All posts by Lawrence Liang

Statement on Kashmir from concerned individuals


We the undersigned, express our grave concern regarding the current state of affairs in Kashmir. The disproportionate use of state violence on unarmed protesters in Kashmir reflects severe human rights violations. Setting aside the paramount concerns in terms of continuous interventions in the normal lives of the people, the alarming loss of civilian lives and reports of serious injuries, including blinding from pellet wounds are deeply disturbing.

Attacking hospitals, ambulances, stopping funeral processions and even burning down residential buildings cannot be the response of a democratic nation. The attack on civilians and the ethical implications this has on our armed forces are not justifiable. Images of police, army and task force brutalities against women, children and youth are spreading across the social media. At the same time, partial and prejudiced reports on television and print are becoming the basis for racism, regionalism and religious intolerance among people who are not afraid to bully Kashmiris and other minorities.

We appeal to our government to consider the state of affairs in Kashmir democratically, prioritizing the right of Kashmiri citizens to normal lives. Continue reading Statement on Kashmir from concerned individuals

Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations with Gulf Labor: Statement from Gulf Labor Coalition

This is a statement issued by the Gulf Labor Coalition

Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations with Gulf Labor


On April 13, 2016, Guggenheim Board of Trustees unilaterally severed negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC). In a conference call, the Guggenheim[1] informed GLC that they will no longer meet with us, nor listen to our proposals about the living and working conditions of the workers who are and will be building museums in Abu Dhabi.

On April 17, 2016, Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, sent an email to artists, art critics, curators, and museum directors all over the world describing GLC as a group that “continues to shift its demands,” is “continuing to spread mistruths,” and uses “deliberate falsehoods.”[2] He insisted that no work had begun on the Abu Dhabi site, a recurring claim that GLC has already challenged.[3]

Since the announcement of the artist boycott of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in 2011, GLC has published research reports, analyzed each Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) monitoring report, invited NGOs and labor organizations (e.g., ILO, HRW, ITUC) to join discussions, and initiated multiple meetings with Guggenheim.[4] In response to all this work by GLC, statements made by the museum made it clear that the Guggenheim was never serious about dialogue with artist groups towards fair labor standards Continue reading Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations with Gulf Labor: Statement from Gulf Labor Coalition

Sedition and the Problem of Discretionary Exercise of Police Power: Mathew John

This is a Guest Post by Mathew John

The interpretation of law does not only take place in courts. In our season of ‘seditious’ speech this would seem an obvious point as the police administration is as much engaged in the process of legal interpretation or, as legal speak would have it, exercising discretionary powers. However, while courts have to at least minimally ensure that their decisions are backed by reason and aligned with previous decisions, the cases filed against Kanaihya Kumar and others seems to suggest that the police administration can operate almost as a universe unto itself in its interpretation of Indian criminal law. Of course police action will have to tested and defended in court but what if the police bring flimsy cases to trial to inflict long drawn out legal process as punishment for dissenting speech?

There has been an avalanche of excellent recent writing in recent days on the criminal offence of sedition. These have emphasised two broad points. On the one hand they have traced the offence of sedition to the authoritarian designs of the British colonial state seeking to control restive Indian opinion. On the other, opinion has also noted that Indian Courts while upholding the constitutionality of the offence of sedition have held that the speech can be penalised on this ground only when accompanied by an imminent threat of disorder, disturbance or violence. However, the JNU fracas as other similar cases in recent memory involving Arundhati Roy, Binayak Sen and Aseem Trivedi among others, demonstrate that this judicial standard reading down the offence of sedition to a very narrow set of speech acts has not constrained subsequent police action. On the contrary police administrations in the current JNU case have pursued citizens for seditious speech even when their speech could not in any objective manner be tied to imminent threats of disorder. That is, the criminal provisions on sedition section are used against the spirit of the law as laid down by the Supreme Court and is mobilised to with little cause but the harassment of dissenting opinion. In such situations what can defenders of free speech do to ensure that legal process is not abused to harass dissent?

Continue reading Sedition and the Problem of Discretionary Exercise of Police Power: Mathew John

Judicial Indiscipline or a Cry for Help – The Interim Stay Order of Justice Karnan: Amita Dhanda

This is a Guest Post by AMITA DHANDA

Justice Karnan a sitting judge of the Madras High Court was transferred from Madras to Kolkatta to resolve the administrative logjam between Justice Karnan and the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. 21other judges of the High Court also complained that it was difficult to work with Justice Karnan. The soft solution did not yield the desired result as the transferred judge invoked his alleged judicial power and pronounced an interim stay of his own transfer order. The stay he ruled would hold until the Chief Justice of India filed a written statement explaining the transfer order, which he contended was in breach of a 1993 judgement of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court punctured this defiance by asking the Chief Justice of Madras High Court not to allocate any judicial work to the Judge. The judicial crisis has passed but the administrative and human challenge remains.

How should we as citizens view this exchange? How should this incident be understand by us? One way of looking at the episode is through the legal lens of constitutionality, due process and jurisdiction. The other is to perceive the lived reality of a Dalit judge when elevated to the higher judiciary. An analysis of the incident, only vis a vis the requirements of the law, would not provide even a working hypothesis on what caused Justice Karnan to adopt a course of action, which many would perceive as suicidal for his career. The eccentricity explanation, which is doing the rounds, conveniently escapes the matter of caste discrimination. Consequently, this piece firstly examines the manner in which existing law speaks to Justice Karnan’s decision; then dwells on the question of caste discrimination and lastly cogitates on possible ways of addressing this all pervasive discrimination.

Continue reading Judicial Indiscipline or a Cry for Help – The Interim Stay Order of Justice Karnan: Amita Dhanda

The Blackhole called Bastar: Aritra Bhattacharya

This is a guest post by Aritra Bhattacharya

Unidentified persons attacked tribal leader Soni Sori on February 21, hours after she bid farewell to Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, lawyers at the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group and journalist Malini Subramaniam, when they hurriedly packed their belongings and left Jagdalpur. Over the last few months, they had withstood all forms of harassment and hostility from police officials and pro-police ‘civil society’ organisations in war-torn Bastar. They had been heckled, threatened with dire consequences and targeted via a sustained vilification campaign calling for their ouster from the region on grounds that they were stalling Bastar’s ‘development’.

Beginning 8 February, the pressure intensified. Police first landed at Malini’s house and then JagLag’s residence; they intimidated their landlord and domestic help, kept them in jail for hours together over several days and threatened to implicate them in false cases. Within ten days, Malini and JagLag lawyers had to leave Jagdalpur due to relentless pressure and harassment from the police.

Continue reading The Blackhole called Bastar: Aritra Bhattacharya

Vilification from the apolitical: The Dreyfus Affair and the case against JNU: Joyojeet Pal

This is a guest post by Joyojeet Pal

In 1894, a case of espionage broke out in France. Alfred Dreyfus, a young officer was arrested in connection with a letter suggesting a transfer of sensitive documents to the German attaché in Paris. Dreyfus was arrested for the crime, his family was intimidated and he was swiftly convicted despite weak evidence. After being publicly shamed as a traitor in a court-martial, he was sent to ‘Devil’s Island’ in French Guinea, a notorious penal colony. Within a couple of years of his conviction, a movement emerged to re-examine the facts of the case. Dreyfus would be eventually re-tried and re-convicted despite overwhelming evidence in his favour.

Dreyfus was Alsatian, Jewish, and a graduate of the elite École Polytechnique, one of the most competitive institutes in the country. Alsace had been lost by France following the Franco-Prussian war, the French were bitter about this, and Alsatians were often seen as a suspicious regional minority. The case that came to be known as the “Dreyfus Affair” in time became a landmark in modern French history because of the multilayered schisms in French society that it threw open.

Continue reading Vilification from the apolitical: The Dreyfus Affair and the case against JNU: Joyojeet Pal

Letter of Solidarity from International Association of Women in Radio and Television (India Chapter) for JNU

We the undersigned, from the India Chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), would like to place on record our solidarity with the students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We find the recent events that have taken place in JNU –  arrest of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition, and a lookout by the police for several other students who allegedly raised anti-national slogans – extremely disturbing. We also feel that the use of the sedition law, which was enacted by British colonial government, draconian and has no place in India. A fundamental principle in a democracy is the right to free speech. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution grants it as a fundamental right, and the Indian courts have recognised this in the past, including in the case of Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab. In this context, the framing of charges against the students of JNU is unacceptable, and should have no place in a democratic society.

Continue reading Letter of Solidarity from International Association of Women in Radio and Television (India Chapter) for JNU