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India: Right to Peaceful Protest Under Threat

Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images


India: Right to peaceful protest under threat due to mounting restrictions and escalating crackdown on farmers’ march

February 14, 2024

Amnesty International


Responding to the mounting restrictions and escalating crackdown by the Indian authorities on the ‘Dilli Chalo’ peaceful march of farmers, Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, said:


“Instead of facilitating the right to protest, the Indian government is yet again going to great lengths to quash the farmers’ peaceful protests in the country. The ‘Dilli Chalo’ march has been met with a crackdown by the authorities which runs counter to the government’s obligations not to restrict peaceful assemblies unnecessarily or disproportionately.


Instead of facilitating the right to protest, the Indian government is yet again going to great lengths to quash the farmers’ peaceful protests in the country. Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India

“The Indian authorities must urgently de-escalate the situation and guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and movement. It must condemn and effectively investigate any allegations of unnecessary and excessive use of force by security forces against the farmers’ protest in the country. Tear gas must only be used as a last resort to address generalized violence – after a careful risk assessment has been carried out, following a verbal warning and after giving an opportunity to participants to disperse.  


“Furthermore, tear gas grenades should not be dispensed through drones, as they may expose protesters to excessive quantities of chemicals and cause panic and disorientation and prevent protesters from identifying the best route to disperse.

Tear gas grenades should not be dispensed through drones, as they may expose protesters to excessive quantities of chemicals and cause panic and disorientation and prevent protesters from identifying the best route to disperse. Aakar Patel

“Amnesty International urges the Indian authorities to stop crushing peaceful dissent and remove all the unnecessary restrictions that hinder peaceful protests in the country, including blanket bans, internet shutdowns preventing the circulation of timely information, as well as the unlawful use of force by law enforcement officials and arbitrary arrest and detention of peaceful protestors.”


Background:


Over 200 farmers’ unions are participating in the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march from the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh and marching towards the capital city of New Delhi. They have raised twelve demands including the legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for all crops which the Government had promised in 2021. According to the information available to Amnesty International, the march is peaceful, as it is not marred with widespread and serious violence, and is thus protected by international standards on the right to peaceful assembly.


The authorities imposed Section 144 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits gathering of more than four people, at three Delhi borders and in 15 districts of the state of Haryana. The access to New Delhi has been further blocked by heavy barricading and large deployment of security personnel, use of concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire and internet shutdown imposed in at least seven districts of Haryana. These restrictions are unnecessary and amount to a violation of the right to peaceful assembly.


On 13 February, some of the protesting farmers, near the Shambhu border of Delhi, began to push aside barricades to pursue their march. These acts did not entail a use of force that was likely to result in injury and death, or serious damage to property, and thus did not warrant police dispersal. In contrast,  the Haryana police fired rounds of tear gas, including through the use of drones, to disperse the protestors. The Haryana police is the first police force in India to use drones to dispense tear gas grenades to disperse a protest.


According to official police sources, at least 4,500 tear gas grenades were used for six hours. Farm leaders alleged that tear gas grenades were dropped also on elderly farmers waiting further away at the tractor-trailers. They also alleged that police had detained a dozen farmers since Tuesday and several protesters sustained injuries after police had fired kinetic impact projectiles (rubber bullets) at them.


In a similar protest march held two years ago, Amnesty International documented the violent crackdowns on protesting farmers by the Indian authorities.  



© 2024 Amnesty International




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