India
20.04.18
Urgent Interventions

Acts of harassment and death threats against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi

IND 003 / 0418 / OBS 052

Harassment / Death threats

India

April 20, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situationin India.

Brief descriptionof the information:

The Observatory has been informed byreliable sources about acts of harassment and death threats against Ms. SwathiVadlamudi, a journalist based in Hyderabad, India[1].

Accordingto the information received, on April 10, 2018, Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi publisheda cartoon on her Twitter and Facebook accounts commenting on recent incidents of rape andkidnapping in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir State, and Unnao, Uttar Pradesh State,which have sparked widespread protests and public outcry across India.

Thecartoon depicts the mythical Hindu Gods Ram and Sita commenting on these recentcases, in which Sita remarks “I was soglad I was kidnapped by Ravan and not your bhakts!”[2]. Thecartoon, which criticizes rape apologists and those protectingindividuals accused of rape, was published in response to recent protests byHindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing group, seeking the release of Deepak Khajuria,one of the prime suspects in the recent Kathua rape case[3].

Sincethe cartoon’s publication, Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi has been subjected toextensive online harassment and intimidation, including several death threats.For instance, she was threatened with the same fate as Gauri Lankesh, ajournalist who was killed outside her residence in Bangalore in 2017,[4]as well as with attacks similar to those carried out in France in response to acartoon published by the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo inJanuary 2015. In some cases of online abuse, she was also accused of beingconnected with terrorist groups who allegedly would have paid her to publishthis so-called ‘anti-Hindu’ cartoon.

Furthermore, on April 14, 2018, Karuna Sagar Kashimshetty, President ofthe Hindu Sanghatan, a subset of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organisationVishwa Hindu Parishad, filed a policecomplaint against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi at the Saidabad police station inHyderabad under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code for “deliberate andmalicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class byinsulting its religion or religious beliefs.” The Hindu Sanghatan also filed acomplaint against Mr. Shabbir Ahmed,Deputy Editor of the news channel Times Now, for sharing Ms. Vadlamudi’scartoon on his Twitter account.

The Observatory stronglycondemns these acts of harassment and death threats targeting Ms. SwathiVadlamudi, which seem aimed at punishingher for her peaceful and legitimate human rights and journalistic activitiesand in particular at infringing on her freedom of expression.

TheObservatory urges the Indian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances Ms.Swathi Vadlamudi’s physical and psychological integrity.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India,urging them to:

i.Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical andpsychological integrity of Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi and all journalists and human rightsdefenders in India;

ii. Conduct a prompt, independent, and thoroughinvestigation into the aforementioned acts of harassment and intimidationagainst Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi in order to identify allthose responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction themas provided by the law;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment - including atthe judicial level - against Ms. Swathi Vadlamudi and Mr.Shabbir Ahmed as wellas against all journalists and human rights defenders in India, and ensure inall circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activitieswithout any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9,1998, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamentalfreedoms in accordance with international human rights standards andinternational instruments to which India is a State party.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra DamodardasModi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, UnionMinister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in

· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in

· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India,Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Mr. K.Chandrashekar Rao, Chief Minister, Government of Telangana, Email: cm@telangana.gov.in

· S.K. Joshi, ChiefSecretary, Government of Telangana, Email: cs@telangana.gov.in

· Mr. Anjani Kumar, Commissionerof Police, Hyderabad City Police, Email: cp@hyd.tspolice.gov.in

· Justice Mr. H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the NationalHuman Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in

· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, NationalHuman Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to theUnited Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri,Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels,Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869


Please also write to thediplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

***

Geneva-Paris, April 20, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 bythe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

[1] Ms.Swathi Vadlamudi is notably associated with the national daily The Hindu.She is also known for drawing cartoons on sensitive social issues.

[2] Bhakts generallyrefer to supporters to current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

[3] The Kathua rape case has shocked many across India owing to the brutality unleashed on thechild by her attackers. The eight-year-old victim had been missing sinceJanuary 10, 2018. On January 17, her mutilated body was found, bearing evidenceof gang rape.

[4] SeeObservatory Urgent Appeal IND 004 / 0917 / OBS 098,published on September 12, 2017.

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