The Citizenship Amendment Act, that provides citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, has seen numerous political parties change their stands on it over the years. The Congress party, and even the CPI(M), which were all for providing Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh Indian Citizenship suddenly changed their stance over the matter. As it turns out, it’s not only political parties that are undergoing a change of heart on the matter of CAA, NRC and detention centres. Retired Justices of the Supreme Court are suffering the same. Retired Justice Madan B Lokur had recently said that the proviso to the definition of “illegal migrant” inserted in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is ‘clearly unconstitutional’.
Justice Lokur here has a rather interesting past. He was one of the four judges who had held a press conference against then CJI Dipak Misra in 2018. Now, he is a non-resident judge at the Supreme Court of Fiji. The most interesting development, however, came when as a member of CHRI, he had signed a statement along with other so-called ’eminent citizens’ against the ongoing process of NRC and detention centres.
The statement read, “As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues. That is why we are disappointed by recent statements by the Chief Justice of India on a complex matter relating to illegal detention and deportation, without heeding India’s own constitutional and international obligations.”
“While advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’, the Chief Justice brushed aside the Assam Chief Secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. This was especially of concern for the case concerned the willful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions”. We regard these remarks as unfortunate,” it added.
However, as a Justice in the Supreme Court, he had reprimanded the government of Assam for not speeding up the construction of detention centres. In an order dated September 12, 2018, Justice Lokur had said, “We are not at all surprised that not a single State has set up detention centre/holding centre/camp. Unfortunately, this includes the State of Assam, which has a very large number of illegal immigrants/foreign nationals. Be that as it may, we expect the State of Assam, particularly to expedite the construction of detention centre since the amount of Rs 46.51 crores has been sanctioned by the Union of India.”
The judge recorded this statement and added in his order: “We expect the State of Assam to ensure that the construction is carried out at the earliest.” “We have also requested learned Additional Solicitor General (Mr Tushar Mehta) to explore the possibility of converting the earlier jail premises in Guwahati into a detention centre,” the statement by the bench further said.
News18 further notes, “On October 31, 2018, Justice Lokur noted in his order about the construction of a standalone detention centre at Matia in Goalpara with a capacity of 3,000 inmates, and sought “the broad details of the tender as well as time for construction”. The bench also took on record submissions regarding the reunion of detenue families and other amenities in the detention centres, including the one at Goalpara.”
The News18 report adds, “Justice Lokur’s bench, on November 2, 2018, again recorded in its order that the new detention centre in Goalpara is expected to be completed with Pre-Fab Technology by August 31, 2019. “We expect the State of Assam to adhere to the timeline, more particularly since the executing agency is the Assam Police Housing Corporation Ltd,” his bench had then directed.”
“It is thus intriguing to note that when Justice Lokur was a serving judge before whom the issues of illegal migrants and detention centres had come up, he did not raise any of these concerns about criteria of those who were being detained as suspected foreigners or illegal migrants. He, as a matter of fact, sped up construction of detention centres, in particular, the one at Goalpara,” the report observed.
Justice Lokur’s association with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) may provide some clue into the reasons behind his flip flop on the matter of detention centres and his comments on the CAA. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the CHRI. As per its website, “CHRI’s work is split into two core themes: Access to Information and Access to Justice, which includes Prison Reform, Police Reform, and advocacy on media rights and the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN). CHRI additionally monitors the human rights situation across the Commonwealth through its International Advocacy and Programming (IAP) unit.”
The SAMDEN is particularly interesting. CHRI’s website states, “SAMDEN’s core group includes eminent professionals such as such as Bangladesh’s Mahfuz Anam of the Daily Star, Kanak Mani Dixit of Himal in Nepal, Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN’s unit on journalists in prison, Mrinal Pande, veteran editor and author, John Zubrzycki (a Sydney-based journalist, author specialising in South Asia), Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire, and Sanjoy Hazarika, former correspondent for the New York Times and now International Director at CHRI, among several others.”
The ideological inclinations of Salil Tripathi, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire, and the New York Times are well known. These are compulsive contrarians who have a problem with anything and everything that the Modi government does. There are more troubling aspects to the CHRI than meets the eye. For instance, the CHRI had received Rs. 2,29,500 on the 20th of September, 2019 from the United States’ Department of State for the purpose of “Advocacy and Outreach Programme for Detainees in the North Eastern States of India”. This clearly amounts to foreign interference in India’s internal affairs by elements in the United States.
In this context, it is important to highlight the creation of the Global Engagement Center under the US Department of State whose mission it is to “direct, lead, synchronize, integrate, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security, or stability of the United States and its allies and partner nations.” It is basically the propaganda wing of the United States government.
The CHRI has also received huge amounts of money from the Oak Foundation, a shady globalist organization. It received Rs. 1,56,62,639 from the Oak Foundation for the purpose of “Reducing Arbitrary Detention in India 2016-2019” on the 12th of July, 2019. A year ago, the CHRI received Rs. 1,28,89,915 from the same foundation for the same purpose. Quite clearly, these are huge amounts of money that are coming in from abroad in order to meddle with the internal affairs of India.
The Oak Foundation is particularly shady. The Washington Examiner notes in an April 2019 report, “While its 2017 Annual Report says “Oak Philanthropy Limited” is located at an address in Geneva, a search of Swiss corporate records does not identify any entities registered in Switzerland under the names “Oak Foundation” or “Oak Philanthropy.” An archived page posted by the Oak Foundation states “Oak Philanthropy Limited” as being incorporated in Jersey, part of the Channel Islands located off the French coast of Normandy. That’s odd.”
It adds, “The foundation’s 2018 annual report says Oak Philanthropy Limited is wholly owned by Oak Holdings Limited, but there’s another Jersey entity that was formed on Sept. 1, 1997, and registered to the same address in Jersey as Oak Philanthropy Limited.” In USA and Canada, the Oak Foundation is involved in a rather crazy campaign against fossil fuel companies. The CHRI also receives crores of funds from dubious sources that appear hell-bent on undermining the sovereignty of India. According to Influence Watch, a project of the Washington-based Capital Research Center, it has also funded projects supporting the Chinese state-backed infrastructure scheme the Belt and Road Initiative.
Under such circumstances, Justice Lokur’s comments on the CAA and the CHRI’s statement on the matter of detention centres appear particularly sinister. It appears to be a clear attempt to undermine India’s sovereignty. Furthermore, the role of SAMDEN appears particularly concerning as it appears to be hand in gloves with international organizations dedicated to working against Indian national interests.