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Human Rights

Manipur: Sedition case against political activist for allegedly making Facebook posts

The police in Manipur have filed a sedition case against political activist Erendro Leichombam, the chief of Imphal East police station Jogeshchandra Haobijam confirmed to Scroll.in on Tuesday.

The police have also invoked Section 153 (causing provocation to riot) and 505 (public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code against Leichombam. The activist is the convenor of a Manipur-based political party, People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance, which he had co-founded with Irom Sharmila in 2016 after she ended her 16-year-old fast for the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur. He had contested the 2016 Manipur Assembly elections, but lost.

The police have refused to divulge more details about the case, but Leichombam said when officers visited his home in Imphal on July 26, presumably to arrest him, his family members were told that the charges stemmed from his Facebook posts. Leichombam’s family claimed that the police referred to a particular picture he had posted on July 24 about Sanajaoba Leishemba, a newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP and the titular king of the state.

In the image, Leishemba, who was elected on a BJP ticket, is seen bowing down with his hands folded in front of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The picture has been captioned “Minai macha”, which roughly translates to “son of a servant”.

Leichombam, who has a postgraduate degree in economic policy from Harvard University, is a vocal critic of the current BJP dispensation in Manipur. He was arrested in 2018 for posting a video on Facebook that the police said amounted to “promoting enmity between different groups and criminal intimidation”. “I have been targeted because I am a long-time critic of the BJP government in Manipur,” Leichombam said.

The political activist said he was scared of going back to Manipur because he feared the state government would file more serious charges against him even if the court were to dismiss the sedition case. “This is what the government did to a journalist after the court said sedition charges don’t hold,” he said, referring to Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a Manipuri journalist who was charged under the National Security Act in 2018 after he posted a Facebook video critical of Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In addition to Wangkhem, several Manipuri civil society activists and political activists have been detained or arrested over the last couple of months for allegedly criticising the BJP government on social media.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, the political activist posted: “I have been charged with sedition by the government for exercising my freedom of speech. To protect Kangleipak from a forceful assimilation is a duty. I will not stop writing. You can’t gag all your critics. Some of us still love our homeland. You can imprison my body, but how will you imprison my mind?”

On July 14, Leichombam had also written a post on the “serious allegations against the chief minister of Manipur” levelled by Thounaojam Brinda, a police officer from the state. In an affidavit to the court, Thounaojam has alleged that Chief Minister Biren Singh had tried to foil a police investigation against a fellow party member accused of smuggling drugs.

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Human Rights

Gross violation of Human Rights in Rakhain state of Myanmar

by Param-Preet Singh:

In August 2017, the desperate plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims grabbed headlines when the military’s brutal campaign of murder, rape and other abuses forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. In 2019, the United Nations-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar warned that the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar’s Rakhine state faced a greater than ever threat of genocide because of the government’s attempts to “erase their identity and remove them from the country.”

Despite repeated resolutions from the U.N. Human Rights Council and General Assembly condemning these atrocities, Myanmar faced few consequences. That bleak reality changed in November 2019 when Gambia filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine state violated various provisions of the Genocide Convention. Myanmar must now answer for its brutal treatment of the Rohingya before a credible international tribunal.

The court has already signaled how serious it is about its scrutiny. In its January 2020 unanimous order on provisional measures, the ICJ found that Myanmar had not presented “concrete measures aimed specifically at recognizing and ensuring the right of the Rohingya to exist as a protected group under the Genocide Convention.” The court directed Myanmar not to commit and to prevent genocide, and to preserve any evidence of allegedly genocidal acts committed against the Rohingya.

Myanmar, as a party to the Genocide Convention, is legally bound to comply with the court’s order, and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has acknowledged the court’s role as a “vital refuge of international justice” in settling this dispute.

But what does compliance with the court’s order look like?

What Myanmar is Doing

Prior to its first report to the ICJ on the implementation of the order, submitted in late May of this year, the Myanmar government issued presidential directives to ensure that officials do not commit genocide, to prohibit the destruction or removal of evidence of abuses, and to denounce and to prevent the proliferation of hate speech.

The impact of these directives on the ground, however, has been nonexistent. The government has a long history of failing to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes and rights abuses by its security forces. For example, rather than serving as a stepping stone toward meaningful accountability, Myanmar’s recent court-martial conviction of three military personnel for crimes against ethnic Rohingya victims in actuality, is merely one aspect of ongoing government efforts to evade meaningful accountability, by scapegoating a few soldiers rather than seriously investigating the military leadership who oversaw the atrocity crimes.

In reality, the situation for civilians in Rakhine state has actually worsened over the past year, as the armed conflict between the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine armed group, and Myanmar’s military has increased insecurity across the state and displaced as many as 160,000 civilians. Hundreds of ethnic Rakhine and dozens of Rohingya civilians have been killed in the fighting. Myanmar’s announcement of new military clearance operations raises concerns of further risks to civilians.

Preventing genocide is also not just about preventing further violence. The Rohingya in Rakhine state are subject to “oppressive and systemic restrictions” on freedom of movement and access to food, health care, and humanitarian assistance, all of which may be indicative of the Myanmar government’s intent to destroy the group in whole or in part. And these conditions are only getting worse.

The Rohingya trapped in refugee and displaced persons camps and villages face growing threats from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research at Human Rights Watch has found that Myanmar authorities are using Covid-19 response measures as yet another pretext to harass and extort Rohingya in central Rakhine detention camps, doubling down on a system in which they are already effectively incarcerating the population.

What Myanmar Should be Doing

There are plenty of concrete measures Myanmar’s government could take to protect the vulnerable Rohingya remaining in Rakhine state and, in doing so, demonstrate actual compliance with the ICJ’s order.

For instance, the Myanmar government continues to severely restrict Rohingyas’ access to health facilities, with life-threatening consequences. Last month the government reported that from September to December 2019, at Sittwe General Hospital – the main health facility in Rakhine state and the only hospital most Rohingya can access – fewer than a thousand patients treated were Rohingya, suggesting that many Rohingya are unable to secure needed hospital care. The government could and should urgently lift the restrictions that prevent Rohingya from accessing equitable health care – such as eliminating a medical referral system, removing financial barriers, and increasing ambulance services.

Further, a slew of discriminatory laws isolate the Rohingya in their own country and legitimize discrimination, including the 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively prevents Rohingya from obtaining Myanmar citizenship, and leaves many Rohingya, including children, stateless. The government should repeal the discriminatory legal framework that targets the Rohingya, including the 1982 Citizenship Law, and establish a procedure that ensures that Rohingya are able to obtain full citizenship without discrimination.

Government restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine state remain pervasive and insidious.
Myanmar authorities have responded to the Arakan Army conflict by imposing new restrictions on aid, movement, media, and the internet since January 2019. Humanitarian access has been restricted in eight of Rakhine state’s 17 townships, leading to shortages of food, medicine, and shelter for the Rohingya, ethnic Rakhine and others living in affected areas, and making it difficult or impossible to deliver lifesaving supplies. The government should lift these blanket restrictions on aid delivery and grant humanitarian groups and U.N. agencies immediate, unrestricted, and sustained access to all conflict-affected civilians, including Rohingya.

These are only a few of the steps Myanmar could take to protect the Rohingya if it was serious about implementing the ICJ’s provisional measures order. But Myanmar’s non-compliance is not necessarily set in stone, especially in the face of persistent diplomatic pressure to change course.

While a final determination by the ICJ is most likely years away, the court’s provisional measures order has already unlocked a vital framework to meaningfully assess what Myanmar is – and isn’t – doing to protect the Rohingya in Rakhine state from genocide.

Ultimately, it’s up to individual governments, both in their bilateral dealings with Myanmar and collectively through the U.N., to raise the political cost of Myanmar’s continuing non-compliance.

While diplomacy – often driven by consensus about what the political market will bear despite the ugliest of facts – is needed to push for enforcement, the ICJ’s judges are not subject to these forces. Instead, they are bound by the law’s application to the facts presented.

Regardless of what enforcement measures are ultimately taken, Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar means that the rights of the Rohingya and the atrocities they have suffered cannot be easily forgotten in the face of the latest crisis or political discomfort. As the Rohingya poet Ali Mayuu eloquently puts it, “the gate of justice is just opened.” (Editors Note: This article is part of a special Just Security forum on the ongoing Gambia v. Myanmar litigation at the International Court of Justice and ways forward.)

Human Rights, Indigenous People

Civilian Who Died in Custody in Myanmar’s Rakhine State Killed Himself, Military Says

SITTWE, Rakhine State—One of six residents of Alel Chaung Village in Rakhine State’s Yanbye Township detained by Myanmar army troops on Saturday killed himself while being held for interrogation, according to the military.

Alel Chaung Village administrator U Myint Lwin told The Irrawaddy that Yanbye (formerly Ramree) Township Police Station told him to pick up the body of U Soe Myint Tun on Tuesday.

“Yanbye Township Police Station phoned me and told me that he killed himself by hanging. So, together with his family members, we brought the body from Ma-Ei Hospital,” he said.

Many Rakhine people have expressed doubts about the claim that the 37-year-old man took his own life. His relatives asked in vain for a postmortem examination report from the hospital. His funeral was held on Wednesday.

According to local residents, Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops, including some from Kyaukphyu-based Light Infantry Battalion No. 34, arrived in Alel Chaung Village on Saturday and detained six men, arresting them at their homes or at the farms where they worked, U Myint Lwin said.

“[The troops] didn’t tell me why they arrested them that day. They only said they had things to ask them, and would release them after interrogation, and that we would be informed,” he said.

The soldiers reportedly arrested U Soe Myint Tun while he was working on his farm. Still in detention are U Maung Tun Win, 44; U Zaw Lwin, 35; U Maung Myint Tun, 37; Ko Myet Wun, 25; and Maung Nyein Chan, 20.

All the detainees are farmers, and they are not involved in unlawful activities, local villagers said. Family members of the five other detainees have not been allowed to visit them.

The head of the Yanbye Township Police Force, Police Major Zaw Win, said he did not know about the case, other than being asked by Taungup Police Station to inform U Soe Myint Tun’s relatives of his death.

“We were not involved in the arrests. And we were not told about it, and we therefore do not know about the case. We just informed [the relatives] because Taungup Police Station asked me to do so,” Police Maj. Zaw Win told The Irrawaddy.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Myanmar military-run Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the military kept each of the six detainees in isolation at Ma-Ei Police Station. It said U Soe Myint Tun was found dead at around 6.30 p.m. on Monday, having untied his restraining rope and used it to hang himself.

The military said that according to security personnel, two suspicious men had arrived in Alel Chaung Village on a motorbike via the Minchaung Bridge at around 8 p.m. on June 23. It was confirmed that the two men are members of the Arakan Army (AA), according to the statement. Based on the accounts of the two, the Myanmar military arrested the six from Alel Chaung Village for interrogation, it added.

During the Tatmadaw’s conflict with the AA in Rakhine State, 18 civilians have died during interrogation by the Myanmar military in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Rathedaung townships.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

Human Rights

CTA urges special session of UN against Chinese occupation in Tibet

Accusing China of committing “cultural genocide” in Tibet, the Central Tibetan Administration on Sunday urged the UNHRC to hold a special session on “human rights violations” by China in Tibet and other regions under it. Dharamshala-based Central Tibetan Administration, also known as Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay asked the international community to “unite and ensure that China fulfils its obligations under international laws including human rights obligations before it is too late”.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Sangay said that on Saturday 50 UN independent experts from 30 UN Special Procedure mandate called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to “act with a sense of urgency” and take appropriate decisive measures including a special session and establishment of a special rapporteur to protect fundamental freedoms in China occupied regions including Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang.

“The Central Tibetan Administration and Tibetans from both inside and outside Tibet would like to thank the UN experts for their timely intervention and welcome their call for urgent decisive measures against the government of China,” he said.

Sangay said that In the last six decades and more, Tibetans within Tibet were suffering under the authoritarian rule of China.

The Chinese government has stripped off Tibetans of their basic human rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, annihilating the distinct identity of Tibetans and denying them their inherent dignity of being human, he added.

He said that tortures, enforced disappearances, and destructions of monasteries carried out by China against Tibetans were acts of crimes against humanity and do not fall short of being categorised as “cultural genocide.

The persecution and suppression via high-tech surveillance by China, Sangay said, have forced 154 Tibetans from different walks of life in Tibet to self-immolate as a mark of peaceful protest against the Chinese authorities since 2009.

The unchecked, systemic, and egregious violations by the Chinese regime with impunity in Tibet have emboldened it to carry out similar violations in Xinjiang and now Hong Kong.

It is time to hold China accountable otherwise it will have an adverse global impact as evidenced by the Wuhan originated Covid-19 pandemic. As rightly noted by the UN experts, the violations by China are threatening world peace and security leading to human rights emergencies across the globe, he said.

CTA and the Tibetans from both inside and outside Tibet strongly support the call of the UN experts on the UN Human Rights Council to take urgent measures against the Chinese human rights violations.

We strongly urge the UNHRC and the member states to hold a special session to evaluate the human rights violations being carried out by China and to establish a country mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on China to monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in Tibet and other occupied regions, he said

Human Rights

Black women scientists missing from textbooks, study shows

By Helen Briggs:

Scientists featured in textbooks are predominantly white men, according to a study.

US biology textbooks highlighted seven men for every woman scientist.

And black women were not represented a single time in any of the works analysed.

Based on the current rate, it will be centuries before the books used to teach undergraduate biology in the US match the diversity of their readers, say researchers.

“We didn’t see any, for instance, black women scientists across any textbook,” said Dr Cissy Ballen of Auburn University in Alabama, US.

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The study analysed more than 1,000 scientific names featured in seven modern biology textbooks used to teach undergraduates entering science and medicine in the US.

They ranged from historical figures such as Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to contemporary scientists such as Jane Goodall.

Overall, 13% of the scientists featured were women, while 6.7% were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Previous research has shown the importance of diverse, relatable role models in science, said Dr Ballen. “Not to be able to see anyone like them in these kinds of fundamental textbooks that they’re using, I think it would have a really negative effect,” she said.

There have been some gains in recent years, particularly where women and Asian men are concerned, said the researchers.

Despite this, the scientists portrayed are not representative of their target audience, particularly among Asian and Hispanic women, while black woman were not represented at all.

Textbook publishers are “tasked with balancing an accurate portrayal of history while showcasing contemporary science that reflects a diverse population of learners”, they said.

Biology is relatively gender diverse compared with other areas of science, such as physics. In the US, around 60% of biology graduates are women.

Closing gender gap in physics ‘will take generations’
Previous research has shown the number of women climbing the career ladder in science is “disappointingly low”.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal, Proceedings B.

Indigenous no-state people

PM places three proposals for durable use of aquatic sources

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has placed a three-point proposal for boosting global cooperation for durable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, urging the world community to renew their commitments for ocean action.

“For sustainable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, we need increased international cooperation, especially in securing technology and market access for our resources and products,” she told “Virtual Ocean Dialogues” being held in Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.

“Ocean action is critical to nourishing future generations. So, let’s join hands to renew our commitments for ocean action,” she also said in Wednesday’s session of the dialogue titled Nourishing Billions, reports BSS.

The premier in her first proposal called for assisting developing countries with critically required resources, capabilities, and technologies for leveraging full potential of marine resources.

In the second proposal, she put emphasis on conducting joint research on fisheries development with a view to significantly increasing regional fish production and eliminating Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

In the third proposal, Sheikh Hasina underscored mapping and management of resource identification and critical coastal habitat and biodiversity protection.

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action.

The theme of the event is “Connecting Communities for Ocean Resilience, Innovation and Action”.

Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Hasina said the meeting is being held at a time when the entire world is battling the lethal virus.

“This pandemic makes all rethink the linkage between the health of the ocean and the health of humankind as ocean offers a great source to combat illness,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina pointed out that ocean contributes to a wide range of goals of the Agenda 2030, from poverty eradication, food security, and climate change to the provision of energy, employment creation and improved health.

In this connection, she stressed implementation of Goal 14 of Agenda 2030, saying it is more critical now than ever.

Noting that a healthy ocean is a vast source of food and nutrition, the prime minister said oceans can provide six times more food than it does today and help meet the nutrition supply.

Quoting the Global Nutrition Report 2020, she said almost a quarter of all children under-5 years of age are stunted.

Placing emphasis on striking the critical balance for sustainability, Sheikh Hasina said there is already considerable pressure on land and oceanic ecosystems.

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“The impact of climate change on fish stocks is also a serious concern. So, we have to strike the critical balance for sustainability,” she said.

The prime minister elaborated Bangladesh’s magnificent success in ensuring food security for its nearly 165 million people.

“Improved nutrition and safe food production are our priority. Our National Nutrition Program-NNP aims to improve the nutritional status of all citizens, especially of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said proportion of under-5 moderately or severely stunted children has reduced to a great extent thanks to her government’s efforts.

Saying that Bangladesh is the fourth largest inland water fish producer globally, she said fish accounts for more than half of the country’s animal-source protein.

“As many as 17 million people, including 1.4 million women in Bangladesh, depend on the fisheries sector for livelihood. Fish production has increased over the years considerably, and our efforts continue to increase fish production,” she said.

The prime minister said her government is prioritizing marine fisheries as part of its “Blue Economy” initiative.

“Yet, due to urbanization, inland water bodies are shrinking. So, we are prioritizing marine fisheries as part of our Blue Economy initiative,” she said.

Pointing out the 2017 Ocean Conference, Sheikh Hasina said: We’ve made some voluntary commitments and taken legislative measures to protect, and conserve the fishery resources and the environment from all types of pollution, including plastic debris.”

Agnes Matilda Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), David Nabarro, Director, 4SD and Shakuntala Thilsted, Research Programme Leader, Value Chains and Nutrition, WorldFish also addressed the same session.

Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau also delivered a pre-recoded address in another session titled “The High Seas: Operating within the Global Commons.”

Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg will deliver video message on Thursday in a session titled “Sustainable Ocean Economy”.

The five-day event commenced with a video message of Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama on June 1.

Other participants of the Ocean Dialogues include Queen Noor of Kingdom of Jordan, Isabella Lovin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Climate, Ministry of the Environment of Sweden, a good number of ministers (both running and former) from various countries, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, United Nations, and experts from international organizations including World Economic Forum, Ocean Unite, Friends of Ocean Action etc. ( Dhaka Tribune)

Indigenous no-state people

Tigress found dead in Kaziranga National Park

A tigress was found dead on Sunday in Kaziranga National Park.

The carcass was recovered in the bank of Bhalukjan Beel in the Bagori range of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

Sources said it is suspected that the tigress died in a fight with other tiger.

In the afternoon, the post-mortem of the tigress was conducted in presence of a high-level team of forest officials of the state and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was led by Kaziranga National Park director P Shivkumar to the spot.

The post-mortem of the tigress was conducted by veterinarian Dr Pranjit Basumatary of Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari near Kaziranga National Park.

It is suspected that the tigress died around 7 days back.

There are marks of attacks by other tiger on the carcass of the tigress.

The tigress has been identified as Kazi-83 of Kairanga National Park by the national park’s research officer, Rabindra Sarma.

After conducting the post-mortem, the carcass of the tigress was cremated at the spot in the forest in presence of all.

This year, a total of three tigers have died in the Kaziranga National Park.

On April 15, 2020, forest officials recovered a carcass of a Royal Bengal Tiger at the national park.

The carcass of the tiger was recovered from the bank of Mihibali under Kohora range.

Sources informed that the tiger might have died around three days back.

Forest officials also said the back portion of the dead tiger was already eaten by some other big cats.

Forest guards on Wednesday evening discovered the carcass while taking the elephants for a stroll.

Indigenous no-state people

Meet the Nepal youth who wooed ‘American Idol’ judges at audition

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel, 21, impresses judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan & Lionel Richie with smokey voice; wins golden ticket at audition round of 18th season of American Idol

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

New Delhi: American Idol‘s next big discovery seems to be a rockstar from Nepal Dibesh Pokharel who goes by the stage name ‘Arthur Gunn’.

The 21-year-old Kathmandu-born youth moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago. He has been singing ever since he was a kid and took it seriously only a year before shifting base to the US.

In the 18th season reboot of the popular reality television series, Gunn performed in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan during the audition round on Sunday. He sang Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country, leaving the judges impressed. However, he lacked eye contact, so the mentors asked him to go ahead with another performance, but this time maintaining eye contact. He then opted for Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The trio was more than impressed with his smokey voice, and Luke Bryan even asked Gunn to open for him in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Richie came and hugged the young music sensation who already has a few originals to his name on YouTube.

The Nepalese boy who said that American Idol might be his chance at his American Dream was given the Golden Ticket in unison. (Source: Eastmojo)

Indigenous no-state people

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA

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Bengaluru: 

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, violates constitutional provisions. “The CAA law that has been passed in my judgment should be turned down by the Supreme Court on the grounds of it being unconstitutional because you cannot have certain types of fundamental human rights linking citizenship with religious differences,” Mr Sen told reporters at the Infosys Science Foundation’s Infosys Prize 2019 in Bengaluru.

The Nobel laureate said what really should matter for deciding citizenship is the place a person was born, and where the person has lived.

“My reading of the (amended) law is that it violates the provision of the Constitution,” he said, adding that citizenship on the basis of religion had been a matter of discussion in the constituent assembly where it was decided that “using religion for the purpose of discrimination of this kind will not be acceptable.”

Mr Sen, however, agreed that a Hindu who is persecuted in a country outside India deserves sympathy and his or her case must be taken into account.

“It (consideration for citizenship) has to be independent of religion but take cognisance of the sufferings and other issues into account,” Mr Sen said.

On the mob attack at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Mr Sen noted the university administration could not stop outsiders from coming to the campus to lead the attack.

“The communication between the university administration and the police got delayed due to which ill treatment of students went on without being prevented by the law enforcement agencies,” he added.