Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA) has issued an urgent appeal for the protection of Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd – a political analyst, human rights activist and one of India’s most prominent Dalit thinkers and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy. Prof. Shepherd was allegedly attempted killed in his car, has been physically attacked and is receiving death threats, but has been offered no police protection.
”It is important to note that an intellectual of national and international repute is facing grave threats to his life and liberty for his writing which is critical of caste and dominant caste groups. The state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana haven’t taken any action to provide him protection and initiated no action against those threatening him. The situation has become graver since the press conference by Mr. Venkatesh, the elected representative from the ruling political alliance, possessing powers to mobilise large number of people and openly issuing death threats to Prof. Kancha,” the appeal states.
The appeal asks the National Human Rights Commission to immediately take the following action:
- Undertake an immediate, independent, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned incident of harassment, intimidation, abusive calls, repeated threat to kill and insults – on the phone, social media and the streets, house arrest and the filing of cases and attack on and against Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.
- The two state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to provide him protection and security and initiate action against those threatening him. It is the responsibility of the respective state governments to ensure that the fundamental right to speech and expression guaranteed through Article 19 of the Indian Constitution is upheld.
- Immediately release of Prof. Kancha from house-arrest and ensure that no restrictions are imposed on his movements especially to attend and participate in public meetings.
- Take immediate action on the perpetrators, in this case for the harassment, intimidation, abusive calls, repeated threat to kill and insults – on the phone, social media, the streets and in TV studios and filing of cases against those responsible for the same including Mr. T.G. Venkatesh, Member of Parliament from the Telagu Desam Party who issued open death threats against Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd and his family members of further reprisals from the perpetrators and using all provisions of law, to ensure that the they are not harassed in future.
- Ensure provision of reparation, compensation, apology to Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd and his family members for the psychological sufferings they are undergoing.
- Ensure that a competent senior criminal lawyer is appointed at the state cost to legally represent Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd on the fabricated and false cases filed against him.
- Put an end to all acts of attack and harassment against all human rights defenders like Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd in the city and district of Hyderabad and in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to ensure that in all circumstances they carry out their activities as defenders of human rights without any hindrances.
A copy of the letter has also been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.