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Pranab parries Amnesty blows

Last updated on: June 28, 2005 11:18 IST

They were two unexpected curve balls flung at defence minister Pranab Mukherjee by an Amnesty International representative during the question and answer session that followed his major address on India's Strategic Perspectives at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But the diminutive minister drawing on his gargantuan political experience and acumen deftly handled the potentially embarrassing questions without a tinge of irritation or any indication that he was being defensive saying the new government was ready to let the chips fall wherever they may.

Amidst all of the defence and foreign policy questions, Mukherjee was asked about the alleged 'massive human rights violations' by the Indian armed forces in the northeast and in Kashmir and as to what steps the government was taking to discipline the miscreants.

He was also asked about reports that some of the very people who instigated and directed the killings of thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi following the assassination of Prime Minister Indiras Gandhi were occupying senior positions in the Manmohan Singh government and if they would be brought to justice if found culpable.

Mukherjee without batting an eyelid, replied, "So far as the violation of human rights by Indian armed forces are concerned, we are an open society. There is an independent judiciary, there is a fiercely independent and vigilant press and whenever such aberrations take place, immediate actions are being taken as per the law we have."

"It is applicable to northeastern part of the country, it is applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, to almost every part of the country," he said.

Mukherjee asserted that 'the persons guilty have been penalised. Quite a few of them have been court martialled. Some of them have been sentenced to jail through the normal court proceedings, apart from the court martial proceedings. Therefore, this is a regular mechanism in which we are sensitive to these issues.'

"Moreover, in our training programme, we have inbuilt arrangements so that these type of abuses and violations of human rights are avoided," he added.

With respect to the second salvo launched by Amnesty, Mukherjee noted that a commission of inquiry was set up to look into the causes of the riots in Delhi in 1984 and also to find out where the responsibility lay.

He said that the commission had submitted its report to the government that was examining it 'and if anybody is mentioned as guilty, normal legal action will be taken against them irrespective of whether they occupy high office or not."

Aziz Haniffa in in Washington, DC