#Day54: Respect Right To Protest sans Fear of Being Jailed, says Kerry In Delhi

The Hindu

SRINAGAR

A democracy like India should respect the right to protest, said US Secretary of State John Kerry in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Kerry said: “We have to respect the rights of all our citizens, regardless of ethnicity, language, creed and allow them to protest in peace without fear of retribution and reprisals, without the fear of being jailed for what you say.”

Kerry spoke about upholding common democratic values even as Joint Statement after the conclusion of the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) emphasised the role of democratic values by saying the “strategic partnership between the United States and India is rooted in shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights, tolerance and pluralism, equal opportunities for all citizens and rule of law.”

The comments are significant as the rights group Amnesty International was accused of sedition by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad after it organised an event on Kashmir where pro-freedom slogans were allegedly raised.

This was the third time senior American officials have commented on freedom-related issues in India.

Earlier, US ambassador Richard Verma supported campus politics in JNU, where students were accused of sedition after they participated in a Kashmir solidarity protest.

US President Obama in his January 2015 speech at the Sirifort Auditorium had led the way by first cautioning about the dangers of intolerance.

Later, speaking to students, Kerry commented about the election season in the US where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are slugging it out.

American support to right to protest was the highlight of a monsoon-drenched day that Kerry concluded with a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he briefed about the S&CD.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office after the meeting said that Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker briefed the Prime Minister about the dialogue and, “shared perspective on developments in the region and beyond with Prime Minister”.

(The news item first appeared in Chennai based The Hindu.)

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