Indian opposition slams order on intercepting computer data

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, right: “How else will terrorists who use technology extensively be traced? (AP)
Updated 21 December 2018

Indian opposition slams order on intercepting computer data

  • The opposition parties demanded an immediate withdrawal of the Home Ministry order issued a day earlier
  • India’s minister for law and justice and information technology, rejected the allegation and said there are adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse

NEW DELHI: An Indian government order authorizing some federal investigating agencies to intercept any information stored on computers triggered a strong protest Friday in Parliament, with opposition lawmakers describing it as an assault on privacy rights.
The opposition parties demanded an immediate withdrawal of the Home Ministry order issued a day earlier. They fear it would give unlimited powers to 10 government agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored on any computer.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister for law and justice and information technology, rejected the allegation and said there are adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse. Prasad said using the order would require authorization from the ministry’s top bureaucrat.
Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter: “The order would convert India into a police state.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the law already provides the power to intercept data in the interest of national security and public order. The new order just identifies investigating agencies authorized to do so, Jaitley said.
“How else will terrorists who use technology extensively be traced? Otherwise, the terrorists will use IT (information technology), but the intelligence and investigative agencies will be crippled,” Jaitley said.
Pawan Duggal, a cyber expert and a Supreme Court lawyer, said the opposition concerns appeared to be genuine and the government needed to have stringent checks and balances to prevent misuse of the new order.
Duggal also said India’s Supreme Court recognized last year that privacy is a fundamental right and it could not be tampered with.


Police crack down on riots over citizenship bill for non-Muslims

Updated 12 December 2019

Police crack down on riots over citizenship bill for non-Muslims

  • Groups of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati, the state capital, on Thursday morning and burned tires before police dispersed them
  • Police used batons and tear gas to disperse protesters in 10 out of the state’s 33 districts

GAUHATI, India: Police arrested dozens of people and enforced curfew Thursday in several districts in India’s northeastern Assam state where thousands protested legislation granting citizenship to non-Muslims who migrated from neighboring countries.

Groups of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati, the state capital, on Thursday morning and burned tires before police dispersed them.

Soldiers drove and marched though the streets to reinforce police in violence-hit districts, which included Gauhati and Dibrugarh, said state police chief Bhaskar Mahanta.

The protesters in Assam oppose the legislation out of concern that migrants will move to the border region and dilute the culture and political sway of indigenous tribal people. The legislation was passed by Parliament on Wednesda and now needs to be signed by the country’s ceremonial president, a formality, before becoming law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for peace and in a tweet said: “I want to assure them — no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”

The Press Trust of India news agency said the protesters uprooted telephone poles, burned several buses and other vehicles and also attacked homes of officials from the governing Hindu nationalist party and the regional group Assam Gana Parishad.

Police used batons and tear gas to disperse protesters in 10 out of the state’s 33 districts.

While those protesting in Assam are opposed to the bill because of worries it will allow immigrants, no matter their faith, to live in their region, others are opposed to the bill because they see it as discriminatory for not applying to Muslims.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and
Bangladesh because of religious persecution before 2015. It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Home Minister Amit Shah said it was not anti-Muslim because it did not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities.
Amnesty India said the legislation legitimized discrimination on the basis of religion and stood in clear violation of the India’s constitution and international human rights law.

“Welcoming asylum seekers is a positive step, but in a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear-mongering and bigotry,” the rights group said in a statement.

Several opposition lawmakers who debated the bill in Parliament said it would be challenged in court.

“Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India,” said Sonia Gandhi of the main opposition Congress party. “The passage of the Citizenship Amendment
Bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”

Its passage follows a contentious citizenship registry exercise in Assam intended to identify legal residents and weed out those in the country illegally. Shah has pledged to roll it out nationwide, promising to rid India of “infiltrators.”

Nearly 2 million people in Assam were excluded from the list — about half Hindus and the other half Muslims — and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be rendered stateless.

India is constructing a detention center for some of the tens of thousands the courts are expected to ultimately determine came to the country illegally.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill could provide protection and a fast track to naturalization for many of the Hindus left off Assam’s citizenship list.