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Mr. SMEETON. One other question. Hopefully, later on this afternoon we will be getting from Mr. Sheppard some better insights into the Sarkar trial and the Ananda Marga movement. Presently, I am perplexed as we have been receiving some conflicting information as to just what is the objective of the Ananda Marga movement. Based on what I have read, the Indian Government seems to have come to the conclusion that its main objective is to seize political power by violence and armed revolution. Is that a fair assessment? Are there valid grounds for such contentions?
Mr. DUBS. I am not in a position to make any judgments about the Ananda Marga in India, but we do know it is considered a political, religious organization, which, like a number of other Indian groups, has followers in the United States. Frictions and tensions existed between the Ananda Marga and the Government prior to the imposition of the emergency. And the Government has alleged that the Ananda Marga, the Indian organization, was a terrorist organization and that it may be implicated in the death of the Railroad Minister and an attempt on the life of the Chief Justice. We have no doubts in our own mind that the American Marga in the United States is a religious, social organization and that it is a bona fide religious, social organization.
Mr. SMEETON. The only place where its activities are prohibited is India?
Mr. DUBS. At the moment, I think that is true.
Mr. SMEETON. Internationally it appears to have a favorable reputation.
Mr. DUBS. Yes; I think there was some incident in New Zealand in which the Ananda Marga was implicated. I think there was a bombing at the Indian mission. Ananda Marga was implicated in that. Mr. SMEETON. Are you in a position to give us any insights into the Sarkar case per se?
Mr. DUBS. We know he was arrested and charged with involvement in a murder of some of the members of his own organization. And he is being held.
Incidentally, members of the American Marga have made known to us their concern about this case, and we have passed on those concerns to Indian officials.
Mr. SMEETON. What has been their response?
Mr. DUBS. I have always found when we in the Department raise an issue with any officials here that our views, our concerns are duly reported. They made no response on the spot.
Mr. SMEETON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRASER. Let me sort of make clear my own views. I have never understood why the United States suspended aid when India got involved in the Bangladesh problem. And I had thought the flow of refugees into India probably did compel some action on their part. So I have never understood the so-called tilt toward Pakistan policy. But that is history.
The thing that strikes me is that those kinds of events seem to influence our aid programs considerably more than some of these other considerations we have talked about today.
The other things I want to say, so you understand my view, I am not suggesting that the United States tell India how to govern itself.
What we ought to avoid, it seems to me, is endorsing, implicitly or otherwise, rather major violations of human rights occurring in India.
The torture stories we heard, I think if my recollection serves me right, are very serious. India has to find its own way, but the United States has only limited resources.
I think the question is where we put our resources. It seems to me that is the issue I hope the Department will be looking at very shortly. Mr. DUBS. I appreciate hearing those views.
Mr. FRASER. You have no further questions?
Mr. SMEETON. No. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRASER. We will excuse the two of you and thank you very much for your testimony.
We will recess the hearing for a few minutes and come back and hear our third witness.
[Whereupon, a short recess was taken.]
Mr. FRASER. The subcommittee will resume its hearing.
We will now ask Mr. Sheppard, who observed the trial of Mr. Sarkar, to testify.
STATEMENT OF CLAUDE-ARMAND SHEPPARD, ATTORNEY, OBSERVER OF THE TRIAL OF P. R. SARKAR, LEADER OF THE ANANDA MARGA RELIGIOUS SOCIETY IN PATNA, INDIA
Mr. SHEPPARD. Mr. Chairman, on advice I received, I prepared an opening statement. It is too long and too bulky to be read, so I am filing it and I am going to refer to parts of it and stress what seems to me most significant in my experiences there.
Mr. FRASER. We will put the entire statement in the record, and then you can proceed as you like.
Mr. SHEPPARD. I appreciate that.
On some points which were not of direct concern to me because I had a very special mandate, I thought it would be more appropriate if someone more knowledgeable of these areas brought his assistance to the subcommittee. And on my right we have Mr. Craig Runde who has interested himself in two particular problems. One is the health of Mr. Sarkar who has been on a 3-year hunger strike and it has affected the trial; and another one is the attitude of the Indian authorities toward the problem. It ties in beautifully and in a rather unexpected manner with the testimony of the previous witnesses from the American Government whom I was privileged to hear and does not, from what I know, conform entirely to what you heard earlier this afternoon.
As you know, I was sent to India on the recommendation of organizations which knew of my own background. I was commissioned by the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva and the International Human Rights Committee in New York. I was an observer. I am not connected with the Ananda Marga or supporter or admirer or in any way involved with them. My own background, as you may know, is that I am partner in a Montreal law firm. I have pleaded, as a practicing lawyer, certain number of cases with political over
It took the police a lot of work before he confessed. I am not saying he was tortured. He was detained for a long time before he confessed. There was no evidence at all, to my mind, that we are dealing with a movement which is subversive, which wants to use violence or that anyone organized or in a formal capacity wanted to use violence to overthrow the Government or advocated it. I am not saying there may not have been some hotheads somewhere as we have seen in all political parties who advocated the use of wrong methods. The fact Mr. Sarkar criticizes the system, that he says Indian Government officials are immoral, all of that does not bear the slightest relevance to whether or not he is guilty of a criminal charge. Furthermore, the very Government that prosecutes this man, publishes just before the trial begins what I would call a vile pamphlet while the case is before the court to describe Mr. Sarkar and the movement in terms which would land any American or Canadian newsman or pamphleteer writing the same thing in jail for contempt.
So the political overtones and the political use of the trial I find extremely disturbing.
There was criticism of the length of the proceedings, that it took a very large number of proceedings and years before the accused came to trial. Frankly, I must say after having studied the record, I cannot blame the Indian authorities for that. Their courts are not as efficient as ours. The system is different. Many of the delays were due to circumstances. Some of them were requested by the defense. Although it would be deplorable that somebody would be in jail for so long.
I also found that the fear that defense counsel had no access to their clients was not justified. The client-solicitor, the client-lawyer relationship and its secrecy seems to be respected, within limits, but I have seen worse in Canada at times of stress than I saw in India. While I do not say Canada provides a good standard in this domain, I can't throw a stone when I live in a glasshouse.
There are two things that I found that are really unacceptable and that convince me that the accused are not going to get a fair trial, even though the judge is doing his best. I will say publicly that Judge Singh who sits on the case does his best under the circumstances.
The two things that I found very significant are the following. One is the monetary situation, which is rather incredible. All the assets of Ananda Marga have been seized, and defense counsel, who are two of the most influential barristers of the Indian bar, have been defending the accused for a number of years now without getting paid. The supporters of Ananda Marga, the Ananda Marga adherents around the world, have tried to supply the defense lawyers with funds from foreign sources. And they have not tried to do it in a secretive manner, but by going straight to the authorities and saying the accused have not the means to defend themselves. In fact, the lawyers told me, they do not even have enough money to buy the transcripts of the evidence they need in a case where the trial lasts 1 year. The Indian Government refused.
Various personalities across the world, including the former Prime Minister of England, for instance, Sir Harold Wilson, wrote to Mrs. Ghandi to say at least permit the funding of the defense and if you are worried that the money is going to be used for subversive purposes, have it put in a trust fund, control it, and pay it directly to the lawyers,
both of whom are older and respectable men. I think none of them have any brief for Ananda Marga.
Well, the Indian Government procrastinated. Eventually the answer came down. They passed a law forbidding the provision of foreign subsidies or foreign funds to any Indian national, among others, for the defense. And as a result of my own report, the International Commission of Jurists itself wrote to the Indian authorities, again, asking that legitimate funds from legitimate sources be permitted to enter India for the sole purpose of funding the defense. The answer has not yet been received, but I was told yesterday by Mr. Wells, who is a London barrister and who helped the defense team in India and just came back to London, that he was told by Sir Harold Wilson that he had just received a letter from Mrs. Ghandi in which she said that if the accused are so poor, there is legal aid in India and the Indian Government will only be too happy to hire lawyers for them and pay them.
Now, I do not have to stress that if there is one case where you do not want Government lawyers, it is this one. And I will leave you to draw the conclusions that you have to.
The other point, which I think is also very significant, is that the defense is unable, has been unable and will be unable to produce one single witness for the defense. For the simple reason, and on that there is no contradiction from anybody I met in India, for the simple reason that anybody acknowledging being remotely connected with Ananda Marga immediately takes the road to prison. Who possibly can testify on behalf of Ananda Marga and what happened in the Indian Ananda Marga organization except people who were members of Ananda Marga? Unless you are a suicidal type, you are not likely to come forward and testify, even if you manage to reach a defense counsel before the police arrest you.
So as I say in my report, while the formalities of justice are observed, while the judge is very courteous and does his best, while lawyers are permitted to cross-examine at length, because of the absolutely antidemocratic conditions in India today, the defense is unable to call a single witness, except the accused who have all testified, I must say and denied in a rather more vigorous manner than I thought they would dare, every allegation of the prosecution. But what, if I can conclude my remarks, I found really bothersome in view of my background as a lawyer trained in the same tradition all of us are trained in North America, is that the trial is not the trial of the accused. It is the demolition of Ananda Marga.
[Mr. Sheppard's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CLAUDE-ARMAND SHEPPARD, OBSERVER OF THE P. R. SARKRA (LEADER OF THE ANANDA MARGA RELIGIOUS SOCIETY) IN PATNA, INDIA
Gentlemen: I would like to preface my remarks by thanking you for your interest in the trial of Ananda Marga leader P. R. Sarkar presently ending in Patna, the capital of a distant Indian Province. It is indeed remarkable that, at a time when American political attention-as well as the attention of observers in many other countries-is directed to a certain political campaign, you find the time to interest yourselves in the vital issue of freedom in a remote country on another continent. It is also a very appropriate attitude since the loss of freedom and the destruction of civil liberties anywhere in the world ultimately affects us all.
tones. I am generally very much involved in civil rights and political liberties issues, not as a partisan of any particular group or segment, but because, I think, like all of us, I have a commitment to try to maintain political freedom in the world. The details of my curriculum you will find in an annex to my statement. And when I went to India, I knew very little about the Sarkar trial, although I documented myself to the maximum extent possible, and I went with an absolutely open mind trying to look at it strictly from the point of view of the conduct of the trial in the light of minimum rules of fairness. I was not interested or was not commissioned to look into Indian policies and Indian democracy, but merely to see whether there was enough respect for the minimum rules of fairness in that trial, and I also deliberately did not want to get involved in the issue of guilt or innocence. In other words, I was not sitting as a preventive court of appeal trying to determine on my own whether the prosecution and the defense were right.
After I had gone there, I filed a report, which is an annex to my opening statement, in which I reported on my conclusions. Although I may seem to pat myself on the back in saying so, all I will say is my report concluded that not everything was black and not everything was white. There was a lot to be criticized and some things which were feared turned out not to be as bad as they appeared. But my report, frankly, because it was done under the auspices of international organizations and absolutely neutral was a lot milder and a lot more tolerant than what I actually did observe or could suspect. I just did not want to go beyond my limited mandate.
One thing I can tell you because I am reminded of a remark of a previous witness I heard this afternoon, that he did not meet one single Indian who criticized the emergency. I would say I did not meet a single Indian who after a while did not deplore the emergency. Although there seems to be consensus, even among the most violent critics of the Indian Government that India had had some problems and that there was a difficult social situation and that some energetic action was necessary, but I for one fail to see why such violent methods had to be used and such extraordinary means had to be used to cope with basically social problems. For instance, I do not see how slapping 30 parliamentarians in jail is going to help reduce India's population problem. I cannot see, for instance, how intimidating judges and potential witnesses and lawyers as I was able to observe, and as happened to myself, is going to help solve India's problems.
Now as for the trial itself, basically Mr. Sarkar and four fellow monks have been charged with either plotting or abetting the murder of a number of alleged defectors of their religious movement. They have been charged on the basis of the evidence given by a man who used to be in the movement, who has acknowledged committing, himself, about 50 murders and who only told the police about his crimes after several months had passed and after he had been detained for a protracted period of time. And as a lawyer, for instance, I was surprised to observe that many prosecution witnesses were either tainted or, to say the least, subject to suspicion. I will give you an example that surprised me. When I was there, they brought in a service station attendant to prove that he had provided a certain jeep that might