US report lists ‘significant’ human rights abuses in India


The annual US report on human rights has listed “significant” human rights abuses in India including unlawful and arbitrary killings, challenges to freedom of press, interference with privacy, and violence targeting religious and ethnic minorities, with the Biden administration strongly urging Delhi to uphold its rights commitments.

”The US and India regularly consult at the highest levels on democracy and human rights issues. We have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments,” the Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, Erin Barclay, told reporters after the release of the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Monday.

”Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well,” she said.

Replying to a question on a recent BBC documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots, which was banned in India, she said the US will continue to support press freedom.

”On the BBC issue, we’re of course aware of the BBC issues and we will continue to support free press around the world and have communicated the same,” Ms. Barclay added.

The report says that a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government in India, contributing to widespread impunity. Among the significant human rights violations in India in 2022, it says, are unlawful and arbitrary killings, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.

The State Department also flagged arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful interference with privacy, restrictions on freedom of expression and media, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression.

The report also says restrictions on internet freedom, interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, restrictions on freedom of movement and on the right to leave the country, refoulement of refugees, serious government corruption, and harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations.

The report’s findings came over a year after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a rare open criticism of India’s human rights record, said the Biden administration was keeping a watch on what it described as an increase in violations in India by some government, police, and prison officials.

Due to the strong economic links between the two nations and India’s growing importance to Washington in its efforts to balance China in the region, the US avoids criticizing India.

In recent years, under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), advocacy groups have expressed concern about what they perceive to be a deteriorating human rights situation in India, according to media reports.

Critics point to a 2019 citizenship law that the United Nations human rights office described as “fundamentally discriminatory” by excluding Muslim migrants from neighboring countries; anti-conversion legislation that challenged the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and revoking Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status in 2019.

In 2022, authorities also demolished what they described as illegal shops and properties, many of them owned by Muslims, in parts of India. Critics say the demolition drive was an attempt to intimidate India’s 200 million Muslims. The government defended the demolitions, saying they were enforcing the law.

“Human rights activists reported the government was allegedly targeting vocal critics from the Muslim community and using the bulldozers to destroy their homes and livelihoods” without due process, the U.S. report released on Monday added.

Since Modi took office in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, to 150th place last year, its lowest ever. India has also topped the list for the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world for five years in a row, including in 2022, internet advocacy watchdog Access Now says.

“Civil society organizations expressed concern that the central government sometimes used UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) to detain human rights activists and journalists,” the U.S. report said.

The United Nations human rights office described a 2019 citizenship law as “fundamentally discriminatory” because it excluded Muslim immigrants from neighbouring nations; critics also point to anti-conversion legislation that questioned the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion; and the revocation of Kashmir’s special status in 2019.__Daily Times