Arrests, Curbs On Speech, Harrasment: India Called Out For Human Rights Record In US Report!

by GoNews Desk 1 year ago Views 7532

US India Human Rights Jaishankar Blinken UAPA
The United States released the 2021 Human Rights Report on India on Wednesday which flagged the government on a number of issues such as restrictions on free speech, over-regulation of NGOs, “harassment and intimidation” by the state, and a pervasive impunity across all levels of government.

The report was released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 12, as part of an annual series of country reports on human rights that is submitted to US Congress. US On April 6th, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had asked why there was no criticism of Narendra Modi as the Indian PM by President Joe Biden, asking: “What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?” 

Arbitrary Arrests, Detention

The report notes the rising incidences of arbitrary arrests and delaying of judicial processes. Although Indian law “prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention but both occurred during the year” and also noted that “pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted”.

There has been a marked increase in the use of laws like the UAPA, PSA, and sedition against critics, dissidents, and journalists across the country, most notably in Tripura where any reporting on anti-Muslim violence was met with UAPA charges. The report also notes the use of  “special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests”.

Some examples of arbitrary arrests that it provides include climate activist Disha Ravi, human righs activist Hidme Markam, and numerous house arrests of former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

It also mentions the Elgar Parishad case registered in 2017 under which 15 academics and activists have been charged with UAPA, noting it as a law that “allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens”, noting the death of Father Stan Swamy as an undertrial prisoner after “a special NIA [National Investigation Agency] court had rejected multiple bail pleas submitted on medical grounds”.

Freedom Of Speech, Media Under Target

The US report holds that freedom of expression is ‘generally’ respected in India but also notes the rising incidents of intimidation of media and individuals seeking to criticise the government or its support base. Some examples given in the report include:

  1. Arrest of Munawar Faruqui by Madhya Pradesh police for ‘planning’ to peform jokes that would hurt Hindu sentiments
  2. Goa police’s arrest of Erendro Leichombam, a social activist, for criticising a BJP leader
  3. Stopping Kashmiri academics from travelling abroad and attend conferences
It flagged “instances in which the government or actors considered close to the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling”.

Mentioning the Pegasus spyware case, it said it represents an example of official misuse of technology: “the use of technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals”.

The freezing of Amnesty India’s bank accounts by the ED, and the cancellation of FCRA licence of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) were also cited in the report.

US Mentions India’s Human Rights Record In 2+2 Meeting

On April 12th, During a joint press conference after the 2+2 ministerial level talks between Defence and Foreign Ministers (and counterparts) of both sides, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had said that the US is “monitoring a rise in human rights abuses” in India.

Mr. Blinken had said: "We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials”.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar dismissed this and said that human rights issues were not brought up during the meeting, but earlier. He also said ‘we know which lobbies and vote banks are driving’ such reports.

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