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State Dept. Highlights Alleged Abuses by the Government of India in Kashmir, Northeast and Maoist-affected Areas

State Dept. Highlights Alleged Abuses by the Government of India in Kashmir, Northeast and Maoist-affected Areas

  • The report released by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken includes unlawful and arbitrary arrest, detention and killings by government authorities, restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, and widespread corruption at all levels in the government.

The 45th annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the U.S. Department of State on March 30 highlights several alleged abuses by the Government of India including unlawful and arbitrary killings, arbitrary arrest and detention by government authorities, unlawful, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and disappearances restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, and widespread corruption at all levels in the government. The U.S. is seeking closer ties with India as a means to counter Chinese influence in Asia.

The 68-page report, which covers incidents reported in 2020, was released by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “By documenting the status of human rights around the world each year, the U.S. Department of State provides objective and comprehensive information to Congress, civil society, academics, activists, and people everywhere – all of whom have roles to play in promoting human rights and accountability for rights abuses and violations,” Blinken said. 

The report described India as “a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature.” Pertaining to conditions in India, the report observed that a “lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity.” It also detailed the rise in societal violence based on religion and caste and by religiously associated groups, tolerance of violations of religious freedom, lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women, crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups including women based on religious affiliation or social status ; and forced and compulsory child labor, as well as bonded labor.

The report said an addendum to be added later this year will cover previously dropped topics, including maternal mortality, access to contraception and reproductive healthcare. Those topics were last reported upon in 2016“Despite government efforts to address abuses, a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity,” the report said. “Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to a low number of convictions.” Separatist insurgents and terrorists in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, and Maoist-affected areas committed serious abuses, the report said, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.  

In its executive summary, the report noted the steps by the Indian government “to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions.”

Referring to deaths and torture in police custody, the report noted that of the 125 deaths in police custody, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number at 14, followed by Tamil Nadu and Punjab with 11 deaths each,” the report said. “The 125 deaths in police custody documented by the National Campaign against Torture in 2019 included 13 victims from Dalit and tribal communities and 15 Muslims.” 

The report also quoted the high court in Telangana state that held the police to account for arresting a “disproportionately high number of Muslims” for violating COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The court noted police often used excessive force when enforcing the lockdown rules. A Muslim volunteer arrested while distributing food to migrants required 35 stitches on his face due to police brutality, the report said.

Citing data from the Prison Statistics of India (PSI) 2019 report by the National Crime Records Bureau, the report noted that there were 1,775 inmate deaths under judicial custody in 2019. It also included data from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) which compiled a list of 15 fatalities that included deaths from excessive police action such as canings and beatings during the COVID-19 national lockdown from March 25, 2020 to April 30, 2020. “Killings by government and nongovernment forces, including insurgents and terrorists, were reported in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states, and Maoist-affected areas of the country,” the report said.

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The report was welcomed by Indian American civil rights organizations as reported by TwoCircles. Representatives of these groups told the portal that the report “was a scathing account of the ground situation in India, where millions of social and religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and Adivasis, as well as the 8 million residents of Kashmir, are facing ongoing brutal State repression.”

Raju Rajagopal, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights, told TwoCircles that the State Department report was especially significant as it was the first such report under President Biden’s administration. “We expect that President Biden will act on this report and raise the issues of human rights abuses with the Indian government.”

Similarly, Indian American Muslim Council executive director Rasheed Ahmed lauded the report. “The Modi government’s discriminatory citizenship law, the persecution of Muslims and other minorities, the pogrom against Muslims in Delhi and the manufacturing of criminal cases against Muslims for the violence, and the judiciary’s failure to provide justice all clearly indicate an alarming decline in civil liberties,” he told TwoCircles. 

Last month, “Democracy Under Siege,” an annual report by Freedom House revealed that political rights and civil liberties in India deteriorated since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, while the decline accelerated after his 2019 re-election. Despite being a “multiparty democracy, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population,” the report said “The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized.”

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