US Report scrutinizes Human insecurity in India

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US report lists 'significant human rights' abuses in India

Protest against India’s BJP members’ comments on Prophet Mohammed, in Kolkata

By Anum Khan       5 Aprill 2023

Human rights in India are an international concern. The 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for India, released by the US Department of State is significant as it bring into record the state of human security in India and brings it as a matter of immediate international concern. The report highlight several human rights concerns in the state. Some of the core issues highlighted in the report include restrictions on freedom of expression by the Indian government using various laws, including sedition laws to curb dissenting opinions and criticism on the government. Police brutality and extrajudicial killings that lack accountability for these incidents; restrictions on religious freedom of minorities that include Muslims and Christians; Censorship and internet shutdowns to limit freedom of expression and control the flow of information; Gender-based violence are other underscored human rights concerns identified in the report by the US Department of State.

According to the report, the government and its agents were found involved in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by police and prison officials. The state department also pointed out harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference restricting social freedoms and human security in India.

The lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity and contributed towards the human rights violations in India. The Indian state was found involved in blatant restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence or threats of violence, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists. The serious government corruption; harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability has also been highlighted.

A rising trend of targeting members of national, racial, ethnic and minority groups based on religious affiliation, social status or sexual orientation was observed by the international human rights agencies. In this regard, Kashmir specific account of human rights violations done by the Indian government have been a matter of interest and importance for international human rights agencies.

In March 2021, UN special rapporteurs asked the Indian government to provide details regarding allegations of arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance and UN special rapporteurs expressed concern over continued allegations of large numbers of unmarked single and mass burial sites in IIOJK. Along with that, killings by government forces and nongovernment entities were reported in Jammu and Kashmir. Women in Jammu and Kashmir, were often victims of rape or threats of rape as per the report.

Persons arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA between 2018 and 2020 in the IIOJK remained on higher side. It is important to note that under the UAPA, the Indian Government can designate individuals as terrorists and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) can seize properties on the charges of terrorism. In addition to that, the Public Safety Act (PSA), which applies only in Jammu and Kashmir, permits authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. In April 2022, the press reported that more than 500 persons remained in detention under the PSA in Jammu and Kashmir

The report also highlights the restriction over freedom of press and media wherein journalists working in Jammu and Kashmir continued to face barriers to free reporting through communications and movement restrictions. As of July 21, two journalists from ‘The Kashmir Walla’, an online newspaper, remained in detention.  In June, the SIA arrested Abdul Alaa Fazili, a one-time contributor to ‘The Kashmir Walla’, under the UAPA for a November 2011 article authored by him that is critical of Indian government.

Khurram Parvez, who is a Kashmiri human rights activist, was arrested by the NIA for “terror funding” and “conspiracy” in November 2021, and he still continues in detention.  His pretrial detention has been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi. A Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan, who has been detained since 2018 under the UAPA, was rearrested before his release on bail under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for detention for up to two years without trial. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 35 journalists faced assaults, police interrogations, raids on their places of work, fabricated cases, and restrictions on movement in Jammu and Kashmir since 2019.

Software Freedom Law Center, which is a non-governmental organization, reported that the central and state governments conducted localized internet shutdowns 67 times as of October, and 101 times in 2021.  According to state-level data provided by the center, Jammu and Kashmir experienced 40 instances of internet shutdowns as of October.

Political aspect of human security is also under controls by the Indian Government. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who was released in 2020, alleged that she was subjected to periods of house arrest through the year, which security officials at times denied.  Chairman of the separatist Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continued to be under house arrest, and political parties called for his release.

The state of siege in Kashmir can be realized by the fact that even the human rights monitoring agencies in IIOJK were able to document human rights violations, but periodically security forces, police, and other law enforcement authorities reportedly restrained or harassed them. Representatives of certain international HRs NGOs faced difficulties obtaining visas and also reported that occasional official harassment and restrictions limited their public distribution of materials. The report states that the United Nations had limited access to Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states. The Indian government closed the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission in 2019 and ordered the National Human Rights Commission to oversee human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.  Overall, the report expresses concern about the state of human rights in India and calls for the government to take action to address these issues.