On Human Rights Day 2020, more than 20 global academics have expressed their deep concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation in India, in particular the treatment of minority groups (especially Muslims) students, activists and journalists who are denied their constitutional right to dissent and protest peacefully.
“Since the present government, led by Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, inflammatory hate speech, vigilante nationalism, and violent acts against Muslims, other minorities, intellectuals and activists have risen dramatically. These have only got more pronounced and virulent in his second term with the promotion of a majoritarian fascist right-wing Hindutva agenda” a statement signed by academics including Lyla Mehta, Shilpi Srivastava, Anuradha Joshi, Deepta Chopra, Philip Mader, Ian Scoones, Gerardo A. Torres Contreras, Tahira Shariff Mohamed, Lars Otto Naess, Natasha Maru, Linda Pappagallo, Wei Shen, Amrita Saha, Vinita Damodaran, Ben Rogaly, Naomi Hossain, Synne Movik, Laila Kadiwal, Rohan D’Souza and Subir Sinha.
The statement referred incidents, “revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in an undemocratic manner leading to arbitrary detentions and widespread human rights violations in the state and beyond”, the enactment of “discriminatory” Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and anti-Muslim pogrom in northeast Delhi “that left 53 dead, over 200 injured and extensive damage to property, including shops/businesses, homes and mosques, with Muslims overwhelmingly on the receiving end.”
According to the global academics, the CAA is disturbing because it makes distinctions between groups of people based on religion, pursuing a divide and rule policy that has not been witnessed in India since the partition of 1947.
They said “together with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) the government has an implicit agenda of actively discriminating against Muslims.”
“Across India, the pandemic has been politicised to target minority groups (such as Muslims, Dalits), suppress dissent, and undermine constitutional values. COVID-19 has been used to legitimise increased government surveillance” the statement reads.
Among 20 academics who jointly wrote the statement, 12 are faculties at Institute of Development Studies (IDS), a think tank affiliated with the University of Sussex in UK.
The statement also mentions JNU student and Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita who is being held on draconian charges relating to the Delhi riots. Kalita is also an IDS alumna.
“These visionary young leaders have been fighting peacefully for a better and more just tomorrow. We call on the Indian government to act on Human Rights Day 2020” it said.
The statement called on the Indian government to release all anti -CAA political prisoners held in prison without sufficient evidence.
The academics also urged authorities bring to justice those who have been inciting and abetting violence with fair trials.