Thursday, February 22, 2024

Human rights eroding in India, finds U.S. report

Hany Babu, is a 54-year-old Professor of English Literature and Linguists at Delhi University and an under-trial prisoner in the Bhima Koregaon case.

In its 2021 Human Rights Report on India, the United States Department of State has said that India is facing significant human rights issues including unlawful and arbitrary killings, arbitrary arrests, unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on free expression and media, overly restrictive laws on the operations of NGOs and civil society organizations and crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups based on religious affiliation.

The country reports on human rights, released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 12 April, is submitted each year to the U.S. Congress.

According to the report, other important human rights issues in India included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, use of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech, restrictions on internet freedom, refoulement of refugees; serious government corruption, government harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations, lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, social status or sexual orientation or gender identity and forced and compulsory labor, including child labor and bonded labor.

Most of these had been raised in previous reports as well.

The report comes close on the heels of comments made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, that the U.S. was “monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials.”

Despite government efforts to address abuses and corruption, a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity, the report alleged.

The report also mentioned the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, youth activist Umar Khalid, rights activists who were framed in the Bhima Koregaon case, Adivasi activist Hidme Markam, stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui, climate activist Disha Ravi, social activist Erendro Leichombam and Catholic priest Father George Ponnaiah.

Regarding abuse of refugees, the report said that the refugees in India reported exploitation by nongovernment actors, including assaults, gender-based violence, fraud, and labor and sex trafficking. Most urban refugees worked in the informal sector or in occupations such as street vending, where they suffered from police extortion, nonpayment of wages, and exploitation, the report noted.

Citing news reports on journalists, activists, and politicians being targeted for surveillance through the Pegasus malware, the US report flagged violations of privacy by government authorities, including the use of technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals.

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