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U.S. State Department presents report on degrading status of Human Rights in India

TBL web desk

U.S. Department of State has submitted the annual report on the country-wise discussion of the state of human rights to the U.S. Congress. In the report titled “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: India” more than a dozen human rights issues prevailing in India have been listed.

Violation of religious freedom

Among the various prominent issues, violation of religious freedom is the one which was pointed out in the report. The report talks about the tolerance of the violations of religious freedom, discrimination, and violence based on religious affiliation and social status against the minority groups including women. 

Restricted freedom of expression and press 

The U.S. report also mentioned the restrictions on freedom of and the press. The unjustified arrests of the journalists critical of the government, using criminal libel laws for prosecuting social media speech, censorship, and blocking various sites to pressurize media outlets were mentioned. The cases against some journalists such as Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire and Anirban Chattopadhyay of Anandabazar Patrika, the conviction of lawyer Prashant Bhushan for two tweets criticizing chief justice were mentioned in the report to specify the harassment of the journalists and refraining people to express their views. The harassment of journalists by the local and national level government official, acts of online trolling, killing, violence, and intimidation against journalists were also mentioned.

“There were also reports of extremists perpetrating acts of killing, violence, and intimidation against journalists critical of the government, the State Department said. In certain cases, local authorities arrested or filed cases against individuals under laws against hate speech for expressions of political views. The harassment and detainment of journalists critical of the government in their reporting or social media messaging continued”, the report reads.

Additionally, a drastic increase in the government’s request for user data from internet companies was also mentioned in the U.S State report.

Unlawful and arbitrary killings

The issue involves extrajudicial killings carried out by the police, torture and cruelty, inhumane and degrading treatment by police and prison officials. The case of Sattankulam in Tamil Nadu, where the father-son duo was arrested by the police for keeping their shop open after the permitted time during the lockdown and later their deaths in the custody of police was highlighted.

“In June the National Campaign against Torture reported the deaths of 125 persons in police custody in 2019. 74 percent of the deaths were due to alleged torture or foul play, while 19 percent occurred under suspicious circumstances. 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 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 reads

Arbitrary arrests and detentions by government authorities

The report takes note of the arbitrary arrest of various people who were protesting against the government. Two prominent cases that have been mentioned in the report are the arrest of Safoora Zargar, a student of Jamia Millia University who was detained when she was protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act in April 2020. She was pregnant at the time of the arrest. Later she was released in June 2020 and arresting Umar Khalid, A student of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Both were detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Apart from this, the detentions of politicians of Jammu and Kashmir have also been noted in the report. Cases such as the detention of former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti under the Public Safety Act were pointed out in the report. The report further mentions that the political activists were detained before the district development council elections. Their detentions were arbitrary and they were denied to access counsel and medical attention. However, many of them were later released. 

“Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but human rights groups documented that police routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees further access to lawyers and medical attention”, the report reads.

The slow pace of judicial process:

The slow pace of the judicial process was mentioned by pointing out the delay in filing the formal charges in the case of killing the Rising Kashmir editor in chief Shujaat Bukhari along with his two police guards in 2018.

The situation of Jammu and Kashmir

On the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the report says that the government has taken various steps to restore normalcy in the state by lifting some security and communication restrictions. The report stated that the government also started the process to redraw elections in J&K however, did not announce a timeline for the local assembly elections.

Other issues

Apart from these issues, other issues such as child and bonded labor, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, status and treatment of internally displaced persons, protection of refugees, corruption, and lack of transparency in government, etc. were also listed in the report.

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