Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump's clean chit to Modi on human rights? Govt "generally respected" free speech, expression: US state dept report

Clean chit to Modi?
By Rajiv Shah
In a virtual clean chit and a reversal of the past US state department's viewpoint, the Donald Trump government’s first report on human rights situation in India has said that the Narendra Modi government in 2016 “generally respected” freedom of speech and expression, even though the Constitution “does not explicitly mention freedom of the press.”
The just-released “India 2016 Human Rights Report”, in fact, says, “Independent media generally expressed a wide variety of views without restriction”, insisting, “The law prohibits content that could harm religious sentiments or provoke enmity among groups, and authorities invoked these laws to restrict print media, broadcast media, and publication or distribution of books.”
Even as quoting the US-based Human Rights Watch as saying that “sedition and criminal defamation laws were used to prosecute citizens who criticize government officials or oppose state police”, the report insists that “most domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.”
Pointing out that only in “some circumstances groups faced restrictions”, the just-released report claims that the “government officials were generally responsive to NGO requests.”
Pointing out that there are “more than three million NGOs in the country advocating for social justice, sustainable development, and human rights”, the report praises the government for “generally” interacting with “domestic NGOs”, responding to their inquiries, and taking action “in response to their reports or recommendations.”
Refusing to hold the Narendra Modi government or the Sangh Parivar responsible for human rights violations, the report, in fact, seeks to consider human rights violations as largely law and order problems, arising out of societal conflicts.
Not recall even once the attacks which took place on lawyers Isha Khandelwal and Shalini Gera, academic Nalini Sundar, tribal rights activist Soni Sori and journalist Malini Subramaniam in Chhattisgarh, the report notes, in a matter-of-fact tone, that “between January 11 and 14, tribal women alleged rape and sexual assault by security forces during search operations.”
In fact, the report notes, without raising an eyebrow, how “the Chhattisgarh police arrested journalist Prabhat Singh in Dantewada for allegedly sharing a message critical of the state police on a messaging application and charged him under the Information Technology Act.”
On the communal riots in Gujarat, the only observation the report offers is: “Civil society activists continued to express concern concerning the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim.”
Praising the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for working “cooperatively with numerous NGOs”, the report says, “Several NHRC committees had NGO representation. Human rights monitors in Jammu and Kashmir were able to document human rights violations.”
On human rights "violations" in Kashmir valley, the report starts with criticizing “separatist insurgents and terrorists” for committing “serious abuses, including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians”, adding, between January and October 2016, 223 persons were killed, compared to 174 in 2015.
Pointing out that the 2016 figure “does not include 90 persons, including violent protesters, reportedly killed by security forces during a four-month period of unrest in the summer”, the report says, "apparently" that the security forces used the deadly pellet "indiscriminately" to control crowds, including violent protests, "resulting in 87 civilian deaths and blinding hundreds more, including children.”
Without giving examples, the report says, only in "rare cases" the government applied "restrictions to the travel and activities of visiting experts and scholars”, emphasizing, “In most cases the government supported and issued visas for international academic conferences and exchanges.”
Even as recalling discrimination against Dalits, including the gruesome Una incident in Gujarat, the report praises the authorities to say, “The federal and state governments continued to implement programs for Scheduled Caste (SC) members to provide better-quality housing, reserved seats in schools, government jobs, and access to subsidized foods.”
---
Download full report HERE

No comments: