Skip to main content

Recalling Gujarat riots, US-based Human Rights Watch wonders why is Modi quiet on "ultranationalists"

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded report, Human Rights Watch, the influential US-based non-profit organizations, has has said that, after coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite his “commitment” to freedom of speech, “has not ended state censorship or taken decisive action against ultranationalist and other religious militant groups.” On the contrary, the government under him has “tightened restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)”, the reason being that they are “highly critical” of big development projects' “negative impact on environment, health and livelihood.”.
Titled “World Report 2015” and running into 656 pages, the report refers to how Modi took office “with a reputation for having overseen economic growth and improved governance as chief minister of Gujarat”, even when his “inability to protect Gujarati Muslims during religious riots in 2002 and promptly prosecute perpetrators continues to cause concern.” In fact, more recently, “some inflammatory remarks by BJP politicians have added to a sense of insecurity among religious minorities”, it has added.
Released on January 29, the report says, “Incidents of violence against religious minorities spiked in 2013 in the run-up to national elections”, and even according to government sources “133 people were killed and 2,269 injured in 823 incidents.” It adds, “More than a year after communal violence killed over 60 people, mostly Muslims, and displaced tens of thousands in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh state, both the central and the state governments have not provided proper relief or justice.”
The report particularly takes strong exception to how the BJP “chose Sanjeev Balyan, charged with inciting violence during the riots, as their candidate in parliamentary elections and appointed him as a minister, intensifying Muslim insecurities.” On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party government in UP “forcibly closed down relief camps and failed to act on allegations that lack of adequate relief services caused the death of over 30 children in the camps.”
The report says, "In June 2014, an ultranationalist Hindu group organized violent protests in the western city of Pune against a social media post derogatory to some Hindu historical and political figures. Some members of the group, assuming that the anonymous post was the work of Muslims, arbitrarily beat and killed Mohsin Shaikh—who had no links to post—but was easily identified as Muslim because of his prayer cap."

Armed forces' "violations"

It refers to the manner in which “members of India’s security forces continue to enjoy impunity for serious human rights violations”, despite the rare case in November 2014 when the army reported that “a military court had sentenced five soldiers, including two officers, to life in prison for a 2010 extrajudicial execution of three innocent villagers.”
While the “the army also chose a military trial for the alleged March 2000 extrajudicial killing of five civilians in Pathribal in northern Jammu and Kashmir state”, the report regrets in January this year, “the army court of inquiry dismissed charges against five officers”, and the “Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has been in force for decades in Jammu & Kashmir and India’s northeastern states, has provided effective immunity to members of the armed forces for killings of civilians and other serious human rights violations.”

"Restrictions" on free speech

 Referring to how restrictions on free speech have intensified, the report says, “Vaguely worded laws that criminalize free speech continue to be misused. Police in various states have filed charges under the Indian Penal Code or the Information Technology Act for online comments critical of important political figures, including the prime minister.”
Giving an instance to power its point, it points towards how “five young men were questioned by the police for sharing anti-Modi comments over the phone.” It adds, “The police also targeted student magazines in two instances for critical comments on some political figures, including Modi.”
The report comments, “Despite commitments to protect freedom of speech, the government has not taken decisive action against militant groups that threaten and attack people over views they do not like.” In fact, it underlines how “in the face of weak government responses and threats of lawsuits from Hindu ultranationalist groups, a few publishers withdrew or cancelled books being prepared for publication.”
Coming to “tightened restrictions on civil society organizations”, the report says, “Officials use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which tracks grants from foreign donors, to harass organizations that question or criticize government policies, to stymie their activities, and to cut off funds from abroad.”
It adds, “The impact on Indian civil society has been severe. When the Indian Home Ministry conducts an investigation pursuant to the FCRA, it often freezes the accounts of the NGO being investigated, cutting its source of funding, and forcing it to stop its activities. Such tactics have a wider chilling effect on the work of other groups.”
Things reached such a point that in 2014, “the Modi government asked the country’s central bank to seek prior permission before moving foreign funds into Greenpeace India’s accounts, intensifying concerns that the government would be less tolerant of organizations that questioned the government’s development and infrastructure projects.”

Foreign policy issues

Saying that the Modi government may have “focused on foreign policy to revive trade and investment, and called for international cooperation to counter terrorism threats and money laundering”, but “it has not made any significant announcements suggesting greater commitment to protecting human rights even in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, or Burma where it has considerable influence.” In fact, “it has abstained on key UN resolutions, including on North Korea in November 2014.”
Criticizing US, United Kingdom, Japan, China and Australia which saw the election of Modi as an “opportunity to strengthen trade ties with India”, the report says, “With the focus on investment and trade, and given longstanding Indian sensitivity to perceived intervention in its domestic affairs, these countries maintained a low-key approach to human rights, choosing to ignore concerns about protection of religious minorities.”

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there. 

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.