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

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.