Skip to main content

Human Rights Watch asks European Union to tell Modi to "stop harassing" civil society, minorities, Dalits

By Our Representative
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a letter to the European Union (EU), written amidst EU-India summit on March 30, has said that even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks "greater foreign investment in the private sector for initiatives such as Make in India, showcasing Indian democracy and diversity abroad, it uses laws such as the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to restrict foreign funding for civil society groups."
Addressed to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, HRW has said, "Civil society groups face increased harassment and government critics face intimidation and lawsuits. Free speech has come under threat as the authorities target those critical of the government, including students and academics." Modi reached Brussels for the summit on March 30 for talks.
The letter said, "Activists that question government infrastructure and development projects or seek justice for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat have come under particular pressure", adding, giving the example of how in January 2015 the government barred Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace India activist, from boarding a flight to London where she was to speak to members of the British Parliament, alleging that her testimony would have portrayed the government in a negative light."
"In March, the Delhi High Court ruled that authorities had violated Pillai’s rights to travel and to freedom of expression. In November, authorities in Tamil Nadu state, where Greenpeace India’s registered office is located, cancelled the organization’s registration", the letter said.
"Indian authorities also targeted activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand, in what appeared to be acts of politically motivated intimidation, accusing them of violating the FCRA and receiving funds illegally, among other allegations", the said.
It added, "Setalvad is well-known for her work supporting victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots and for seeking criminal charges against scores of officials, including Prime Minister Modi for his alleged involvement in the riots as the state’s then chief minister."
"Meanwhile", the letter said, "Free speech increasingly is coming under attack, prompting condemnation from scholars and activists around the world. The authorities used the draconian sedition law to arrest students and activists for alleged anti-national speech."
It pointed out, "Other overbroad and vaguely worded laws such as criminal defamation and hate speech laws are used to harass and prosecute those expressing dissenting, unpopular, or minority views."
"In several cases", the letter said, "When interest groups that claim to be offended by books, movies, or works of art pushed for censorship or harassed authors, the government has allowed them a 'heckler’s veto' rather than protecting those under attack."
Urging the EU to ask the Government of India to repeal the sedition law and amend the FCRA "so that it does not interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association and cannot be misused to choke the protected peaceful activities of civil society organizations", the letter asked the EU to also move towards protecting the "rights of minorities".
Noting how "some leaders of the ruling BJP have made "inflammatory remarks against minorities while militant Hindu groups, who often claim to be supporters of the Modi government, threatened and harassed Muslims and Christians, in some cases even physically attacking them", the letter said, "Six Muslims were killed by Hindu vigilante groups in separate incidents across the country in 2015 and early 2016 in the name of protecting cows."
Also noting churches were attacked in several states in 2015, prompting fears of growing Hindu nationalist militancy under the BJP government, the letter said, "Dozens of writers protested against sectarianism and the silencing of dissent by returning prestigious literary awards bestowed by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters."
At the same time, the letter said, "The Indian government continued to fail to implement policies to protect Dalits (so-called “untouchables”) and tribal groups from discrimination and violence", pointing towards the recent report on caste-based discrimination by the United Nations Human Right Council’s special rapporteur for minority issues, which noted "how caste-affected groups continued to suffer exclusion and dehumanization."
The letter noted, "Atrocities and violence against Dalits had increased by 19 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year and that despite prohibition through legislation", even as pointing towards how the practice of “manual scavenging” — cleaning of human excreta – a caste-designated occupation, has continued in different parts of India.

Comments

TRENDING

Impact of state repression? Kashmir's 65% people prefer independence: Cambridge study

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as the Government of India’s controversial move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories is not only refusing to down die but has acquired international dimensions, a recent study, published by the Cambridge University Press, has claimed “pro-independence attitudes” among that 65% of Kashmiris, warning, this sentiment worsens when the state machinery resorts “repressive violence”.

Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Kashmir normal? Schoolboys, teenagers being arbitrarily picked up, detained: Report

Counterview Desk
A four-person team, consisting of Jean Dr├Ęze, well-known development economist; Kavita Krishnan, who is with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist); Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), back from a five-day fact-finding mission (August 9-13) from Kashmir, has said that people they spoke to “expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India.”
In a report, “Kashmir Caged”, released along with a short eight-minute film, they said, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, is not being supported by anyone they met, except for BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, who claimed 46% vote share in J&K.
Excerpts from the report: When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passeng…

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.

Kashmir kayoed, bhakts 'jubilant': Much like crowds when Hitler purged Jews, Catholics

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
August 12, 2019 was the great festival of Eid al-Adha (incidentally, for Jews, Christians and Muslims – the sacrifice of Abraham is a very significant one); for the people of Kashmir however, this year Eid was a sad day indeed, what with the lockdown and communications blockade!

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

Central Gujarat effluent channel 'releasing' highly polluted industrial wastewater: PM told

Counterview Desk
Senior environmentalists of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, in an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Gujarat chief minister, the Gujarat chief secretary, and senior Government of India and Gujarat government officials dealing with environment, pollution and climate change have said that the authorities’ response their pleas to take action against the leakages and flow of polluted wastewater from the effluent channels of Central Gujarat industrial areas has met with complete inertia.

Modi's Kashmir move meant to 'solidify' Hindu majoritarianism, 'demonize' Muslims

By Battini Rao*
The parliament of India on August 6 put its stamp of approval on bills abrogating article 370 and downgrading the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to two union territories. When the representatives of the people of India were deciding the fate of the state, the people of J&K were forced into collective house arrests.

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.