Thursday, January 25, 2018

Why hasn't US even touched upon sharp rise in human rights violations in India?, asks Human Rights Watch

By Our Representative
Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has taken strong exception to American President Donald Trump failing to raise human rights violations with India. In its "World Report 2018", the HRW has cited the US-India joint statement issued during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US to say that it did not even have "a token mention of pressing human rights issues in India, including limits on free speech and attacks on religious minorities."
Pointing out that the joint statement only "reiterated cooperation on increasing trade and combating terrorism", the HRW says, this happened against the backdrop of several countries raising human rights issues, even as reminding India "to fulfil it's past commitments to ratify human rights conventions, including the Convention against Torture" at the United Nations Human Rights Council meet in May.
"Several countries, including the US, Norway, South Korea, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, and Sweden raised concerns over restrictions on civil society and called on India to ensure freedom of association", the HRW says, pointing out how "vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government -- often carried out by groups claiming to support the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- became an increasing threat in India in 2017."
The HRW notes, "The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence. Dissent was labeled anti-national, and activists, journalists, and academics were targeted for their views, chilling free expression."
Pointing out that foreign funding regulations have been used in India "to target nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) critical of government actions or policies", HRW says, "Activists and human rights defenders faced harassment including under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which governs access to foreign funding for NGOs."
Recalling how the government "canceled the FCRA license of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), one of country’s largest public health advocacy groups, accusing it of diverting foreign funds to lobby parliamentarians, media, and the government", the HRW says, "The government’s political motivations became evident after the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC) challenged the government’s decision in the Delhi High Court."
Thus, it says, "A January 2017 government affidavit accused CPSC of using foreign funding to share information with United Nations special rapporteurs and foreign embassies, 'portraying India’s human rights record in negative light.' In November 2016, India’s National Human Rights Commission questioned the government’s decision not to renew the FCRA for CPSC and concluded: 'Prima-facie it appears FCRA license non-renewal is neither legal nor objective'.”
HRW raise's n it's a large number of human rights violation issues, including "lack of accountability for past abuses committed by security forces", new allegations of "torture and extrajudicial killings" in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu & Kashmir, and failure to review and repeal the "abusive" Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in force in J&K and in parts of northeastern region.
It also raises issues of mob attacks by "extremist Hindu groups" against minority communities amidst rumours that they "sold, bought, or killed cows for beef", leading to the death of 10 people in 2017, death of 39 people on "being trapped in toxic sewage lines, revealing how the inhuman practice of manual scavenging... continues because of the failure to implement laws banning the practice", and institution of "sedition and criminal defamation laws against government critics."

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