Skip to main content

Top US think tank wants WhatsApp, social media cos to oppose Modi 'repression'

By Rajiv Shah
The top United States think tank, Freedom House, based in Washington DC, has sought a series of measures, including from top social media companies like WhatsApp, against the Modi government as retaliation against the alleged crackdown in the country’s only Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the “discriminatory” citizenship amendment law, which has sparked nationwide protests, which are sought to be suppressed by Modi administration.
An article posted on its site, and written by the nonpartisan think tank’s research analyst, Allie Funk, says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “nearly six years in office have been marred by an increasing nationalist and authoritarian turn”, regretting, despite this, President Donald Trump, on a visit to India on February 24-25, publicly praised Modi as having “worked very hard on religious freedom.”
Asserting that the visit should have been “an opportunity” for the US president to “express” America’s policy of respect for human rights and civil liberties, the think tank says, “There is little suggestion that the conversation significantly challenged the abuses”, insisting, “It is critical that a broad and diverse group of powerful actors in the United States not ignore the Indian government’s turn toward authoritarianism.”
The think tank says, “The United States, Congress, civil society, and the private sector should take the lead and push for India to ease its repression and live up to its position as the world’s largest democracy”, underlining, “Indian authorities have maintained that the situation in Kashmir is an “internal matter”, signaling that foreign governments should remain silent. Such silence, however, could normalize these repressive tactics elsewhere in India.”
Such US silence, the think tank says, would also go a long way to encourage repressive ways “in the rest of the world where populist and far-right leaders are increasing pressure on minority populations”, adding, “Modi’s assault on fundamental freedoms has stretched beyond Kashmir”, calling the citizenship amendment law as going against India’s secular foundation, with those who going against it being met with “serious police violence.”
According to the think tank, “The US has “a moral and a geopolitical interest in checking India’s more repressive policies”, pointing out, “Freedom House research has consistently shown that governments learn from one another, copying repressive policies that appear successful in other countries.”
Warning that “Modi’s actions in Kashmir could be replicated by other governments looking to tighten control over minority regions”, the think tank believes, “If the world’s largest democracy can carry out such a sweeping abrogation of basic rights and face little or no pushback from foreign democratic leaders, it is difficult to see why other governments should fear criticism for similar actions.”
Recalling that Washington has “long held up New Delhi’s democratic, pluralist governance model as an alternative to China’s authoritarianism for other Asian countries, and viewed India as a potential ally in its efforts to hold Beijing accountable for regional aggression and systematic human rights abuses”, the think tank believes, “India remaining a strong democracy is crucial to US efforts to challenge China on a number of fronts.”
US, Congress, civil society, private sector should take lead, push India to ease repression, live up to its position as the world’s largest democracy
Regretting that the American president refused to show “an inclination” to pressure India, but instead praised Modi as “exceptional”, the think tank underlines, “It now falls to other sources of authority in the United States -- policymakers, civil society, and social media companies -- to demand that Indian authorities change course in Kashmir.”
“Congress should publicly and privately push the Indian government to restore full internet service, release those who have been arbitrarily arrested or detained, allow an independent review of security forces’ tactics, and hold those responsible to account”, it says.
No doubt, pressure is building up. Thus, “Some US lawmakers, including a bipartisan group of senators who in September appealed to Trump on the issue, have already expressed an appetite to challenge India’s behavior. Representative Pramila Jayapal also has sponsored the bipartisan House Resolution 745, although not binding, that urges India to reinstate internet access, release those detained, and preserve religious freedom.”
However, the think tank says, more is needed: “In addition to bipartisan congressional pressure, US NGOs should increase their engagement and assist, when possible, Indian civil society groups working to protect internet freedom and human rights.”
It adds, “Regional and international civil society networks can conduct research on and strategize diverse advocacy and litigation responses to rights abuses in Kashmir, as well as provide technical assistance in cases of connectivity restrictions, blocked websites, and targeted surveillance.”
The think tank advises US social media companies, which are key players in India, particularly WhatsApp, which has a huge Indian market, to have “robust partnerships with domestic civil society and work to ensure that Modi’s government cannot abuse their products to undermine free expression and privacy.”
“For starters, US companies should abide by international human rights standards when responding to government censorship requests. In just one example, Twitter withheld accounts sharing news and opinion in Kashmir”, it says, adding, “Similarly, companies should limit the ability of authorities and local police to conduct blanket social media surveillance and deploy targeted spyware across their platforms.”

Comments

Uma said…
Futile. Social media in India will be shut down by govt
Tanushree Ganguly said…
This is a good story.
Is Modi not being oppressive by denying Kashmiris their freedom?
Snatching their official status of Statehood, dividing the State intwo two Union Territories a according to religion is completely UnConstitutional. It denies them freedom of expression. Curtailing Internet is demonic. Even when the Net was restored , it was 2 G. What a cruel joke!!
Journalists had to fly to Delhi and Amritsar to file copies.
Jailing the important political leaders is most arbitrary. Denying them their political and civil rights

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.

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.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.

Top Catholic group wants quota for Dalit Christians, foreign fund licenses revived

By Our Representative
Reiterating its long-pending demand to give "scheduled rights for Dalit Christians”, the All-India Catholic Union (AICU) has regretted that while converts to Sikhism and Buddhism from the former untouchable, or Dalit communities, have been included in the scheduled caste (SC) category, Christians from the identical communities have been “kept out.”