New Delhi: The US Department of State has slammed India once again in its latest report on human rights issues across the world, flagging “extrajudicial killings”, “lack of accountability for official misconduct”, and an “overburdened and under-resourced” judicial system.
Released Tuesday, the 57-page document titled ‘2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ — also known as the Human Rights Reports — is largely similar to the US government’s assessment of human rights issues in India the year prior.
The annual report covers internationally recognised individual, civil, political, and worker rights, “as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements”, according to the US Department of State website.
The latest one, which claims to be based on “credible reports”, listed, among other things, “harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, restrictions on free expression and media, restrictions on internet freedom, and harassment of domestic and international human rights organisations”. Also included is the United Nations’ (UN’s) “limited access” to India’s northeastern states and the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
The report mentions the release of 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case. It also claims that an “an overburdened and under-resourced court system” contributed to a low number of convictions in the country.
The report comes at a time when the Punjab government has imposed a statewide internet shutdown as it pursues radical preacher Amritpal Singh, the controversial head of ‘Waris Punjab De’. The shutdown, which was first imposed Saturday, has now been extended until Tuesday. Social media accounts of several alleged Khalistan supporters have been suspended.
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UN’s ‘limited access to J&K’
Like last year’s report, the latest document claims that several international bodies like the UN continue to have “limited access” to Jammu & Kashmir and northeastern states.
Though last year’s report acknowledged the Indian government’s efforts to “address abuses and corruption” when it comes to official misconduct, this year’s made no such mention.
“Despite government efforts to address abuses and corruption, a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government,” read the 2021 report.
However, this year’s report simply said: “A lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity.”
Bilkis Bano, marital rape
The latest report makes special mention of Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman who was gangraped in Gujarat’s Randhikpur village during the 2002 riots in the state.
It highlights the premature release of 11 people who were convicted for gangraping Bano, as well as the murder of 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter.
Under a section titled ‘Discrimination and Societal Abuses’, the US State Department report says: “In October, 11 men who were serving life sentences after being convicted of gangraping Bilkis Bano and killing 14 members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, including her daughter, age 3, were released from prison upon eligibility for parole under court sentencing guidelines.”
The report also notes that marital rape is “not illegal when the woman is older than 15”, and that there is no national law to address Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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