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BJP’s ‘abuses’ as bad as Chinese repression, rights body warns investors shifting to India

The Human Rights Watch says countries which deepen ties with Modi govt by ignoring India’s ‘troubling human rights record’, squanders leverage to protect country’s ‘endangered civic space’.

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New Delhi: India’s human rights abuses are similar to that of China’s, an international rights body has said, warning countries of the “increasingly endangered civic space on which India’s democracy lies”.

 The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in its 33rd World Report, says, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has mimicked many of the same abuses that have enabled Chinese state repression — systematic discrimination against religious minorities, stifling of peaceful dissent, and use of technology to suppress free expression—to tighten its grip on power.”

In the report, the non-governmental organisation assessed human rights conditions in over 100 countries, providing a summary and analysis of circumstances in the past year.

About India, the report tells countries, “Deepening ties with the Modi government while avoiding its troubling rights record squanders valuable leverage to protect the precious, but increasingly endangered, civic space on which India’s democracy relies.”

The report further adds that countries such as Japan, Canada, Australia, the UK, EU and the US have “looked to cultivate trade and security alliances with India, taking cover behind its brand as the world’s largest democracy”.

It goes on to say that American President Joe Biden is among many world leaders who sidelines human rights accountability for abuse to ensure his own short-term political gains – something he does with India.

The same rhetoric is applied for Australia, a country that apparently avoids any kind of public discussion of rights in order to maintain its diplomatic relationships with India.

France too turns a blind eye to any human rights violations in India and refuses to raise any public concerns about its discriminatory policies against Muslims, the report says.

Focus on India

The administration, led by the BJP, continues to stigmatise and discriminate against religious and other minorities, notably Muslims, the report says, adding, that attacks against certain groups were violently carried out by BJP members more frequently in 2022.

The report cites examples of when police in Gujarat publicly flogged Muslim men in October because they were accused of disrupting a Hindu festival. It also mentions how Madhya Pradesh authorities razed houses of three men who had been accused of pelting stones at a Hindu ceremonial dance.

The report says the National Human Rights Commission recorded 147 fatalities in police custody, 1,882 deaths in judicial detention, and 119 suspected extrajudicial executions in the first nine months of 2022.

Refer freedom of expression and the media, the report says 2022 was a year when authorities detained journalists who were critical of the administration.

The report cited an incident from July last year, when independent journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh, who covers the rights of Adivasi people, was detained by Jharkhand police on several charges, including a violation of the harsh Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

When Singh and his wife’s phone numbers appeared on a list of prospective targets, they filed a case with the Supreme Court alleging that the government was using the Israeli spyware Pegasus to target journalists and activists.

The report says when the use of the Pegasus spyware was to be investigated, it was revealed that five out of 29 phones examined had malware on them, but it was unclear whether it was the same spyware or not.

The report cites the Supreme Court’s observation that the government did not cooperate with the committee’s investigation and make the report public.

Other human rights violations of women, refugees and civil societies and activist groups have also been criticised and documented in the report. It says Rohingya Muslim refugees in India faced violent attacks in the past year. It also says the Supreme Court “failed” to decide whether Muslim female students should wear headscarves in educational institutions in BJP-led Karnataka.

Also read: Right to free speech is democracy’s precious gift, but not when it stifles others’ voices


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