HRW Flags Govt’s Use of Abusive Policies, Intensified Crackdowns to Target Minorities in Annual Report
Representational use only.
Pointing to the “abusive” and “discriminatory” policies used by the BJP government to repress Muslims and other minorities in the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday that India witnessed intensified and broadened crackdown on activist groups and media in 2022.
The statements by the HRW came in the wake of its release of the World Report 2023 – the 33rd edition of its annual review. The 712-page report has compiled reviews of human rights practices in about 100 countries.
The HRW said that the BJP-led governments arrested activists, journalists, and other critics of the government on politically motivated criminal charges – including terrorism. The NGO cited measures such as tax raids, allegations of financial irregularities, and the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which have been used by the government to suppress dissent.
It said that the authorities in several BJP-ruled states demolished Muslim homes and properties “without legal authorisation or due process as summary punishment for protests or alleged crimes”.
“The BJP government’s promotion of Hindu majoritarian ideology provokes authorities and supporters to engage in discriminatory and at times violent actions against religious minorities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The authorities should be reining in party members and supporters responsible for abuses instead of jailing critics and shutting down rights groups,” she added, as per a release by the HRW.
The annual report mentions the early release of 11 Hindu convicts in the Bilkis Bano case who were serving sentences for gang rape of a pregnant Muslim woman and the murder of 14 of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The release was celebrated publicly bu the affiliates of the ruling BJP.
HRW further accused the Indian authorities of misusing laws forbidding forced religious conversion to target Christians, especially from dalit and adivasi communities. It also drew attention to the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to conduct raids and arbitrarily detain journalists and activists. The basic rights of people from Kashmir – such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – have also been restricted by the government, according to the human rights watchdog.
It said, “During India’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in November, member countries raised concerns and made recommendations on a range of issues including the need to protect minority communities and vulnerable groups, tackle gender-based violence, uphold civil society freedoms, protect human rights defenders, and end torture in custody.”
The annual review also focussed on some favourable developments – mainly at the behest of the Supreme Court. These included halting all use of the colonial-era sedition law, expanding access to legal abortion to all women regardless of marital status, widening the definition of family to include same-sex couples and “atypical” households, and banning the degrading two-finger test, among others.
Read the full World Report 2023 here.
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