HRW slams India for rights abuses in IIOJK

Scores of people remained detained without charge under the draconian Public Safety Act

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NEW YORK, A prominent international human rights watchdog body has denounced Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for intensifying repression in Jammu and Kashmir, targeting Muslims in India and for harassing, arresting and prosecuting activists, journalists, and others critics.

In its World Report 2021, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the government continued to impose harsh and discriminatory restrictions on Muslim-majority areas in Jammu and Kashmir since revoking the state’s constitutional status in August 2019 and splitting it into two federally governed territories.

Attacks continued against minorities, especially Muslims, even as authorities failed to take action against BJP leaders who vilified Muslims and BJP supporters who engaged in violence, the report said.

The Covid-19 lockdown disproportionately hurt marginalized communities due to loss of livelihoods and lack of food, shelter, health care, and other basic needs, it said.

“The Indian government seems determined to punish peaceful criticism using draconian laws, while sending a broader message that chills dissent,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Instead of addressing growing attacks on Muslims, minorities, and women, Indian authorities increased their crackdown on critical voices in 2020.”

In the 761-page World Report 2021, its 31st edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 100 countries.

In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth argues that the incoming United States administration should embed respect for human rights in its domestic and foreign policy in a way that is more likely to survive future US administrations that might be less committed to human rights.

Roth emphasizes that even as the Trump administration mostly abandoned the protection of human rights, other governments stepped forward to champion rights. The Biden administration should seek to join, not supplant, this new collective effort.

The report said that last February communal violence in Delhi killed at least 53 people, with over 200 injured, properties destroyed, and communities displaced in targeted attacks by Hindu mobs. While a policeman and several Hindus were also killed, the vast majority of victims were Muslim. The attacks came after weeks of peaceful protests against the Indian government’s discriminatory citizenship policies.

Violence broke out after BJP leaders openly advocated violence against the protesters, while witness accounts and video evidence showed police complicity. The Delhi Minorities Commission reported that the violence was “planned and targeted,” and found that the police were filing cases against Muslim victims, but not taking action against the BJP leaders who incited it.

In Kashmir, the report said scores of people remained detained without charge under the draconian Public Safety Act, which permits detention without trial for up to two years. The government also clamped down on critics and journalists.

In June, it said, the government announced a new media policy in Jammu and Kashmir that empowers the authorities to decide what is “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national activities” and to take punitive action against media outlets, journalists, and editors. The policy contains vague provisions that are open to abuse and could unnecessarily restrict and penalize legally protected speech. The government also clamped down on critics, journalists, and human rights activists.

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