â€œWe will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments,â€ says US official
It may not have been the international mention that India was looking for. State Departmentâ€™s annual report on human rights practices highlights serious challenges when it comes to freedom of expression in India.
The report lists cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions, extrajudicial killings, destruction and confiscation of property and discrimination against minorities in India in 2022.
At a State Department briefing in Washington DC on Tuesday on the release of the report, Erin M Barclay, acting assistant secretary of the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, said, â€œWe have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments.â€
â€œNot surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well.â€
Referring to the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the report said that civil society organizations have â€œexpressed concern that the central government sometimes used UAPA to detain human rights activists and journalists.â€
Citing the case of Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, among others, the report noted his â€œpretrial detention has been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi.â€
The report also referred to the arrest of Umar Khalid â€œfor making a speech during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019â€ and the denial of bail to the majority of the 16 activists â€œincarcerated on conspiracy charges related to the Elgaar Parishad Bhima Koregaon protests.â€
Read: Activists allege intimidation of human rights defenders in India (August 12, 2021)
The report also cited the case of Prayagraj Development Authority demolishing the home of Muslim activist Javed Mohammad and North Delhi Municipal Corporation demolishing homes in Jahangirpuri district.
On denial of fair trial, the State Department report said that the â€œgovernment evicted persons from their places of residence, seized their property, or bulldozed homes without due process or adequate restitution.â€
The report cited human rights activists claiming that the government used this to allegedly target vocal critics from the Muslim community and destroy their homes and livelihoods.â€
The report also brought up the issue of freedom of expression and highlighted the blocking of communication services, such as mobile telephones and the internet, and constraining freedom of movement.
The report also took note of arrests of some journalists such as the Delhi Police arresting Mohammed Zubair â€œwhose tweet highlighting a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersonâ€™s alleged remarks insulting Prophet Mohammed went viral.â€
Read: US report lists ‘significant human rights’ abuses in India (March 21, 2023)
It also mentioned the case where immigration authorities prevented Pulitzer-award winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from traveling. The State Department report also pointed to persistent discrimination against women, Dalits, tribals and members of the LGBTQI+ community.
The annual report also criticized Russia and China for the massive violation of human rights along with Iran, North Korea, and Myanmar.