International Human Rights Day is being commemorated on December 10 across the globe with a commitment to uphold the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), ensuring basic human rights to all people.
But India, despite being on the radar of global human rights bodies, for its systematic and gruesome policies against minorities especially Muslims and Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), is blatantly violating the human norms and international declarations.
Human Rights Watch in its latest report said that the India government adopted laws and policies that discriminated against religious minorities, especially Muslims.
“This, coupled with vilification of Muslims by some BJP leaders and police failure to take action against BJP supporters who commit violence, emboldened Hindu nationalist groups to attack Muslims and government critics with impunity,” it said.
The critics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in India including activists, journalists, peaceful protesters, and even poets, actors, and businesses are increasingly risked politically motivated harassment, prosecutions, and tax raids.
Indian authorities shut down rights groups using foreign funding regulations or allegations of financial irregularities.
The Indian security forces have turned IIOJ&K into an open-air prison while the Indian minorities are facing saffron-junta-led terrorism and extremism with full backing of BJP leadership.
These human rights abuses in IIOJK range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech.
Human Rights Watch in its report further said that five UN experts have raised concerns about “the repressive measures and broader pattern of systematic infringements of fundamental rights used against the local population, as well as of intimidations, searches and confiscations committed by national security agents.”
The Muslims in India are increasingly becoming victims of Hindutva terrorism as they have been portrayed as “children of invaders” whose ancestors exploited Hindus for centuries. On this pretext, their fundamental human rights, including life, liberty and freedom of expression, are denied and they’re regularly targeted for their beliefs.
In December 2019, Modi government introduced discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which excluded Muslims and allowed Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsi immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to get Indian nationality.
During Modi’s first term as prime minister, the cow vigilantes are also active as part of India’s violent polity. Since then, from 2014 onwards and during the seven years of his first and now in the second term, violence over the ownership and eating of cows has become such a norm that it is barely reported anymore.
Journalists in IIOJK faced increased harassment by the authorities, including raids and arrests on terrorism charges. In June, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressed concerns over “alleged arbitrary detention and intimidation of journalists covering the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in India persisted with the National Human Rights Commission registering 143 deaths in police custody and 104 alleged extrajudicial killings in the first nine months in 2021.
By September, the police had reportedly killed 27 people in alleged extrajudicial killings and injured 40 others in Assam. In a video shared on social media, police were seen beating the man after he was shot and a photographer hired by the local authorities stomping on the body of the injured man. The victims were Bengali-speaking Muslims, a community the BJP government has frequently vilified as “illegal Bangladeshis.”
The authorities continued to use section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which required government approval to prosecute police officials, to block accountability even in cases of serious abuses.
In March, the Gujarat state government refused to give permission to prosecute three police officials accused in the 2004 extrajudicial killing of a Muslim woman, Ishrat Jahan.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which remained in effect in IIOJK and several other Indian states, provided effective immunity from prosecution to security forces, even for serious human rights abuses.
The Border Security Force frequently used excessive force against irregular immigrants and cattle traders from Bangladesh.
Hindu mobs beat up Muslims, often working-class men, with impunity while pro-BJP supporters filed baseless complaints against critics, especially religious minorities.
Muslims are not the only victim of Hindutva terrorism, right-wing Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians are becoming increasingly frequent and are emboldened by a lack of accountability. The Christians are blamed for converting Hindus and the pattern of Christians’ persecution is often the same by stoking fears that these conversions were forceful, aimed at changing the character of India and the illegality of their places of worship.
According to a report by human rights group, more than 300 attacks on Christians took place in the first nine months of this year, including at least 32 in Karnataka.
The report found that of the total 305 incidents of anti-Christian violence, four north Indian states registered as many as 169 of them: 66 in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, 47 in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, 30 in tribal-dominated Jharkhand, and 30 in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh.
At least nine Indian states have planned anti-conversion laws, including Chhattisgarh, which, activists say, has emerged as a “new laboratory” for anti-Christian hatred in India.
In October, over 200 men and women allegedly belonging to the BJP youth wing and affiliated Hindu nationalist groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal attacked a church in Uttarakhand state, vandalizing property and injuring several churchgoers.
The attack came soon after the VHP allegedly threatened to demolish churches in Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district, claiming they were doing illegal religious conversions. Hindu nationalist groups also attacked churches in Chhattisgarh state. Several states enacted or amended laws ostensibly to prevent forced religious conversions, but these laws have been largely used to target minority communities, particularly Christians, Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis. —APP