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A new wave of Indian Atrocities and Human Rights Violations

by Taimur Khan

by Taimur Khan
(Research Officer at Institute of Strategic Studied Islamabad)

“India is the world’s largest democracy.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where words have seemingly lost all meaning (and for good reason) but even despite this knowledge, the first statement of this paragraph still manages to sting everyone with its insincerity and hollowness. Anyone with an iota of information, empathy and intellect knows for a fact that India today is a far-cry from a democracy, especially after the Modi-led BJP party came to power in 2014.
On May 28, 2020, Ms Maria Arena, Head of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) wrote a letter (strongly worded) to India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah voicing serious concerns over the systematic violations of human rights (HR) in India and misuse of anti-terror laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The Chair of DROI expressed serious concerns regarding the arrests of two human rights defenders namely Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, made by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) recently. He letter also stated that the EU Parliament has also observed that human rights defenders in India cannot carry out their advocacy activities peacefully without being harassed and intimidated. To make matters even worse, the govt. of India levies terrorism charges (mostly under UAPA) as silencing tool.
Furthermore, Ms Maria unmasked the true raison d’être behind the govt. of India’s discriminatory, vague and policies like UAPA and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Terming it as violation of international human rights standards, Ms Maria noted in the letter that “various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the CAA, have been portrayed as terrorist activities under such legislation, resulting in a number of arrests under this umbrella.”
Fearing about the unchecked discretionary powers that legislations like UAPA might have given to state agencies (such as IB, NIA & RAW), Ms Maria in her letter stated that combined with vague definitions of ‘‘unlawful activities’ and ‘membership of terrorist organisations’ could allow the govt. for an even wider discretion for law implementation. Such a process would seriously weaken judicial oversight and undermine protection of civil liberties in India!
Now this is not the first time India has been openly called out on the atrocities and gross HR violations in the country. The Indian state has a record of committing violations of international human rights, carried out against different religious, ethnic and class groups in the country including Sikhs, Christians, Dalits, and Muslims (in general and Kashmiris in particular).
In September 2016, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the abysmal HR violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK), which included unlawful incarceration of human rights activists, denial of right to peaceful protests and use of brutal force to inflict bodily harm upon the innocent civilians including women and children.
In the second half of 2019, the OIC condemned Indian atrocities and HR violations in IoK multiple times, calling out the actions of the Indian state as illegal, inhumane and oppressive.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) called out the Indian state on its atrocities and state-sponsored terrorism against the innocent Kashmiris and strongly condemned the curbing of religious freedom in IoK. Several reports were published by HRW regarding India’s gross human rights violations, especially under the BJP govt. The reports clearly indicted the BJP-led govt. of India for promoting Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism which further led to violence against religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government.
Amnesty International (AI) is has also been regularly highlighting the human rights violations of the Indian state against its minorities and marginalized groups, especially in IoK. It has called out the Indian state for politically victimizing the Kashmiri leadership, extrajudicial killings of Kashmiri youth, rape & torture of Kashmiri women and suppressing freedom of expression and faith.
In September 2019, the Indian police raided AI offices in the country under the garb of false charges of violating foreign donation rules. The raids came after the global rights watchdog criticised Modi govt.
Ever since the Modi-led BJP govt. came to power in India in 2014, the HR situation became even more adverse. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published two separate reports on the HR situation in IoK and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). One report was published in June 2018 and the other in July 2019. Both reports highlighted the civilian killings in Kashmir by Indian occupying forces, use of excessive force by govt. agencies, arbitrary detentions, restrictions on freedom of expression and other freedoms, torture and killing of Kashmiri Muslims outside of IoK, to name a few.
On June 3, 2020, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a press statement expressed alarm and concern over the clampdown on freedom of expression in parts of Asia-Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The statement mentioned a list of countries of the region subjecting to the wrong use of censorship and other such governing laws ‘to deter legitimate speech, especially public debate, criticism of government policy and suppress freedom of expression.’ India was one of the top ranking countries mentioned in that list.
The situation of Human Rights violations in India, particularly against Muslims in general and Kashmiris in particular is getting worse with each passing day. As per a statement by Prof. Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace & Conflict Research at the University of Uppsala, “the Indian army is not only carrying out secret burials of Kashmiri militant but also not disclosing their names. Indian army is committing these gross HR violations to hide that fact that because of Modi’s stupidity, militants are mostly home-grown now, not from Pakistan.”
According to a statement by President of AJK Sardar Masood Khan, “everyday Kashmir experiences ruination. The debris of the BJP-RSS terrorism destroys the land, kills & blinds youth, and makes a mockery of international law. The world order is being decimated on the altar of IoK.”
Even in the Delhi Riots (February 2020) investigations, a disturbing pattern has been observed where the Muslim victims of violence are ending up being arrested and coerced by the police. Modi-led BJP govt. has caused massive polarization in the Indian society on multiple lines (religious, ethnic, class and political affiliation). It has systematically normalized the oppression of minorities and various other marginalised groups for the sake of temporary political benefits.
The extent of ethno-phobia and ultra-nationalism has gotten so severe in India that the legislators and leaders of BJP-led govt. went to the point of declaring Muslims as solely responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in India. Muslims were not only being discriminated against exercising their religious rites, but they also faced discrimination in hospitals where they were denied treatment and segregated from the rest of the patients.
Decent Indians now fear for their safety and security in Hindutva-infested India of today. And why won’t they fear, when the whole system gets so rotten that people like Amulya Leona are in jail to date for saying Long Live Pakistan, while people like Anurag Thakur (Modi govt.’s junior finance minister) roam free in the streets even after publicly announcing in the public to “kill the traitors” (meaning anyone opposing BJP govt.’s policies namely the CAA).
The international community needs to reassess its relationship with India. Turning a blind eye towards Indian atrocities and HR violations have only emboldened India’s transgressions and resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.