New Delhi: Human rights abuses against India’s social and religious minorities have been on the ascendance since the BJP government came to power.
This grim reality is already being acknowledged within India as well as internationally, says the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) of the United States
The AJA report launched this week in Washington DC came nearly two months after the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared that religious freedom in India was at stake.
At the launch of the latest report the panelists such as Jennifer Prestholdt (Deputy Director, The Advocates for Human Rights), veteran journalist Kannan Srinivasan, and Ajit Sahi (Advocacy Director, Indian American Muslim Council) briefed the press.
AJA talks about the inability of Indian government in dealing with the anti-minority violence and said that “government action seem to actually protect the perpetrators”. It said, “The Government of India has not demonstrated a sense of urgency to adequately investigate and effectively prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations against members of minority groups,” the report said.
The report marks the custodial torture and deaths separately, “Since the BJP formed the federal government in 2014, there has been an uptick in the practice by the police and law enforcement of arbitrary and unlawful detention; torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of terrorism suspects in police custody; extrajudicial killings; harassment of human rights defenders at the behest of the political executive; framing and arrests of innocents from the social and religious minorities; and fabrication as well as destruction of evidence.”
It further said, “The most egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the police include illegal detention of suspects and torture of detainees, arrestees and convicts, as well as extrajudicial killings, called “encounter killings.” These “encounter killings” are staged by the police who insist that those killed had taken the first shot. Not only have torture and the killings spiraled, the government has refused to act against their perpetrators.”
In the past too, Human rights experts have reported increased police harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention of Muslims based on the pretext of their purported involvement in terrorist activities and the recent report by AJA acknowledges such cases in a comprehensive manner.
It said, “Even though Indian law does not sanction torture it is most widely used. Beatings at police stations as also in prisons have caused hundreds of deaths of detainees, accused or convicts. Even though confessions given to police officers are not admissible as evidence in the court, except for under special laws, the practice of using torture to force confessions to the police goes on. Allegations that the police use torture to extort money have also been made.”
The report also mentions draconian laws which have caused huge human rights violations in the past. These laws include the AFSPA, the National Security Act (NSA), the Public Safety Act (PSA), the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crimes Act (MCOCA) and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA).
Report separately highlights the Hindutva organizations such as RSS, VHP, Hindu Yuva Vahini and Bajrang Dal and writes, “These organizations have long been involved in organized violence against the minorities often causing deaths of their victims. Thousands of VHP and Bajrang Dal members have been accused for decades for such attacks, but few are ever prosecuted and even fewer convicted.”
The report does not only focuses over Muslims, but also talks comprehensively about Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Tribals whose rights are being violated, and even crushed, since NDA came in power in 2014. Various episodes of anti-minority violence such as Gau-raksha, Ghar-Wapasi, Love-Jihad have also been discussed in details.
The report does not stops at minority rights, but also talks about misuse of FCRA laws, restriction of freedom of expression, attacks on Human rights activists. The report also makes 29-points recommendation to Indian government which ranges from implementing DK Basu guidelines for arrests and detention to legislate punishment for sectarian violence by Individuals or groups.
Ajit Sahi, the new advocacy director at IAMC, said at the launch, “The release of this report is a plea to the international community for help in influencing the government of India to safeguard the rights of lower castes and religious minorities.” The full report can be accessed here.