US report identifies widespread rights violations in India

WASHINGTON: The latest US State Department report on human rights has highlighted major violations in India, including extrajudicial killings by government agents, violence against Muslims, and killings by government and non-government forces in occupied Kashmir.

The report — released earlier this week — coincided with a warning by a senior US official that there would be consequences if India increased its oil exports from Russia. US human rights groups have also noted that recently the Indian government allowed schools to ban students from wearing hijabs in the state of Karnataka, a move criticized globally but upheld by the state high court.

The US State Department reported receiving credible information about Muslims being targeted in certain parts of India.

“Muslim communities in certain areas remained vulnerable to communal violence and discrimination … violence against Muslim communities continued during the year with cases of physical abuse, discrimination, forcible displacement, and lynching for suspected cow smuggling,” the report added.

The State Department reported receiving reports of “significant human rights violations” in India, including “unlawful and arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials”.

“Harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by government authorities; political prisoners or detainees and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy” were other areas of concern identified in the report.

Although a democracy, India imposed “restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, use of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech and restrictions on internet freedom”, the report added.

India also imposed “overly restrictive laws on the organisation, funding, or operations of nongovernmental organisations and civil society organisations and refoulement of refugees”.

Another major concern, highlighted in the report, is the existence of “serious government corruption; government harassment of domestic and international human rights organisations”.

Tourism boom likely in Kaghan valley as Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad Road reopens

MANSEHRA: The Kaghan Development Authority (KDA) reopened the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad (MNJ) Road to all sorts of traffic up to the Batakundi area on Sunday, which will revive and boost the Covid-hit tourism industry in Kaghan valley this summer.

“If there is no calamity and weather goes well we expect a tourism boom in the valley during this season, as we have cleared the MNJ road to traffic till Batakundi one month ahead of its scheduled time,” KDA inspector Moazzam Khan told this correspondent.

The tourism industry was shut and traffic between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan suspended in October last year following closure of the MNJ road when Kaghan valley received a heavy snowfall.

The tourism industry of not only Kaghan valley, but of the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also had suffered adversely because of the Covid-related restrictions and closure of the hospitality industry in the province in 2020 and 2021.

“The work on reopening of the MNJ road beyond Batakundi is well in progress and traffic between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan would resume as rest of the portion of MNJ roadhas been cleared up to Babusar Top,” Mr Khan said.

He said that tourism season in Kaghan valley, which usually resumed in mid-May in previous years, had taken off with the clearance of the main artery up to Naran, the commercial centre of the valley, earlier this month.

Seth Matiullah, the president of hoteliers association in Kaghan valley, said that thousands of employees related to the tourism industry were laid off in the valley because of the Covid-19 prevalence in the country.

“This time, we are going to carry on our business activities in the entire season and expect the influx of visitors on Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha as well. We have not seen such an opportunity during the last one decade,” he said.