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”.