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US Report Highlights Alleged Human Rights Violations In India

Abu Zaim | India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI— US State Department 2020 report on human rights in India has highlighted serious human rights violations including “unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings perpetrated by police, torture and cases of cruel, inhuman treatment by some police and prison officials, arbitrary arrest and detention by government authorities, harsh and life threatening prison conditions, restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, use of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech, censorship, and site blocking”, besides other things.

Quoting data from the report of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the report says that there were 32 extra-judicial killings in Jammu and Kashmir in the first half of 2020.

Culling information from the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the report claims the deaths of 63 civilians, 89 security force members, and 284 insurgents countrywide as a result of terrorism or insurgency attacks. The report says that 229 persons were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in 107 incidents in the first six months of 2020.

The report also brings to attention the killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari and his two bodyguards in 2018.

The report invites attention towards an order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that had ordered the Telangana government to pay Rs. Five lakh compensation to the families of five Muslims killed by police in 2015.

The report also mentions about the human rights violations by the Delhi police during riots in Northeast Delhi in February 2020. The report accuses Delhi police of being complicit with violence, torture of arrested protesters while in custody and excessive use of force. The US report alleges the Delhi police were negligent in their duty to protect citizens during riots.

The US report also highlights the custodial torture and killing of 62-year-old Babu Sheikh by Gujarat police and then destroying evidence of the crime in December 2019.

The report also highlights how Mohammed Faisal, an advocate and also a member of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, was assaulted by Uttar Pradesh police in December 2019 during anti-CAA protests and kept in jail for 14 days.

Stating that the number of cases registered under UAPA, a terrorism law, rose from 976 in 2014 to 1,182 in 2018, the report points out how a pregnant student leader Safoora Zargar from Jamia Millia Islamia university was arrested on April 10, 2020 under UAPA “for allegedly conspiring to incite the Delhi riots”. She was, however, released on June 23, 2020, by a court.

The report also mentions the arrest of former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) researcher Umar Khalid on September 13, 2020, simply for “making a speech during anti-CAA protests.”

The US State department report also questions the arrest of 83-year-old Jesuit priest and human rights activist Fr. Stan Swamy on October 8, 2020 in connection with Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon events in which more than 15 human rights activists have already been arrested.

The report has also criticized “large security response” in three universities-Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and JNU-in connection with anti-CAA protests though students-led protests had taken place in 29 universities across the country. It also focuses on the police entering Jamia forcefully in December 2019 and beating students and teachers, using teargas shells and rubber bullets. It also talks about masked individuals entering JNU on January 5, 2020 and attacking students.

The report specifically mentions how the police was pursuing cases against Muslims and anti-CAA activists after Northeast Delhi riots in February 2020.

Stating how the civil liberties, particularly the freedom of expression, including of the press, had come under severe attack in India, the report says that the government had often remain silent on the attack on freedom of speech. It prominently mentions the instance of Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan convicted on August 14, 2020, by the Supreme Court for criminal contempt of court for two tweets that criticised the chief justice and the role played by the Supreme Court in the last six years.

The report also speaks about 14 cases of detention, investigation and assault on journalists in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. The report also recounts arrest of 26-year-old Kashmiri photojournalist photojournalist Masrat Zahra under UAPA for indulging in “anti-national activities” on social media

 It also mentions how an FIR was registered against Siddharth Varadarajan, founder editor of The Wire on April 1, 2020, for his tweet referring to a news report in which UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had insisted holding of religious gathering during Covid-19 lockdown. The report also mentions the detention of Gujarat journalist Dhaval Patel, harassment of The Kashmir Walla editor Fahad Shah for covering an encounter between militants and security forces, Anirban Chattopadhyaya, editor of Bengali language newspaper Anandbazar Patrika on May 25, 2020 and registration of an FIR against former executive director of Amnesty International India (AII) Aakar Patel by Bengaluru police on June 5, 2020.

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