‘Significant abuse in Manipur, govt took minimal credible steps’: US report on human rights in India

The report detailed several instances of rights abuse, including the jailing of journalist Siddique Kappan and raids on BBC.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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The ethnic conflict between the Kuki and Meitei communities in Manipur have resulted in “significant human rights abuses”, said a recent report by the US State Department on human rights in India, citing media that “at least 175 persons were killed and more than 60,000 displaced between May 3 and November 15”.

Titled 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: India, the report said India records “significant human rights issues” in terms of arbitrary or unlawful killings, privacy rights, “serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom”, including “unjustified” arrests of journalists, censorship, corruption and discrimination against LGBTQ persons.  

It said that the government took “minimal credible steps or action to identify and punish” officials who may have committed human rights abuses and that the Supreme Court even “criticised” the central government for failing to halt the violence in Manipur.  

Under seven sections – including on civil liberties, freedom to participate in political process, corruption in government, discrimination and workers rights – the report detailed several instances of human rights abuse including the incarceration of journalist Siddique Kappan, killing of gangster Atiq Ahmed, and the killings on a train by RPF cop Chetan Singh. 

The report also mentioned the killing of Muslims and Dalits by “militant groups” for transporting or slaughtering cattle, and detailed the murder of Junaid and Nasir, who were found by the Haryana police “in a burned-out car in Bhiwani district”. 

On human rights abuses by the state officials, it said India has registered 813 cases of extrajudicial killings between 2016 and 2022, with the most reported in Chhattisgarh, and then Uttar Pradesh. However, there was only one conviction of an army officer in Jammu and Kashmir.     

The anti-terror law UAPA accounted for more than 8,000 arrests between 2015 and 2020, said the report citing the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. “Civil society organizations expressed concern that the central government used the UAPA to target and arbitrarily detain human rights activists, members of minority groups, and journalists under the guise of national security.”

The report said as per the National Crime Records Bureau data, as many as 4,27,165 prisoners or 77 percent of the country’s total prison population were awaiting trial, while the prisons were “underfunded and understaffed, and they lacked sufficient infrastructure”.

It also noted “several acquittals in cases of killings of Muslims associated with communal violence” in Gujarat in 2002. 

Raids, UAPA cases against journalists 

The Modi government or “actors considered close to the government” allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling, said the report. 

“Media organisations and individual journalists expressing views critical of the government were sometimes subjected to arrest, threats, or intimidation,” it said, adding that police had also raided the workplaces and homes of journalists and seized their electronic devices, ostensibly referring to the NewsClick raids. It also mentioned the tax raids on the BBC and blocking orders against journalists on social media platforms.    

The document also cited the Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2023 as saying that “authorities intensified efforts to silence civil society activists and independent journalists by using politically motivated criminal charges, including terrorism, to jail those exposing or criticising government abuses. The government used foreign funding regulations and allegations of financial irregularities to harass rights groups, political opponents, and others. Authorities also continued to stop activists and journalists critical of the government, from travelling abroad.” 

Mentioning the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj under UAPA, the report said “media watchdog groups expressed concern regarding the ‘excessive’ use of the UAPA against journalists”.

Under the section of arbitrary arrests, it mentioned that Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan was jailed for about two years. “Kappan and student activist Atikur Rahman, both Muslims, were arrested and charged with sedition and provisions under the UAPA for allegedly promoting religious enmity between different groups.”  

Newslaundry has extensively reported on why press freedom is imperative for democracy and human rights protection. Read here.

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