A US official report on Tuesday, 30 March said that India is home to several significant human rights worries, including arbitrary and unlawful killings, restrictions on freedom of press and expression, various instances of corruption and of increasing violations of religious freedom, PTI reported.
The US Department of State in its ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ to the Congress, had noted the improved human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Saying that most political activists were relieved from detentions, it added, “The (Indian) government continued taking steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions,” PTI quoted.
The incumbent government had partially restored internet access in the Union Territory in January. However, high-speed 4G mobile internet remained restricted in most parts of J&K.
The report said that the Centre also began a process to redraw electoral constituencies but failed to announce a timeline for the assembly elections. In the district elections conducted in December, coalition of Kashmiri opposition parties had won the majority of seats.
The report had gone on to say note that separatist insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, and Maoist-influenced areas committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of the armed forces, police, government officials, and civilians, as well as recruited and employed child soldiers.
In its most recent report, The State Department listed more than a dozen prominent human rights issues in the country. Unlawful and arbitrary killings included extrajudicial killings undertaken by police personnel; jail officers and the police engaging in inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment and torture; arbitrary detention by administrative authorities and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, PTI reported.
In the past, India rejected the claims of similar human rights reports.
The official US report also reportedly highlighted that India employed restrictions on freedom of expression, curbs on free press and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists.
Uses of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech, censorship, and site blocking in the country were also written, PTI reported.
The State Department said, “There were also reports of extremists perpetrating acts of killing, violence, and intimidation against journalists critical of the government,” PTI quoted.
“In certain cases local authorities arrested or filed cases against individuals under laws against hate speech for expressions of political views,” it added.
The report cited the conviction of human-rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt of court for two tweets that were critical of the chief justice and the Supreme Court’s role during the BJP years, as well as the complaint filed against news website ‘The Wire’ editor Siddharth Varadarajan for his tweet referencing a news report on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Among other human rights issues raised by the State Department were strict limitations on nongovernmental organisations; constraints on political participation; widespread corruption embedded at all levels of the administration and a lack of transparency of and accountability when it comes to violence against women, PTI reported.
The US report also talks about violations of religious freedom in the country; discriminatory, violent crimes especially targeting the minorities, including women based on religious affiliation or social status; and forced and compulsory child labour, as well as bonded labour.
(With inputs from PTI)