In an annual report on human rights practices released by the United States State Department on Monday, 20 March, listed "significant human rights issues" in India, including instances of alleged unlawful and arbitrary killings, interference with privacy, challenges to press freedom and violence that targets religious and ethnic minorities.
In the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the Joe Biden Administration, urged India to uphold human rights commitments and obligations and comes almost a year after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US was monitoring what he called a rise of human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials in India.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour Erin Barclay said, “We have, and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments."
"Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well.”
Moreover, the report said that significant human rights issues in India had included credible reports of the government or government agents undertaking extrajudicial killings, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, and punishment by police and prison officials.
It also mentioned the situation of political prisoners and detainees and the unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists.
The report sheds light on a lack of accountability for official misconduct that persists through multiple layers of the government in India and contributes to widespread impunity.
The State Department also noted the presence of other significant human rights violations in 2022, which include unlawful and arbitrary killings, inhuman treatment and punishment dished out by authorities, alleged arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful interference with privacy, restrictions on the freedom of speech, expression and media, and enforcement of criminal libel laws to curb expression.
"Human rights activists reported the government was allegedly targeting vocal critics from the Muslim community and using the bulldozers to destroy their homes and livelihoods" without due process, the U.S. report released on Monday added.
Since 2014, India has slid from 140th in the World Press Freedom index, an annual ranking by Reporters Without Borders, to 150th in 2022, the lowest in its history. India also topped the chart with the most internet shutdowns in the world for five years in a row, Access Now, an internet advocacy watchdog, said.
"Civil society organisations expressed concern that the central government sometimes used UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) to detain human rights activists and journalists," the US Rare Department report said.
The annual report also takes into account the restrictions on the internet, interference in peaceful association and restrictions on the freedom of movement and on the right to leave the country and alleged harassment of several domestic and international human rights bodies.
"Democracy, human rights, and labour rights are mutually reinforcing, and support for democratic renewal is essential to promoting these rights," said Blinken.
The annual human rights report from the State Department is a mandatory requirement of the US Congress.