SRINAGAR: Global human rights body Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned India for failing to “prevent many incidents of religious violence” and growing “tensions through polarising speeches” during the last year.
Amnesty, in its annual global report for 2015-16, warned against a worldwide assault on freedoms with many governments “brazenly” breaking international law, including an “intensified crackdown on key freedoms” in India. The report, in reference to India, said that scores of artists, writers and scientists returned national honours in protest against what they said was a climate of growing intolerance.”
“Authorities clamped down on civil society organisations critical of official policies, and increased restrictions on foreign funding. Religious tensions intensified, and gender and caste-based discrimination and violence remained pervasive, (as did) censorship and attacks on freedom of expression by hardline Hindu groups,” the report said.
Amnesty rebuked Indian authorities for “failing to prevent many incidents of religious violence, and sometimes contributing to tensions through polarising speeches and pervasive caste-based discrimination and violence”. Amnesty’s report also highlights the government’s continued harassment of civil society groups critical of official policies over the past year, as well as government legal action aimed at controlling foreign funds for non-governmental organisations.
“Over 3,200 people were being held in January under administrative detention on executive orders without charge or trial,” the report said, adding that state authorities used “anti-terror” laws to illegally hold activists and protesters in custody.
The report, in reference to violence against women in India said that “although nearly 322,000 crimes against women, including over 37,000 cases of rape, were reported in 2014, stigma and discrimination by police officials and authorities in India continued to deter women from reporting sexual violence, and most states still lacked standard operating procedures for the police to address violence against women.”
It also highlighted “restrictive foreign funding laws” being used to repress NGOs critical of the government. In a positive move, the report said, the Supreme Court of India had directed states to install closed-circuit television in all prisons to prevent torture and other violations, while the government stated it was considering amending the Penal Code to specifically recognise torture as a crime.”
It also called for an urgent need for reinvigoration of the United Nations, as many governments have wilfully thwarted UN action to prevent mass atrocities or hold to account their perpetrators, and ‘rejected or poured scorn’ on its recommendations to improve human rights nationally.
Impunity for violations by security forces persisted.
Prolonged pre-trial detention and overcrowding in jails remained widespread.As of January, over 282,000 prisoners – 68% of the total prison population – were pre-trial detainees. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims continued to be disproportionately represented.