Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday said state governments in India resorted to “blanket internet shutdowns in misguided attempts to prevent violence or social unrest, or to maintain law and order”.
“By November, they had imposed 60 internet shutdowns, 27 of these in Jammu and Kashmir,” the rights group said in its World Report 2018, released on Thursday.
HRW also accused the Indian government of failing to stop or credibly investigate vigilante attacks against minority religious communities in 2017 which killed 10 people.
Many senior leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism at the expense of fundamental rights for all Indians
“Extremist Hindu groups, many claiming to be affiliated with the BJP, committed numerous assaults against Muslims and other minority communities in response to rumours that minority group members sold, bought, or killed cows for beef,” it said in a statement.
“Instead of taking prompt legal action against the attackers, police frequently filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter.
There were at least 38 such attacks in 2017, and 10 people were killed.”
Indian authorities had proven themselves unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attack, said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“There needs to be a serious effort to prevent future attacks and to prosecute all those responsible for the violence,” the statement quoted Ganguly as saying.
The report also highlighted the fact that Indian authorities harassed and brought charges, including for sedition and criminal defamation, against activists, academics, journalists, and others critical of government actions or policies.
“Threats of legal action and arbitrary corruption investigations put increasing pressure on journalists and media outlets to self-censor,” as per the statement.
The government also used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which governs access to foreign funding for nongovernmental organisations, to cut off funds and harass activists and human rights defenders, it added.
Even after amending laws against sexual violence, girls and women still face barriers in reporting such crimes, including humiliation at police stations and hospitals, lack of protection and more, it said.
It also said India passed up chances to demonstrate leadership on human rights issues at international forums such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and General Assembly.