By our representative
A new coalition of US-based Indian diaspora minority rights activists – Hindus for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Open Doors International, Justice for All and World Evangelical Alliance – said minorities in India stand on the precipice as their rights and freedoms have been eroded in the face of an increasingly violent majority ideology.
In a report released ahead of UN member states preparing to meet in November to review India’s human rights record during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the fourth time since 2006, the coalition says it is “alarmed by the deterioration of the situation”. minorities, the rule of law and the general health of Indian democracy”.
Regretting that state and non-state actors have targeted minorities, the report highlights that the crackdown on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Delhi has resulted in 18 students and activists, including 16 Muslims, who were part of the anti-CAA protests, detained in northeast Delhi under ‘the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) of 1967, India’s main counter-terrorism law’.
Stating that 13 of them “are still in detention for more than two years and are still being denied bail”, the report adds: “In Uttar Pradesh, dozens of anti-CAA protesters were detained with numbers ranging from 800 to 4,500, according to various statements by state authorities.Those arrested included prominent human rights defenders, lawyers, environmental activists, academics, artists and a number of minors.
In Uttar Pradesh, the report says, invocation of UAPA has increased significantly since 2017, with more than 100 cases reported each year “disproportionately” targeting Muslims. While Assam “has witnessed a similar pattern of abuse of anti-terrorism laws against Muslims”, UAPA was “invoked by authorities in eastern Tripura state against 102 people, including journalists and advocates who reported anti-Muslim violence in October 2021 on social media.”
Then, according to the report, “the National Security Act (NSA), preventive detention legislation, has also been disproportionately invoked in Uttar Pradesh and other states, against Muslims, often for crimes minors without any reasonable safety implications, such as the slaughter of cows”. He adds that the NSA was invoked “against 139 people up to August of that year, 88 of whom were Muslims. 76 of them for cow slaughter and 12 for anti-CAA protests.
The report further states that NGOs, particularly those working on human and minority rights issues, “have been targeted for closure by the Foreign Contributions Registration Act (FCRA) – a law aimed at regulating foreign remittances to India,” pointing out, “As of January 2022, almost 6,000 organizations had their registration with the FCRA revoked, thus becoming ineligible to receive foreign funds.
In addition, according to the report, 20 of India’s 29 states have enacted cow protection laws, which make the slaughter of cows a criminal offence, treated on equal footing with offenses such as homicide and the slave trade, noting: “Many of these laws make the offense recognizable, non-bailable, and shift the burden of proof onto the accused (…)”
Thus, “In 2020, the Uttar Pradesh Legislature amended the Uttar Pradesh Cow Slaughter Prevention Act 1955 by prescribing a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. Karnataka, another BJP-ruled state, passed a tougher cow-slaughter prevention and livestock preservation law in 2021, prescribing a maximum of seven years in prison for offenders. The laws provide “social and political space for Hindutva vigilantes to justify mob lynching”.
Next, the report says, while many states have enacted religious freedom laws or anti-conversion laws, including Odisha (in 1967), Madhya Pradesh (1968, 2021), Arunachal Pradesh ( 1978), Chhattisgarh (2000), Gujarat (2003), Himachal Pradesh (2006), Jharkhand (2017), Uttarakhand (2018) and Uttar Pradesh (2020), Karnataka (2021), Haryana (2022), in 2021, Madhya Pradesh amended the law to provide “prison sentences of up to 10 years for anyone found guilty of leading ‘illegal conversions’.”
He points out: “While in the past anti-conversion laws criminalized conversion on the basis of force, fraud, inducement or allurement, the recent trend exemplified by the new law in Madhya Pradesh was to include interfaith “marriage” as an illegal act. means of conversion. Karnataka’s new law makes the “promise of marriage” an illegal means of conversion. »
Due to state actors allegedly seeking to undermine minority rights, the report points out, non-state actors have become bolder in targeting minorities. Thus, “since 2014, and especially since 2017, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of violent attacks by private actors targeting civilians because of their religious identity. Attacks take the form of mob lynchings, including those resulting in death; attacks on religious infrastructure; property and livelihoods.
Offering details, the report says that Muslims have suffered some of the most vicious and sustained violent campaigns – carried out under various pretexts, viz. cow slaughter; ‘love jihad’, ‘corona jihad’, ‘land jihad’, ’employment jihad’, among other bogeys.
Citing a database, the report said there were “212 hate crime cases between 2014 and 2020. Of these, more than 50% were against Muslims. Nearly 30% of all cases resulted in death, of which more than 80% were Muslims. In 71% of cases where information was available, the police investigated the victims rather than the perpetrators.