A top global human rights group has criticised the Indian government for its treatment of minorities, lack of protection for women’s and children’s rights, restrictions on free speech and insufficient support extended for human rights via New Delhi’s foreign policy engagements.
In its 25th annual World Report on human rights, New York-headquartered Human Rights Watch noted that there was a “spike” in incidents of violence against religious minorities in 2013 in the run-up to the national elections where 133 people were killed and 2,269 injured in 823 incidents.
Further, the report underscored, even one year after the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh where over 60 people, mostly Muslims, killed and tens of thousands displaced, “both the central and the state governments had not provided proper relief or justice.”
Additionally the BJP had chosen Sanjeev Balyan, charged with inciting violence during the riots, as their candidate in parliamentary elections and appointed him as a minister, “intensifying Muslim insecurities,” HRW noted, and the state government forcibly closed down relief camps and failed to act on allegations that lack of adequate relief services caused the death of over 30 children in the camps.
Citing numerous other incidents of violence against minorities, including recent cases of discrimination against Dalits in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, the HRW report focused attention on the plight of those involved in “manual scavenging,” the cleaning by hand of human waste by members of.
“Those who try to leave such work face retribution, including threats of violence or displacement. In March 2014, the Supreme Court held that India’s constitution requires state intervention to end the practice,” the report said.
In terms of women’s rights, In early 2014, the government introduced guidelines for the medical treatment and examination of women and children who report rape, but failed to allocate resources necessary for their implementation. At time of writing only two states had adopted the guidelines.
Although children’s rights in India received a shot in the arm from the Right to Education Act and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Kailash Satyarthi, which drew attention to the “continuing employment of children in the worst of labour,” the report said, millions of children from vulnerable communities still faced “discrimination, inadequate support in government schools, and pressures to earn money, soon drop out and start working.”
The report also emphasised that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2014 identified several areas in which the Indian government had “failed to ensure protection of children from discrimination, harmful practices, sexual abuse, and child labour.”
Finally while speaking out on global and bilateral platforms in the execution of its foreign policy the Modi administration has been “reticent on many regional and global human rights issues where their voice could make a difference,” including India’s March 2014 abstained on a resolution requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate serious violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Human rights also did not feature strongly in public statements when Indian leaders met with counterparts from the U.S., Australia, China, and Japan, HRW said.