At a time when India-US ties are set to reach new heights, the Biden administration has accused the Modi government of arbitrary arrests and detentions, media censorship, and imposing restrictive laws on NGOs, among others.
However, it did note that India has been taking steps to restore normalcy in the troubled region of Jammu and Kashmir. The report was released by the US State Department on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the report’s credibility as the US’ own track record in human rights back home is not up to the mark.
Addressing this concern, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said, “We know we have work to do at home. That includes addressing profound inequities, including systemic racism. We don’t pretend these problems don’t exist or try to sweep them under the rug. We don’t ignore them. We deal with them in the daylight, with full transparency.”
The annual report focuses on the human rights conditions in countries and regions outside the US. Prepared by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the Department of State, the report is to be submitted to the United States Congress.
Interestingly, China, which is frequently criticized by Washington over human rights abuses, has come out with a similar annual report titled the ‘Human Rights Record of the United States’.
Honored to release the 45th annual Human Rights Report. It demonstrates that human rights, transparency and accountability are at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. We acknowledge the work ahead and expect all nations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. #HRR2020 pic.twitter.com/G7BO475AoG
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 30, 2021
Referring to India, the US report highlights alleged extrajudicial killings by the police besides cases of torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by some police and prison officials. “There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents,” the 45th Human Rights Report stated.
Meanwhile, critics pointed fingers at the American military, which has been accused of extreme inhuman torture and human rights abuses, including civilian killings in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and across the countries it invaded, especially Afghanistan and Iraq.
The accusations against India also included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners or detainees in certain states; restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, use of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech, censorship, and site blocking; overly restrictive rules on nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation and widespread corruption at all levels in the government.
The lack of accountability among government organizations has been underlined. The report also looked at the killings and excesses committed by militants and terrorist outfits in areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
“Separatist insurgents and terrorists in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, and Maoist-affected areas committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers,” the report read.