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'Deeply biased, poor understanding': India slams US report on human rights abuses

The 2023 Human Rights Report by the US State Department flagged "credible reports" of various human rights abuses in India, mentioning the Manipur violence. It also claimed that the Indian government took minimal steps to address the officials who committed the human rights abuses.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Updated on: April 25, 2024 17:39 IST
MEA, India, US report, human rights abuses
Image Source : MEA Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal

New Delhi: India on Thursday sharply criticised a United States report on human rights abuses in India, saying it reflects a "deeply biased and poor understanding" of the country. The 2023 Human Rights Report by the US State Department mentioned "credible reports" of various human rights abuses in India, including the Manipur ethnic violence and "transnational repression" like the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

"This report is deeply biased and reflects a poor understanding of India. We attach no value to it and urge you to do the same," said Randhir Jaiswal, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. 

The 2023 Human Rights Report by the US State Department flagged "credible reports" of various human rights abuses in India, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest or detention and transnational repression among others. It also claimed that the Indian government took minimal steps to address the officials who committed the human rights abuses. 

The report also flagged "obstacles" reported by members of opposition political parties, including reprisals for criticism of government officials or policies, disinformation attacks, and inability to use social media freely for campaigning. It also highlighted electoral violence, particularly in West Bengal, were 52 people were killed ahead of rural council elections on July 8.

What does the report say about Manipur violence?

It specifically highlighted the Manipur ethnic violence between Kuki and Meitei groups that resulted in the death of at least 175 people. The US State Department cited reports of armed conflict, rapes, and assaults in addition to the destruction of homes, businesses, and places of worship. The report also mentioned the raids by Indian tax authorities on the office of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The India section of the report said local human rights organisations, minority political parties and affected communities criticised the country's government for the delayed action to stop violence and provide humanitarian assistance in Manipur. "The government generally cooperated with visits by UN representatives or UN-recognised regional organizations, but the United Nations had limited to no access to J-K and the northeastern states, including Manipur," it said.

The report also said there were a number of press and civil society reports of representatives of political parties using disinformation tactics against civil society organisations, religious minorities, such as Sikhs and Muslims, and the political opposition, sometimes depicting them as security threats.

Tax raid on BBC offices

Referring to the tax raids on BBC offices, the report said although tax authorities described the searches as motivated by irregularities in the BBC's tax payments and ownership structure, officials also searched and seized equipment from journalists who were not involved in the organisation's financial processes.

"The government invoked emergency powers to ban screening of the documentary, forced media companies to remove links to the video, and detained student protesters who organised viewing parties," the State Department alleged, referring to a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, the screening of which was banned in India.

The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar

The report also mentions the killing of India-designated Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 under "transnational repression", which became a heated topic of debate after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly alleged India's involvement in the murder. 

In September last year, the Canadian Prime Minister, during his speech in the House of Commons alleged that the Indian government was involved in the murder of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Gurudwara in Surrey. The incident happened in June last year but Trudeau's alleged India's involvement days after leaving the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September last year. 

The allegation has taken a significant toll on diplomatic relations between the two nations. Both nations had expelled the senior diplomats and India had briefly halted visa operations. Since then, the foreign ministers of both nations met on multiple occasions but little progress has been noted in the diplomatic arena.

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