India in the World
- On September 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Jakarta, which reportedly included a new initiative to boost India-ASEAN maritime security cooperation.
- Starting September 7, India’s main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, visited Europe for a five-day tour, visiting Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Norway. According to Gandhi’s statements at a press conference, during a roundtable with Members of the European Parliament, he discussed India’s “relationship with EU parliamentarians, the subcontinent’s changing role in the global sphere and […] India’s challenges”, including an “attack on our democratic institutions”. Apart from meeting MEPs in Brussels, Gandhi also reportedly met with officials from the European External Action Service.
- On September 9-10, the annual G20 Summit took place in New Delhi, India, under the rotating G20 Presidency of India.
- On September 5, news circulated showing invitations for a G20 dinner sent out by India’s President Droupadi Murmu, which described her position as “President of Bharat” instead of “President of India”. Commentators note that India’s constitution refers to “India, that is Bharat” as interchangeable names, while others speculate whether India is planning to drop “India” as its official name.
- On September 8, in his remarks before the G20 Summit, European Council President Charles Michel thanked “Prime Minister Modi and India for their leadership over the past year, and for their priorities”.
- On September 8, the Peoples’ 20, a global network of civil society actors that engage with the G20 process towards social justice and human rights, published their recommendations for the G20.
- On 10 September, the G20 leaders published their final declaration. In this culmination of the G20 process, clause 78 notes that the G20 “strongly deplore all acts of religious hatred against persons, as well as those of a symbolic nature without prejudice to domestic legal frameworks, including against religious symbols and holy books”. It also “emphasize[s] that freedom of religion or belief, freedom of opinion or expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association are interdependent, inter-related and mutually reinforcing and stress the role that these rights can play in the fight against all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.” The final declaration does not include the word “democracy”, nor does it condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- On September 10, US President Joe Biden said that he raised the issue of respecting human rights, especially press freedom, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in discussions on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
- On September 11, UN human rights chief Volker Türk discussed the violence in Haryana and Manipur and called for India to “redouble efforts” to uphold the rights of all minorities. He said his office “frequently receives information that marginalised minority communities are subjected to violence and discrimination”, and noted that “Muslims are often the target of such attacks, most recently in Haryana and Gurugram, in northern India.”
- On September 13, in her annual State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursual von der Leyen commended a project to build an India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, signed in early September.
- On September 18, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly said Canada was looking at “credible allegations” potentially linking the Indian state to the murder of a Canadian citizen of Indian origin on June 18 on Canadian soil. The Indian government dismissed the allegations as “absurd”. The Canadian government subsequently expelled an Indian diplomat, and India responded by also expelling a senior Canadian diplomat. India also reportedly stopped processing visa applications by Canadian citizens. Some Facebook users report that their posts on the incident are allegedly disappearing and that their accounts are being suspended. Canada also recently put on hold negotiations for a free trade agreement with India, citing “political issues“.
- On September 19, the European Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee held an exchange of views on the human rights dimension of the negotiations on an EU-India Free Trade Agreement. The discussion took place in camera, i.e. it was not public.
- On September 19, a senior US official reportedly said that the US is “in active talks with the Indian government to look at producing military systems in areas related to ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance)” and “ground-based conventional warfare”.
- On September 20, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, told the US Commission for International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) that there is a “steady” and “alarming” erosion of fundamental rights, particularly of religious and other minorities, in India.
- On September 2, the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI) submitted its findings from a fact-finding mission to Manipur. The Manipur police then filed a case against the fact-finding team from the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI). “The state government has filed an FIR against the members of the Editors’ Guild for trying to create more clashes in the state of Manipur,” chief minister N. Biren Singh said. The criminalisation of the fact-finding mission may potentially contravene the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- On September 2, security personnel reportedly forcibly evacuated 24 Kuki residents who had stayed in their home city during ongoing violence. One among them alleged that the evacuation was forced and that it felt “more like an abduction”. In the four months since violence erupted in Manipur, thousands of people from the Kuki-Zomi community have fled. The “evacuation” may potentially contravene the right to freedom of movement (Article 12 ICCPR) and the right against arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home (Article 17 ICCPR).
- On September 4, UN human rights experts issued a press release expressing their alarm over the scale of human rights violations involved in the Manipur violence and at the “inadequate humanitarian response” in its wake. They said the situation was “grave” and pointed out that it has involved alleged acts of “sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, home destruction, forced displacement, torture and ill-treatment”. India responded to the UN experts by saying these comments are “unwarranted, presumptive and misleading.” As of September 14, according to the government: Around 175 people have died and more than 70,000 are displaced, of which at least 10,000 are children. 1118 people have sustained injuries and 32 are officially missing. At least 5,172 cases of arson have taken place, including 4,786 houses and 386 religious places. The internet shutdown has lasted over 3050 hours.
- On September 6, the Supreme Court asked the Manipur government to act on the estimated 5668 weapons which have been looted by civilians during the violence. The free circulation of looted weapons poses a serious risk to the right to life (Article 6 ICCPR), which states must protect.
- On September 12, 21 British MPs tabled an early day motion calling on the UK government to “raise the issue of human rights violations in Manipur with the Indian government and to halt negotiations towards a UK-India free trade agreement (FTA) while such violations continue to occur.”
- On September 27, news reported that the Manipur government has extended the application of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in all of Manipur, with only a few exceptions. AFSPA has been in force in Manipur since 1980 and provides sweeping powers to soldiers, including the power to shoot to kill civilians and to arrest people without warrants. AFSPA is widely recognised as allowing gross human rights violations, and has been severely criticised by several UN experts, including the Special Rapporteurs on violence against women, its causes and consequences, on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and on the situation of human rights defenders.
Civil society and human rights defenders
- On September 5, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out coordinated raids in Uttar Pradesh state targeting activists associated with Bhagat Singh Students Morcha and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). PUCL national president Kavita Srivastava accused the NIA of carrying out a “witch hunt” and a “tyrannical act” and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the First Information Report in the case, and a halt to the investigation. The targeting of these activists may potentially contravene the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- From September 7-9, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movement (ICCFM) held a three-day forum, where they discussed among other things ongoing trade negotiations in which India is engaged and the impact of the climate crisis on Indian agriculture. The forum took place under three layers of police security, as one of the attending persons had reportedly received several threats to his life due to his role in the farmers’ protests of 2021.
- On September 21, a High Court granted bail to human rights defender and forest rights activist Mahesh Raut. Raut has been in pre-trial detention since 2018 under India’s draconian terror law, charges which the High Court noted the evidence does not appear to support. After the National Investigation Agency challenged, the Supreme Court extended the bail on September 27. His prolonged and arbitrary arrest appears to violate the right to liberty (Article 9 ICCPR).
- On September 27, Amnesty International published a new report which finds that the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a global body responsible for tackling terrorism financing and money laundering – have been abused by the Indian authorities to bring in draconian laws. This suggests that the FATF provides legitimacy to the criminalisation of people working in civil society organisations that want to improve human rights and democracy, in violation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
- On September 28, the OHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) published a report documenting over 220 people and 25 organisations worldwide who faced reprisals for cooperating with the UN on human rights. The OHCHR documents several reprisals in India.
Hate crimes against minorities
- On September 1, members of the women’s wing of the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad assaulted a missionary from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community at a book fair, who had reportedly noted the contact details of female visitors to his stand. A 29-second video reportedly shows the assault. The assault raises questions about the state’s ability to protect the right to freedom from degrading treatment, including by non-state actors (Article 7 ICCPR) and the obligation to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On September 6, police in Uttar Pradesh state registered a case against a district president of the ruling BJP for allegedly raping a 17-year-old Dalit (“untouchable”) girl and killing her father on August 28. The incident raises concerns about the state’s protection of the right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) and women’s right to freedom of violence (Article 2 CEDAW)
- On September 12, a mob beat to death a 20-year old Muslim in Rajasthan state. Witnesses allege that the attack took place in retaliation for previous violence between two communities. The attack raises questions about the state’s ability to protect the right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) and the obligation to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On September 23, a man reportedly abducted and assaulted a Dalit (“untouchable”) woman. This happened after she filed a harassment complaint against him; the police brought in for questioning and released him later. The assault raises concerns about the state’s protection of gender equality in matters of civil and political rights (Article 3 ICCPR) as well as women’s right to freedom of violence (Article 2 CEDAW)
- On September 26, Hindu supremacists tied a 26 year-old man of Muslim faith to an electric pole and beat him to death in Delhi allegedly for stealing “prasad” (ceremonial offering) from a temple stall. The police are reportedly investigating. This attack raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens right to life (Article 6 ICCPR), right to humane treatment (Article 7 of the ICCPR) and to address acts of religious violence and discrimination as laid out by the ICERD.
- On September 6, the Supreme Court condemned how the police in Uttar Pradesh state are handling a case filed against a teacher for encouraging violence. The case concerns a video, which reportedly shows the teacher making religiously discriminatory comments and ordering her second-grade students to slap a Muslim classmate for not doing his homework. This follows similar incidents in schools: On August 31, a teacher in Karnataka state reportedly made hateful remarks against two fifth grade students of Muslim faith. She reportedly told the students: “This is not your country; this is the country of Hindus. You should go to Pakistan. You are our slaves forever.” These incidents raise questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On September 9, Hindu supremacists vandalised a mosque in Himachal Pradesh state. Additional videos circulated of Hindu supremacists vandalising Muslim shrines across the country. The incidents raise questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR). This came on the same day as the New Delhi Declaration of the G20 “strongly deplore[d] all acts of religious hatred against persons, as well as those of a symbolic nature without prejudice to domestic legal frameworks, including against religious symbols and holy books”.
- On September 11, the principal of a private school in Goa state was suspended after Hindu supremacists filed a police complaint that he took a group of Class 11 students to a mosque. The principal responded that the field trip was part of an initiative to promote communal harmony.
- On September 26, the police reportedly filed a case against Milind Ekbote, the president of a Hindu supremacist organisation, for making “provocative speeches” at a rally. The speech involved demanding the removal of allegedly illegally built constructions, a demand which is increasingly resulting in extrajudicial demolitions of Muslim homes in India. Ekbote is already implicated in other cases, including for hate speech in 2021 and instigating violence in 2018. The incidents raise questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On September 21, BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri reportedly called another politician of the Muslim community a “militant”, “terrorist” and “pimp”, and demanded to “throw this mullah [derogatory word for Muslim] out”. The BJP has not taken any action against Bidhuri despite his hate speech in parliament, though the deputy leader of the Parliament reportedly “expressed regret” over the remarks and the Parliament Speaker reportedly warned Bidhuri of “strict action” if this happens again. On September 26, the BJP reportedly appointed Bidhuri as in-charge for polling in one district. The incident constitutes a ruling party lawmaker advocating for religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On September 24, Hindutva Watch released its annual report documenting 255 documented incidents across 17 states verified instances of hate speech by far-right Hindi groups against India’s Muslim minorities in the first half of 2023. A notable portion of these incidents occurred in states preparing for upcoming legislative elections, raising suspicions of hate speech being exploited for political gains.
- On September 30, organisers of an event at the National Law Institute University, Bhopal, reportedly distributed literature “hostile” to religious minorities and put up posters “deriding academics”. The event was reportedly inaugurated by Union Minister Bhupender Yadav. The event raises questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
Press, media and technology
- On September 1, the BBC published a year-long investigation into the state of journalism in Jammu & Kashmir. Soon after, the Jammu & Kashmir police responded on X, formerly Twitter, that the State Investigation Agency (SIA) “reserves the right to initiate further legal action” against the BBC for “misreporting facts in a case which is sub judice.” The threat of legal action may have consequences for the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 ICCPR).
- On September 6 at 4am, police in West Bengal state reportedly arrested Debmalya Bagchi, a journalist for ABP news, on the basis of a sexual assault complaint. Bagchi was released on bail on September 14. One of Bagchi’s colleagues, however, reportedly told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he was likely arrested because of his recent reporting on illegal liquor production. This could indicate a violation of the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 ICCPR).
- On September 10, communal violence erupted after an “objectionable” post on social media in Maharashtra state. One person died and at least ten were injured, and police imposed a blanket internet shutdown. Such blanket internet shutdowns violate the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- On September 13, the opposition alliance “INDIA” announced its decision to collectively abstain from programmes or shows hosted by 14 TV anchors, on the basis that these allegedly spread hate or partisanship towards the government.
- On September 19, police in Kerala state removed the name of a woman journalist from a First Information report in a case of alleged defamation and conspiracy to tarnish the reputation of a student leader. She had been charged in June over news she broadcast about a student’s name featuring in a student list although he had not attended relevant exams. Her arrest raised questions about the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 ICCPR).
- On September 20, Meta released its second annual Human Rights Report. Meta claims it has increased the number of groups designated as “Designated Organizations and Individuals” in India, claims it is putting in place measures for election periods in India, and claims it is putting in place a specific program for civil society engagement. Meta has previously been criticised for not disclosing the results of a Human Rights Impact Assessment for India. Despite Meta’s new claims, civil society documents systematic failure to remove content that incites violence.
- On September 25, news reported that the Jammu and Kashmir Police have reportedly secured direct cooperation from major social media platforms (including Meta, X, Snapchat, TikTok and more), granting them access to track individuals deemed involved in “anti-national” activities. This may have serious implications for the human rights impact of these corporations, as well as on the right to privacy (Article 17 ICCPR).
- On September 19, the Union government introduced the 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023, to bring in 33% reservations for women in the Lok Sabha and all state Legislative Assemblies. At present there are 82 women MPs in the Lok Sabha, out of 543 total MPs. Opposition leaders criticise that the Bill will only enter into force following contentious changes to the delimitation of political constituencies across the country.
- On September 19, an opposition leader criticised that newly printed copies of India’s Constitution distributed in the Parliament have reportedly removed the words “socialist and secular” from the Preamble. The words were added in 1976, and the Law Minister reportedly responded that the version printed corresponds to the “original”. The controversy erupted amidst calls by Hindu supremacists to turn India into a “Hindu nation”.
- On September 5, the Crime Investigation Department in Assam state arrested several police officers who reportedly wrongfully detained a Muslim man in July and thereby violated Article 9 on the right to liberty of the ICCPR. The complainant alleged that the police wrongfully detained him, told him to pay a large amount of money, threatened to kill him in an “encounter” and justify his killing by accusing him of having “links with Pakistani and Bangladeshi jihadi elements”.
- On September 9, videos circulated of police in Madhya Pradesh state parading 8 men half naked through the streets, after they were accused of having thrown stones. The incident may potentially violate the prohibition of degrading treatment or punishment under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
- On September 10, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that the state would launch the second round of its crackdown against child marriage within the next few days, during which he said another 3,000 people would be arrested. In February this year, the Assam government had launched an unprecedented, punitive crackdown against child marriage in the state in which around 3,141 people had been arrested within a span of a month. An analysis of records of those arrested in the last crackdown showed that 62.24% of those arrested were Muslims, while the rest were Hindus and people from other communities.
- On September 12, police arrested Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar for his alleged involvement in inciting the communal violence in Nuh in August, in which at least six people died. Manesar also faces a case for his alleged involvement in the deaths of two Muslim men, who were burnt alive earlier this year.
- On September 13, police registered a case against the anchor of Aaj Tak, Sudhir Chaudhary, for “spreading false and communally inflammatory news against the Karnataka government” in connection with his show aired on Monday, 11 September. Aaj Tak has previously been fined for spreading disinformation and is considered partial to the ideology of the ruling government.
- On September 19, police in Uttar Pradesh state shot dead a man accused of murder after he allegedly fled from police custody. A thorough investigation into the killing is pending. There are serious concerns about extrajudicial “encounter killings” that violate the right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) in the state, with police reportedly killing 179 criminals in 10,814 encounters since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came to power in March 2017.
- On September 5, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement on the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which guaranteed semi-autonomy to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. It had been hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation, which had been left pending since 2019.
- On September 26, the Delhi High Court dismissed a plea by youth climate activist Disha Ravi challenging her bail condition to obtain prior permission from court every time she wants to travel abroad. Disha Ravi was arrested in 2021 for publishing a “toolkit” on social media to support farmers protesting against new farm laws. Her case raises questions about arbitrary deprivation of her liberty (Article 9 ICCPR) and her freedom of movement (Article 12 ICCPR).
Republished from Foundation The London Story.