India in the world
- On October 3, India reportedly told Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomatic staff from the country. On October 20, Canada complied. The US State Department and the UK Foreign Office expressed concern regarding the legality under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This comes amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries, in which India also suspended all visa services for Canadians. India resumed select visa services on October 25.
- On October 6, Member of the European Parliament Markéta Gregorová (Greens/EFA) in a written question to the European Commission questioned whether India’s data privacy law is compatible with the priorities of the EU-India relationship. “India has recently enacted a comprehensive data privacy law that will dictate how tech companies process users’ data, amid criticism that it will likely lead to increased surveillance by the government. It is therefore crucial that the Commission assess this law’s adequacy with regard to data protection standards,” she wrote.
- After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, disinformation from Indian right-wing sources “flooded social media”, news report. According to fact-checkers from BOOM, Indian right-wing sources spreading such disinformation included “verified accounts” on X.
- On October 11, the UK and India met for further negotiations on a free trade agreement, with the aim to conclude and sign the agreement by October 2023. However, commentators note that the agreement has missed previous deadlines.
- On October 12, the Global Hunger Index report ranked India 111 among 125 countries, four positions worse than in the previous years.
- From October 16-20, Indian and EU officials reportedly met in Brussels for the sixth round of negotiation for a free trade and investment agreement. On the last day, Spanish Deputy Trade Minister said: “There is an enormous interest from the [EU] member states, but only if there will be an access to the real market, without which the deal would be emptied.”
- On October 16, news reported on a request for asylum in Ireland on grounds of religious persecution in India. The man in question sought asylum in August 2017 due to “cow vigilante” attacks against him. The final asylum decision is pending.
Human rights defenders, press and civil society
- On October 3, the Delhi Police reportedly raided 46 locations associated with independent media outlet NewsClick, and arrested two staff – the founder and the human resources head – under India’s anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Following the first incident, authorities from the Central Bureau of Investigation and other investigative agencies conducted additional searches of private homes of NewsClick journalists. In response, 18 journalist bodies wrote to the Chief Justice of India, raising alarm about attacks on free press, and a national farmers’ organisation held a nationwide protest following the crackdown. India currently ranks 161 of 180 worldwide in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. By October 5, Newsclick had reportedly not yet been provided with a copy of the First Information Report against it or “informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which we have been charged.” By October 11, five different agencies were investigating Newsclick. Initial allegations concerned alleged ties with China, which the police interrogation, however, reportedly did not address. These incidents raise concerns about freedom of expression, as protected under Article 19 of the ICCPR.
- On October 3, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced several welfare schemes for journalists – including a fellowship for women scribes and a committee to frame a journalists’ protection law – and ensured advertisements for small newspapers. This comes just days after seven cases were registered against journalist Jaalam Singh over an “objectionable” video he reported on, and Singh was arrested, raising concerns about freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR.
- On October 4, Index on Censorship nominated fact checker and co-founder of AltNews Mohammed Zubair for the 2023 Freedom of Expression Award. Zubair has faced judicial harassment and arrest for his work, threatening freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR.
- On October 10, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested ten human rights defenders, mostly Dalit (“untouchable”), after they participated in a protest for land rights. The police charged them with “attempt to murder” and “criminal conspiracy”, but did not specifically mention large-scale violence in its police report. On October 28, a local court granted bail to the activists, pointing to inconsistencies in the police report. The arrests raise questions about the protection of rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- On October 10, the Delhi government authorised the prosecution of author and social activist Arundhati Roy and former professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain in a 2010 case on provocative speeches, raising questions about freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR. Roy won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997.
- On October 11, the National Investigation Agency reportedly conducted a search at the Mumbai home of prisoners’ rights activist Abdul Wahid Shaikh, who is known for his advocacy against fabricated cases involving Muslim youth in India. This raises concerns about the right to freedom of association and the protection of human rights defenders (Article 22 ICCPR), and the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with one’s home (Article 17 ICCPR).
- On October 13, the Ministry of Home Affairs published new data on the number of NGOs who received a licence to receive foreign funds under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA). Over the past nine years, 407 of such NGOs reportedly had a religious purpose, of which 194 were reportedly Christian. Conversely, in March, the Union Minister of State for Home had told the Parliament that 1,827 NGOs had their licences cancelled between 2018 and 2022, with the number of religious organisations being unknown. In December 2021, the Centre had refused to renew the FCRA licences of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The denial of permission to seek foreign funds and accompanying criminalisation may 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 October 18, the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in Uttar Pradesh State arrested two activists for alleged links to left-wing extremists. The ATS initially interrogated them four years before, but did not arrest them due to a lack of physical evidence. The arrest now took place on the basis of alleged letters and literature found on their devices that were linked to banned Maoist groups. The arrest raises questions about rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- On October 31, the Campaign Against State Repression reported that police allegedly arrested two activists after they emailed the Principal Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister requesting a meeting with the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to discuss unemployment. The arrests may constitute intimidation for human rights work, threatening freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR.
- On October 1, the administration in a village in Madhya Pradesh state reportedly issued backdated notices to seven Muslim families demanding they produce proof their homes were built legally within 24 hours. Failure to present documents in the time frame, the notices reportedly state, will result in demolitions. The incident takes place following violence in the town, in which Hindu supremacist groups reportedly set homes on fire. The process followed for these demolitions raises concerns about due process and the right to equal protection of the law (Article 26 ICCPR) and the right to housing (Article 11 ICESCR).
- On October 12, police arrested a 20-year old in Karnataka state for allegedly posting a WhatsApp status that reportedly contained the phrase “Palestine Zindabad” (long live Palestine), which the authorities deemed as “provocative” slogans. Police later released him with a warning. Police have arrested others across the country for participating in pro-Palestine protests. The police action against protestors raises questions about the protection of rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
- On October 22, The Wire reported that since Yogi Adityanath became Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh state in March 2017, police reportedly shot dead 190 persons in incidents of alleged exchange of fire that the state terms as “encounters”. In the same period, the Uttar Pradesh police also reportedly shot and injured 5,591 persons in “encounters”. In February 2022, a specialist group of international criminal and human rights lawyers had filed a formal submission with the United States government seeking targeted sanctions against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, for his role in extra judicial killings allegedly committed by the state’s police forces between 2017 and 2021. The submission argues that the encounter killings constitute extrajudicial killings and therefore “serious human rights abuses”.
Internet and technology
- On October 6, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT issued notices to social media platforms X, YouTube and Telegram, warning them to remove child sexual abuse material from their platforms on the Indian internet in accordance with the IT Rules 2021.
- On October 11, the INDIA coalition of opposition parties sent letters to Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, expressing concerns about the purported involvement of their social media platforms in “aiding communal hatred” in the country. They also called upon them to maintain neutrality in the forthcoming elections.
- On October 14, Indian American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights, two Indian diaspora organisations working for human rights in India, learned that their X accounts were withheld in India in response to a “legal demand” from the Indian government. The censorship raises questions about the protection of the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 ICCPR).
- On October 16, Bellingcat published a new investigation that found that YouTube has auto-generated at least 114 low-budget music videos with a combined view count of over 5.4 million promoting the expulsion of Muslims from India. These videos, categorised as “Hindutva Pop,” feature static images with Hindu supremacist symbols and incendiary lyrics that have incited violence at religious rallies.
- On October 18, the Bombay High Court held that sharing or retweeting a post containing “obscene” content on social media can amount to “transmission” under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act.
- On October 31, Apple sent threat notifications to users in multiple countries, including journalists and opposition politicians in India, warning that their Apple devices and accounts were targeted by “state-sponsored attackers”. In India, civil society organizations, journalists, and activists have previously faced unchecked and unlawful surveillance, as Amnesty reports, in violation of the right to privacy.
Hate speech and hate crimes against minorities
- On October 22 the BJP revoked the suspension of Raja Singh from the party. Singh was suspended following offensive comments in 2022, but has reportedly continued to make offensive and hateful comments. On October 1, BJP legislator Raja Singh reportedly at a public event said he wants to “chase away and shoot down” several opposition politicians from a Muslim-dominant political party. Police filed a case against him based on a complaint filed by the Law and Policy Research Institute, which urgently called for action against the hate speech. His statement and revoking of his suspension indicate inability or unwillingness of the state to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 1, the police reportedly detained two constables in Andhra Pradesh state for subjecting a Dalit (“untouchable”) man to severe physical abuse which resulted in a fracture of his right leg. The incident may violate the prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
- On October 3, the Association for Democratic Reforms released a new report on hate speech by members of Parliament. It finds that 33 of the total 763 sitting MPs and 74 of the 4,005 sitting MLAs are facing cases related to hate speech. Nearly 40% of them are from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This raises serious questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 12, Hindu supremacists with loud music celebrated the release from jail of Hindu supremacist Vaibhav Raut, who was imprisoned for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb the Sunburn music festival in Pune in 2017. Following his arrest, police had found weapons in his home. He was released on grounds that he had been incarcerated for more than five years and the trial was not likely to conclude in the near future.
- On October 15, the wife of a BJP legislator and two others reportedly stripped and molested a tribal woman in order to take her land. A video of the incident circulated online, and police filed a complaint. The attack may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
- On October 21, news reported that a police investigation found that a railway security constable shot and killed a colleague and three passengers on a train in July was mentally stable. In a verified video, he said: “If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” thereby suggesting the attack has a political motive. Local BJP leaders had initially asserted that the incident was not a hate crime, as they claimed the constable was mentally unstable. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) regardless of their religion or political opinion (Article 2 ICCPR).
- On October 23, students across universities in Uttar Pradesh state launched protests after a University proctor attacked a Dalit (“untouchable”) student the week before. In a video circulating on social media, the proctor hits the student with a stick. No action has reportedly been taken against him, although the attack against the Dalit student may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
- On October 25, police arrested two persons after a group of people reportedly lynched a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh state during the Hindu holiday Dussehra. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) regardless of their religion (Article 2 ICCPR).
- On October 27, a video circulated that reportedly shows a BJP legislator, Mr Mehta, saying that “people with beards and caps” seen around temples “will be beaten”. By this, he arguably means people from the Muslim community. This raises concerns about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 27, a group reportedly tied up and beat to death a Dalit (“untouchable”) worker who demanded his unpaid money. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) regardless of their identity (Article 2 ICCPR).
- On October 31, police registered a case against BJP Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, for hate speech online. The police registered the case as “provocation with intent to cause riot” and “promoting enmity between different groups”. In a social media post, he had claimed that Palestine solidarity protests were linked to an attack on Jehova’s witnesses earlier that week in India.
- On October 31, a new tracker by the Minority Coordination Committee found that at least 55 attacks on minority communities took place in 2022 in Gujarat state alone. The report notes that “Gujarat has been the epicenter of targeted violence against minorities”, but concludes that “the nature of violence has now changed”; while “earlier the violence was prominently in big cities”, now violence has “reached the villages”.
- On October 30, news reported that a group insulted, attacked and inappropriately touched a 12-year-old Muslim girl playing in her neighbourhood in Mumbai. One of the attackers reportedly shouted: “You Muslims are bad; you should be fed pig meat.” Police filed a case. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 11, authorities demolished a church in Uttar Pradesh state, for allegedly being illegally constructed on government land. A notice was reportedly pasted on the gate a week in advance. However, in June 2022, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs had condemned demolitions across India, which they allege deliberately target Muslims through “collective punishment”, and therefore potentially constitute discrimination on grounds of religion.
- On October 13, police reported that local youth engaged in “moral policing” and questioned two male Muslim students who were standing with a female Hindu student at a bus stop. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to publicly manifest their religion (Article 18 ICCPR) and right to freedom of association (Article 22 ICCPR) regardless of their religion (Article 2 ICCPR)
- On October 21, the principal of a primary school in Uttar Pradesh state was reportedly suspended after a video circulated showing the students of the school offering namaz (Muslim prayer) at a designated prayer area on the premises. The incident raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to publicly manifest their religion (Article 18 ICCPR).
- On October 21, an engineering college in Uttar Pradesh state reportedly suspended two teachers for asking a student to not greet the audience at a cultural event of the institute with the Hindu religious slogan “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram). The slogan has been used as a “war cry” by Hindu supremacists. Their suspension raises questions about the prohibition of advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 1, communal clashes reportedly erupted in Bihar state following a religious procession. Hindu supremacists reportedly vandalised a mosque. These clashes raise questions about the state’s ability to counter religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- On October 1, communal clashes erupted in Karnataka state during a religious procession, resulting in 12 people being injured and 60 being arrested. These clashes raise questions about the state’s ability to counter religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
Conflict in Manipur
- On October 1, the Manipur government reportedly extended the blanket internet shutdown that was imposed in the ongoing armed violence in the state. The shutdown has now lasted over 150 days. 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 October 4, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) issued a statement expressing concern over “credible reports of excessive use of force and use of pellet guns by security forces” during student protests in Manipur on 26 and 27 September, which left 170 injured. Such use of pellet guns against protestors violates the right to freedom of assembly (Article 21 ICCPR) and the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel treatment (Article 7 ICCPR).
- On October 5, approximately 30 people attacked and vandalised the home of Human Rights Defender Babloo Loitongbam, who has been appealing for peace in the ongoing conflict in Manipur. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the United Nations OHCHR expressed alarm about the attack. The attack followed threats against Babloo Loitongbam by the radical Meitei Leepun, who allege he “falsely accused” them of violence and demanded he apologies. Following the incident, Mr Loitongbam recorded a video clip in which he reportedly apologised.
- On October 9, the Supreme Court allowed Dr Kham Khan Suan Hausing, a professor of political science, to file a petition before the Manipur High Court in a case against him. Dr Hausing faces a criminal case for giving an interview to The Wire on the ongoing armed conflict, an Indian media outlet, raising concerns about his right to freedom of expression (Article 19 ICCPR), and 32 academics issued a statement in solidarity with him.
- On October 19, the Manipur High Court allowed tribal organisations to appeal against its March 27 order. The order is considered the trigger for the ongoing armed conflict as it directed the Manipur government to recommend the Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community.
- On October 3, the Supreme Court of India imposed a fine of 3 lakh rupees (3424.2 Euros) on Sanjeev Bhatt for filing petitions in court. Bhatt is sentenced to life on reportedly fabricated charges after he blew whistle on the alleged involvement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court judge reportedly said: “How many times have you been to the Supreme Court? At least a dozen times?” This raises questions about access to justice and the right to equality before the law under Article 26 of the ICCPR.
- On October 16, a court granted bail to Hindu militant leader Monu Manesar. Manesar had been arrested on September 12 in connection with the Nuh violence case, where a religious procession escalated and six people died. However, Manesar remains in jail in another case, in which he is accused of killing two Muslim men by setting them on fire. The incident raised questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) regardless of their religion (Article 2 ICCPR).
- On October 17, the Supreme Court of India delivered its judgement in a petition for marriage equality. The court was in agreement that marriage equality overall must be decided by Parliament, not the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of India also noted that the state must recognise queer unions, even without marriage, and provide legal safeguards and rights to them.
- On October 19, the Gujarat High Court convicted four police officers over an incident where they flogged Muslim men in public in October 2022. A video of the incident went viral, in which a crowd cheers while the police flog the men. The police officers were only convicted of “contempt of court” and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment, although the incident may violate the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
- On October 9, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation published the annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) data, for July 2022 to June 2023. It reports that India’s unemployment rate for individuals aged 15 and above has reached a six-year low, standing at 3.2%. However, most are working in the informal sector.
- On October 12, the Financial Times published an investigation that found that the Adani Group, a “politically connected conglomerate that dominates large parts of India’s economy”, “appears to have imported billions of dollars of coal at prices well above market value”. The data supports long standing allegations that Adani, the country’s largest private coal importer, has been inflating fuel costs and led millions of Indian consumers and businesses to overpay for electricity.
Compiled by Foundation The London Story