Violence, discrimination targeting minorities among significant human rights issues: US report

Violence, discrimination targeting minorities among significant human rights issues: US report

Violence and discrimination targeting minorities based on religion and social status are among the significant human rights facing India, an official US report claimed on Wednesday.

Despite government effortsto address abuses, a lack of accountability for official misconduct persistedat all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity, said Indiasection of the 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

The Congressional-mandatedannual report was released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The India section of thereport listed out "significant human rights issues including unlawful andarbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings perpetrated by police;torture by prison officials; arbitrary arrest and detention by governmentauthorities; and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions."

Inits report, the State Department also expressed concerns over "politicalprisoners in certain states; restrictions on freedom of expression and thepress, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests orprosecutions against journalists, use of criminal libel laws to prosecutesocial media speech, censorship, and site blocking".

The report expressed itsconcern over "overly restrictive rules on non-governmental organisations;frequent reports of widespread corruption at all levels of government; forcedand compulsory child labour, including bonded labour".

Separatist insurgents andmilitants in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, and Maoist-affected areascommitted serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forcespersonnel, police, government officials, and civilians, and recruited and usedchild soldiers, the report said. On August 5, the State Department said, theIndian government announced major changes to the constitutional status of Jammuand Kashmir, converting the state into two separate union territories.

"In the ensuing securitycrackdown, authorities detained thousands of residents, including localpolitical leaders; shut down mobile and internet services; and imposed restrictionson movement," it said. As of December the government had taken steps to restorenormalcy, including partial restoration of telephone and mobile services, saidthe report. Independent media were active and generally expressed a widevariety of views, the report said.

It said the law prohibitscontent that could harm religious sentiments or provoke enmity among groups,and authorities invoked these provisions to restrict print media, broadcastmedia, and publication or distribution of books.

"According to severaljournalists, press freedom declined during the year. There were several reportsfrom journalists and NGOs that government officials, both at the local andnational levels, were involved in silencing or intimidating critical mediaoutlets through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targetingsponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits, and, in some areas, blockingcommunication services, such as mobile telephones and the internet, andconstraining freedom of movement," said the report.

Observing that the government occasionally applied restrictions on the travel and activities of visiting foreign experts and scholars, the report said that academics continued to face threats and pressure for expressing controversial views.

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