India continued systematic discrimination and stigmatization of minorities in 2022: Human Rights Watch

By Muslim Mirror Network

In 2022, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government continued its systematic discrimination and stigmatization of religious and other minorities, particularly Muslims, the Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2023.

“BJP supporters increasingly committed violent attacks against targeted groups. The government’s Hindu majoritarian ideology was reflected in bias in institutions, including the justice system and constitutional authorities like the National Human Rights Commission.” the rights body said.

According to the report, authorities intensified efforts to silence civil society activists and independent journalists by using politically motivated criminal charges, including terrorism, to jail those exposing or criticizing government abuses.

Indian authorities intensified restrictions on free expression and peaceful assembly in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the report.

“Three years after the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional autonomous status and split it into two federally governed territories, the government continued to restrict free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights there. The authorities invoked the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, as well as terrorism allegations under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, to conduct raids and arbitrarily detain journalists and activists and even barred a Pulitzer prize-winning Kashmiri journalist from leaving India without justification. Suspected militants attacked minority Hindu and Sikh communities in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley,” the report said.

“The BJP government’s promotion of Hindu majoritarian ideology provokes authorities and supporters to engage in discriminatory and at times violent actions against religious minorities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities should be reining in party members and supporters responsible for abuses instead of jailing critics and shutting down rights groups,” she added.

“Indian authorities misused laws forbidding forced religious conversion to target Christians, especially from Dalit and Adivasi communities. In August, the BJP government approved the early release of 11 Hindu men sentenced to life in prison for the gang rape of a pregnant Muslim woman and murder of 14 members of her family during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. BJP affiliates celebrated publicly, prompting widespread condemnation. The action highlighted the government’s discriminatory stance toward minority communities even in cases of violence against women,” the organization said in the report.

The HRW said that Violence against women and girls continued at alarming rates, with 31,677 cases of rape registered in 2021, an average of 86 cases daily.

“In September, the Supreme Court failed to deliver a verdict on whether Muslim female students can wear hijab, a headscarf, in educational institutions in BJP-led Karnataka state with two judges expressing opposing views. In February, the state government had issued a directive backing discriminatory bans at several government-run educational institutions on students wearing the hijab inside classrooms and a month later, the state high court upheld the government order,” the report read.

According to the report, Rohingya Muslim refugees in India face tightened restrictions, arbitrary detention, violent attacks often incited by political leaders, and a heightened risk of forced returns.

“In March, the Indian government forcibly returned a Rohingya woman to Myanmar despite an order by the Manipur State Human Rights Commission putting the deportation on hold,” the organization said.

“India also failed to adequately protect the rights of refugees from Myanmar fleeing renewed fighting between the Myanmar military and armed groups,” it said in the report.

During India’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in November, member countries raised concerns and made recommendations on a range of issues including the need to protect minority communities and vulnerable groups, tackle gender-based violence, uphold civil society freedoms, protect human rights defenders, and end torture in custody, according to the report.

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