US Secretary of State Blinken rebukes Indian ‘government, police’ in comments about ‘concerning’ rights abuses

India has witnessed a spate of violence against minorities after Modi came to power

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 12 April 2022 13:39 BST
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said Washington was monitoring a spike in "human rights abuses" in India by the Modi administration, police and prison officials.

Mr Blinken fired the salvo at New Delhi at a joint press briefing with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and defence minister Rajnath Singh following the 2+2 meeting in Washington.

"We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values [of human rights] and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials," Mr Blinken said.

The Indian ministers who spoke after him did not comment on the rights abuse issue.

His rebuke came just days after congresswoman Ilhan Omar slammed the Biden administration’s reluctance to criticise the Indian government's violation of human rights. "What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace," Ms Omar asked.

There has been a rise in cases of Islamophobia since Narendra Modi's victory as the country’s prime minister in 2014. In recent months, Muslims and their livelihoods, food, culture, and homes have been targeted by right-wing groups, many of whose members have openly called for violence against minorities.

A Hindu priest, identified as Mahant Bajrang Muni Udasin, was caught on camera issuing threats of rape against Muslim women in presence of the police in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier dozens of Muslim women were “auctioned” online on GitHub using an open software app.

Two persons were killed in communal violence that erupted in at least five states of India during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami [celebrations to mark Lord Ram’s birthday] on Sunday.

Clashes broke out as processions celebrating the festival blasted songs laced with violent and dehumanising lyrics targeting minorities in front of mosques and areas with a substantial Muslim population.

Students were assaulted at the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi by members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) over the consumption of meat during the Hindu festival.

The RSS is the ideological parent organisation of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the southwestern state of Karnataka, fruit stalls owned by Muslim vendors were vandalised by members of similar right-wing groups. The same state barred students from wearing hijab in educational institutions, forcing them to miss out on classes and exams. Students wearing the Islamic headscarf were heckled by mobs of men in saffron robes chanting religious slogans.

In Madhya Pradesh state, homes and shops belonging to Muslims in Khargone city were demolished by the BJP government, a day after a communal clash broke out during religious processions.

Officials from the current administration have largely remained silent in the backdrop of such attacks.

The Modi administration has imprisoned students, tribals, and activists for speaking against the government. Former student leaders Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam have been languishing in jail for over a year over allegations of instigating the February 2020 riots in Delhi.

Tribal rights and environmental activist Hidme Markam, arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA] for protesting against the death of a woman in police custody in Chhattisgarh state in 202, is still awaiting bail.

In 2019, the union government passed a citizenship law that excluded Muslim migrants from neighbouring countries, fuelling widespread protests against the government. The law was meant to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

There has been a spate of attacks against Christians, churches and schools over the past year.

However, India has routinely rejected criticism by foreign governments and rights organisations against the disintegration of civil liberties.

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