By Jawad Ahmed
Religious freedom, liberty of thought and pluralism being cardinal value are of paramount significance for democracy but India is losing its democratic contours. The marginalization of minorities, suppression of dissent in India continues unabated as Hindu nationalist BJP government is relentlessly promoting its majoritarian agenda.
Lending credence to these assertions the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its recent report painted a grim picture of human rights in India. The report cited numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, suppression of media freedom, arbitrary arrest, violence against religious minorities and overly restrictive laws on funding of NGOs and civil society organizations.
The country reports on human rights released by the Secretary of State Antony Blinken is submitted each year to the U.S congress which contains a country wide discussion of the state of internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights as set forth in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In a direct rebuke to Indian human rights record U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S is monitoring a rise in human right abuses in India.
There are a lot of human rights violations witnessed in India not just against the freedom of expression and press. But there has been extra judicial abstentions and arrest and also a lot of allegations against the targeted group. About 50,000 Dalits were harassed in India, the women belonging to low class are targeted, 73 Muslims were killed and over about 2000 arbitrary and unlawful extrajudicial killings by the Indian government are also recently reported.
The Pegasus spyware was found to be used and about over 300 phone numbers were ousted as well including journalists and the others. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Right Watch have also been targeted. The Mother Teresa’s funding was stopped as well. There is total disregard for the respect of human rights freedom, liberty of expression and the right of minorities to live their lives unhindered. The whole range of rights and opportunities to be allowed has been seem to be violated on a massive scale. India has been doing this without any potential by the international community.
The report on human rights by the State Department is the step in a right direction but is a small recognition in the disregard of international law, constitutional law and civil liberties. India is getting away far too much with term of such violations unless international community exercises its influence over India to stop it from carrying out policies as the rights of people living in India are severely jeopardized.
In foreign policy values are set prior to pay attention and the US talks about human rights and protection of human rights as an essential value that it wants to protect not only in US itself but for other countries all over the world. That is the crux of what led to prepare the human rights report.
Moreover, India also possess great significance in the American context of containing China but perhaps having to confront China. However, the Ukrainian crisis i.e. the Russian invasion in Ukraine has caused the US to try and put a pressure on India. However, India is not taking as well, 50 percent of the Indian defense import is also fulfilled from Russia and the US recognizes that too. Despite of US sanctions on Russia, India is still not ready to backtrack from its strategic and energy related engagement with the Russia.
In this whole scenario India remains a close ally of the US in its regional approach in South Asia. The reason India has high priority in the American foreign policy decisions than the protection of human rights. Although, India has been categorically recommended to be included in “country of particular concern” (CPC) but it seems doubtful that the U.S. administration would act promptly. As, India-US relations have been escalating for the past few years on the other hand, India also shares an alliance with U.S in the Quad.
India under the Modi government is pursuing hardcore policies which has made it difficult for the minorities to live in an environment of equality, justice, freedom of expression and tolerance.
*Jawad Ahmed is an Islamabad based researcher with having interest in Politics, Bilateralism and Strategic Studies.