Last year ended with nationwide protests against a number of controversial citizenship change laws passed by the Indian government in December. And according to experts, the country has since become a “dangerous and violent place for Muslim minorities”.
Throughout 2020, Indian civil society was repeatedly attacked by state and central governments for criticizing the administration or state institutions. And now the report on the South Asian Minority State 2020 has found that India has become increasingly intolerant of dissidents and religious minorities.
The annual report looks at the civil space status and personal freedoms available to citizens, especially minorities, living in South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
While the report finds an adverse trend in almost every stance in the country to uphold core principles of democracy, including freedom of expression and secularism, its observations on India shed light on the growing levels of intolerance in the country.
Attacks on minorities
The report notes that India has become a “dangerous and violent place for Muslim minorities”.
In December 2019, the Government of India passed the Citizenship Change Act which allowed the Government of India to grant citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians, and came before the end of December 2014. The law was not extended to Muslims from the three countries, all of which are Muslim-dominated.
The government also stated its intention to establish the National Register of Indian Citizens, which would enable the Indian government to identify and deport illegal immigrants. Many critics believed that laws had the potential to control and discriminate against India’s religious minorities.
This year there have been more and more cases of attacks on minorities. While anti-CAA protests in Delhi’s northeast culminated in sectarian violence in February, the Coronavirus The pandemic was also marked by widespread Islamophobia after the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi’s Nizamuddin became an event Covid-19 Hotspot.
More recently, the implementation and arrest of a new anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh has been labeled “Islamophobic” by critics for targeting Muslim men for “love jihad”.
Attacks by human rights defenders
The report also notes that India’s civil society actors, which include human rights lawyers, activists, protesters, academics, journalists and liberal intelligentsia, have been “increasingly attacked” for speaking out against “government excesses and majoritarianism”.
Human rights defenders in India were increasingly attacked because of “protesting discriminatory laws and practices faced restrictions, violence, criminal defamation, detention and harassment”.
The results are due to an increasing number of arrests under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). The controversial law, often referred to as “draconian” by critics, which believes the law is used to suppress dissent in the nation.
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The report also notes an increase in media censorship. Attention is drawn to the temporary bans on two channels in Kerala that are “critical of Delhi Police and RSS” for reporting riots in Delhi.
In April of this year, India lost two places in a global press freedom index and was ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the annual report “Reporters Without Borders”.