Indian authorities were openly critical of human rights defenders in 2017, feeding a climate of hostility and violence against them, according to the latest State of the World’s Human Rights report by Amnesty International.
“Repressive laws were used to stifle freedom of expression, and journalists and press freedom came under increasing attack. Several journalists and Human Rights Defenders also lost their lives. Freedom of expression in universities also remained under threat,” the Amnesty report said about India.
The report pointed out that the Home Ministry said that it had refused to renew the foreign funding licence of the NGO known as People’s Watch because it had allegedly portrayed India’s human rights record in a “negative light” internationally.
Religious minorities across South Asia faced attacks from violent mobs while the authorities either failed to protect them, did not hold the perpetrators accountable, or even stoked a climate of hostility against them, the report said.
“In India, dozens of hate crimes against Muslims took place across the country against the backdrop of a wave of Islamophobia under the Hindu nationalist government. At least 10 Muslim men were lynched and many injured by vigilante cow protection groups,” the report said.
Demonstrations against attacks on Muslims were held in several cities, but the government did little to show that it disapproved of the violence, Amnesty International pointed out.
The report also said that for the entire South Asia region 2017 marked the “continuing shrinking of civic space as human rights defenders were publicly demonised. Freedom of expression was criminalised online as journalists, bloggers and activists were subject to intimidation, threats, smear campaigns, violence and enforced disappearances”.
In the face of all such developments, “2017 also demonstrated the enduring willingness of people to stand up for their rights and for the values they want to see in the world”, the report said. In India, rising Islamophobia and a wave of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits provoked outrage and protest as people said: “Not in my name”.