The Human Rights Watch has urged the Centre to immediately repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in view of nationwide protests against it, and said there should be an independent probe into police “brutality and excesses” against students and other protesters.
In a statement on Tuesday, the international human rights body’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said the “government failed to grasp the extent of public opposition over erosion of basic rights evident in these protests”.
Its “strongest response to the protests would be to repeal” the Act and “withdraw its plan for citizenship verification that threatens marginalised communities”, the organisation said.
On the police action against students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and others in northeastern States protesting against the law, she said the authorities should immediately order all police personnel to abide by international standards on policing assemblies.
“The police may have used excessive force against demonstrators across the country” and the government “should establish a credible independent investigation into allegations of excessive force, brutality, and vandalism” by policemen, Ms. Ganguly said.
The CAA enactment had prompted international condemnation, including from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which urged Indian authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and to abide by international norms and standards on the use of force when responding to protests, she said.
India “should address the concerns raised about CAA instead of trying to shut down the protests with excessive force”.
“The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental right protected under international law, and one of the cornerstones of a society built on respect for human rights and rule of law. International human rights standards provide that law enforcement agencies should protect and facilitate that right, and should as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force,” she said.
“HRW is concerned about the police using unnecessary or excessive force against protesters. While some protesters’ action may warrant police use of force, international human rights standards limit the use of force to situations in which it is strictly necessary,” she said.
About internet services being shut down in various states with the government claiming it was necessary to maintain law and order, Ms. Ganguly said India had used such measure several times in response to protests and “these shutdowns have largely been disproportionate, unnecessary, and in violation of India’s international legal obligations including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly“.
It also affected access to essential activities and services, including emergency services and health information, mobile banking and e-commerce, transportation, school classes, reporting on major crises and events, and human rights investigations, the HRW said.