US monitoring rise in human rights abuses in India: Blinken

In a rare direct rebuke, the US secretary of state says his country is ‘monitoring some recent concerning developments in India’.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint news conference during the fourth US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC [Michael A McCoy/Reuters]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is monitoring what he describes as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of the South Asian nation’s rights record.

“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,” Blinken said on Monday in a joint press briefing with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Blinken did not elaborate. Singh and Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken at the briefing, did not comment on the human rights issue.

Blinken’s remarks came days after US Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the US government to criticise Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights.

“What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?” Omar, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, said last week.

Modi’s critics say his Hindu nationalist ruling party has fostered religious polarisation since coming to power in 2014.

Since then, right-wing Hindu groups have launched attacks on minorities, claiming they are trying to prevent religious conversions. Several Indian states have passed or are considering anti-conversion laws that challenge the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief.

In 2019, the government passed a citizenship law that critics said undermined India’s secular constitution by excluding Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries from naturalisation. The law meant to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

In the same year, soon after his 2019 re-election win, Modi’s government revoked the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate the Muslim-majority region into the country.

To keep a lid on protests, the administration detained many Kashmiri political leaders and sent many more paramilitary police and soldiers to the Himalayan region, also claimed by Pakistan.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more states.

Source: Reuters