Assessment of Human Rights under Modi’s India: A Critical Review by CRS

The recently unveiled report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) titled “India: Human Rights Assessment” delivers a sobering assessment of the human rights situation under Prime Minister Modi’s governance. It presents a detailed examination of the deteriorating conditions prevailing in various aspects of human rights within the country.

The report delivers a scathing critique, uncovering numerous instances of severe human rights violations occurring throughout India. Key revelations from the report underscore the gravity of the situation, highlighting widespread abuses and challenges faced by vulnerable populations.

Despite India’s diverse religious and ethnic landscape, there has been a notable escalation in attacks against religious minorities, such as Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, during the tenure of the BJP-led government under Prime Minister Modi. These attacks encompass a range of violations, including unlawful killings, extrajudicial actions, torture, harsh treatment in prisons, arbitrary detentions, and unwarranted intrusions into privacy. Additionally, discrimination based on social status, sexual orientation, or gender identity exacerbates the challenges faced by minority communities.

In 2023, NGOs documented a staggering 687 incidents of violence targeting Christians. Several mosques faced destruction in the presence of law enforcement, and vigilantes attacked Muslims under the pretext of safeguarding cows from slaughter. Indian authorities persistently detained and harassed Kashmiri journalists, religious leaders, and human rights defenders.

In recent years, the fabric of press freedom in India has become increasingly fragile, with growing apprehensions regarding limitations and intimidation tactics aimed at journalists. Indian authorities have shown a rising tendency to target journalists and online commentators who dare to criticize government policies, often subjecting them to prosecution under stringent counterterrorism and sedition laws, as well as fabricated or politically motivated charges.

Reporters Without Borders recently unveiled the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates 180 countries on the state of journalism, reporting, and media functioning. India’s placement at a concerning 159th among these nations underscores significant challenges within its press landscape. The index highlights several troubling observations regarding India: the detention of nine journalists and one media worker reflects a crisis in press freedom.

Since Prime Minister Modi’s rise to power, India’s media has been operating under an unofficial state of emergency. Moreover, the Modi government’s introduction of laws such as the 2023 Telecommunications Act, 2023 Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, and 2023 Digital Personal Data Protection Act amplifies concerns by granting the government excessive control over media, enabling news censorship, and stifling dissent. Journalists critical of the government are often subjected to online harassment, threats, physical attacks, and legal persecution. The situation in Kashmir exacerbates these challenges, with reporters facing harassment from authorities and enduring prolonged detention without due process.

There has been a disturbing uptick in instances of extrajudicial killings, where individuals are executed without due legal process, and enforced disappearances, where people vanish without explanation or recourse to legal assistance, across India. Notably, the state of Manipur has emerged as a focal point for such human rights violations, marked by arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, and systemic abuses perpetrated by Indian forces and law enforcement agencies.

In June 2023, clashes in Manipur State led to the destruction of more than 500 churches and two synagogues, displacing over 70,000 individuals. The following month, communal violence erupted in Haryana after a Hindu procession, resulting in the torching of a Muslim tomb and mosque, claiming the lives of seven individuals.

India has garnered global attention for its alarming prevalence of government-imposed internet shutdowns, boasting a staggering 805 instances recorded between January 2020 and February 2024. These shutdowns, often linked to the suppression of dissent and the quelling of protests, represent a flagrant disregard for the fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information.

In February 2023, the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the FCRA license of the Centre for Policy Research, an NGO dedicated to addressing social issues. Additionally, authorities conducted raids on the offices and homes of journalists associated with New Click.

According to Transparency International’s 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index, India’s corruption landscape appears bleak, scoring 39 out of 100 and ranking 93rd out of 180 countries evaluated worldwide. This dismal assessment underscores the widespread and entrenched corruption within India’s public sector, hindering progress and undermining public confidence.

In September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Indian authorities of involvement in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, followed by an alleged plot to assassinate Pannun in the United States. In December 2023, the Supreme Court of India upheld the revocation of Article 370, thereby dissolving the special status and autonomy of the Muslim-majority state.

As the world grapples with the revelations of the CRS report, it serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to address the serious human rights violations tarnishing India’s democratic framework. Responsibility for addressing these issues rests not solely on the Indian government but also on the international community, which must uphold principles of justice, equality, and dignity for all.

Wasama Khalid
Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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