The US state department’s first human rights report released Tuesday under the Biden administration noted that the Indian government has continued to “take steps to restore normalcy” in Jammu & Kashmir, but also detailed other “significant” issues regarding India.
Titled the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, it has accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against Uyghurs, the Russian government of targeting political dissidents and protestors, and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad of committing atrocities against his people.
The report was released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who also sought to address criticism of the practice of the US releasing these reports when it itself faces serious challenges on these same issues at home. “We know we have work to do at home. That includes addressing profound inequities, including systemic racism,” he said. “We don’t pretend these problems don’t exist or try to sweep them under the rug. We don’t ignore them. We deal with them in the daylight, with full transparency.”
In the executive summary of the section on India, the report acknowledged progress in Jammu & Kashmir. “The government continued taking steps to restore normalcy in Jammu & Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions. The government released most political activists from detention. In January, the government partially restored internet access; however, high-speed 4G mobile internet remained restricted in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The summary also included a long list of significant human rights issues in India, which were dealt with in some detail later in the report. It referred to “unlawful and arbitrary killings” by police; torture by some police and prison officials; “arbitrary” arrests and detentions; “harsh and life-threatening” prison conditions; political prisoners or detainees in certain states.
It also referred to “restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, use of criminal libel laws to prosecute social media speech, censorship, and site blocking”.
The summary went on to list “overly restrictive rules” on non-governmental organisations; “restrictions” on political participation; “widespread corruption at all levels in the government”; “lack” of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; “tolerance” of violations of religious freedom; crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups including women based on religious affiliation or social status; and “forced and compulsory child labour, as well as bonded labour”.