The annual report is compiled by a bureau within the State Department and is mandated by the US Congress where the records of all countries are inspected.
The US State Department released a report on human rights practices in India highlighting the country’s challenges to freedom of expression, cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, confiscation and destruction of property without due process, discrimination against minority groups among others.
On freedom of expression, the report said, “The government generally respected freedom of expression, but there were instances in which the government or actors considered close to the government allegedly pressurised or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling.”
The department in its report also flagged the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), claiming that civil society organizations have “expressed concern that the central government sometimes used UAPA to detain human rights activists and journalists”.
Erin M Barclay, acting assistant secretary of the bureau of democracy, human rights and labour, said that the US and India regularly consult “at the highest levels on democracy and human rights.”
“We have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments. Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well,” Barclay said at a State Department briefing in Washington DC on March 20.
It also flagged reports from civil society organizations alleging that both state and Union government intimidated media “through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits, and in some areas blocking communication services, such as mobile telephones and the internet, and constraining freedom of movement”.
The case of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez whose “pretrial detention has been extended at least five times by the NIA Special Court in New Delhi” was highlighted along with the arrest of Umar Khalid “for making a speech during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.” It also mentioned the denial of bail to the majority of the 16 activists “incarcerated on conspiracy charges related to the Elgaar Parishad Bhima Koregaon protests.”
Mentioning discrimination and violence, the report highlighted forced religious conversion for the purpose of marriage and instances of killings, both of Hindus and Muslims, during episodes of communal violence.