South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is using counter-terrorism measures to arbitrarily detain large numbers of Muslims, says a new report slamming India’s record of protecting minority rights.

No action is being taken against officials who sanction such detentions, even when they are proved illegal, say the authors of the report.

The South Asia chapter of the 2010 State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous People, brought out by the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) International, was released in the capital on Thursday. Farah Mihlar, author of the South Asia chapter, said that the perpetrators of acts of violence against religious minorities in India are allowed to act with impunity and noted the poor rate of arrest and conviction, especially of political leaders orchestrating violence.

Minorities across the world, who were earlier targeted for racial discrimination, are now being targeted for their religious beliefs, the report says. Ultra right-wing parties, aiming to establish themselves in mainstream political arenas in Europe, justify their anti-immigration, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic rhetoric by stoking fears that religious minorities and immigrants are a threat to modern societies, the report adds.

In South Asia, militant and extremist groups from the Taliban in Pakistan and the Vishva Hindu Parishad in India, to less known fringe groups such as Nepal’s National Defence Army have been accused of a series of religiously motivated killings and attacks through 2009, the report says. In some South Asian states, national or regional governments are actively supporting extremist groups, while in other cases states are turning a blind eye to their increasing influence, said Shobha Das, MRGs head of programmes.

The report criticizes the Indian government’s continued opposition to the recognition of caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. Tribal communities remain India’s most marginalized and are now at the centre of land disputes and armed struggle, the report notes, citing the examples of tribal opposition to the Vedanta bauxite mining project in Orissa.

The report also criticizes the Indian army for committing human rights violations against civilians, including extra-judicial killings, abductions, arbitrary arrests and detentions in the guise of counter-terrorism.
Irfan Engineer, director of the Mumbai-based Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, noted the rise in racial profiling of Muslims in India, citing the recent de-planing and detention of a Muslim man based on a co-passengers imagined fears. The proposed Communal Violence Bill only strengthens the hands of the police, who have been proved to be biased against minorities times and again, rather than making them more accountable, Engineer said.


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