WASHINGTON: Arbitrary killings, forced disappearance and torture in police custody are some of the human rights issues in India, the US said in a report on Wednesday, noting that instances of censorship, use of libel laws to prosecute social media speech and and site blocking continued during 2018.
In its India section of ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018’, the State Department said the Indian government imposed restrictions on foreign funding of some non-governmental organisations, including those with views the government stated were not in the “national interest”.
“Human rights issues (in India) included reports of arbitrary killings; forced disappearance; torture; rape in police custody; arbitrary arrest and detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; and reports of political prisoners in certain states,” the report stated.
The other major issues of human rights violations included widespread corruption, lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths and honour killings, it said.
“Instances of censorship, the use of libel laws to prosecute social media speech, and site blocking continued,” said the Congressional-mandated report, which was released by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The report also noted that violence and discrimination based on religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity and caste or tribe, including indigenous persons, also occurred.
The State department said lack of accountability for misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity.
Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, shortage of trained police officers and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to a small number of convictions, it rued.
The report noted several instances in which the government or actors considered close to the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, “including through online trolling”.
“There were also reports of extremists perpetrating acts of killing, violence, and intimidation against journalists critical of the government,” the report said.
“According to a number of journalists, press freedom declined during the year (2018).
There were a number of reports, including from journalists and NGOs, that government officials, both at the local and national levels, were involved in silencing or intimidating critical media outlets through physical harassment/attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, and encouraging frivolous lawsuits,” the State Department said.