Refuting the allegation of human rights violations, the ministry said that the Indian Constitution provides for adequate safeguards under various statutes, including the protection of human rights.
Three days after global freedom watchdog Freedom House downgraded India to ‘partly free’, the Centre has issued a point-wise rebuttal’ against the claims made by the watchdog. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has termed the report as ‘misleading, incorrect and misplaced’. The report released by Freedom House on March 3 had downgraded India to partly free from free after assigning it a four-point downgrade – 67 from 71. The report had said that Indians’ political rights and civil liberties have been eroding since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. “His Hindu nationalist government has presided over increased pressure on human rights organizations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks-including lynchings-aimed at Muslims,” it had said in a release.
The report had cited Northeast Delhi violence, Anti-CAA protest, alleged misuse of sedition law, COVID-19 enforced lockdown, threats to academics and journalists and internet ban among other factors to justify India’s downgrade. The Information and Broadcasting ministry yesterday issued a point-wise counter-attack refuting the claims made by the report.
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Countering the allegations of discriminatory policies against Muslims in India and during the North East Delhi riots, the government said that it treats all its citizens with equality and due process of law is followed in matters relating to law and order, irrespective of the identity of the alleged instigator.
The ministry claimed that even before the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown was imposed, most states resorted to partial or full lockdown between March 16 to 23. “Any mass movement of people would have spread the disease rapidly throughout the country. Taking into consideration these facts, the global experience and need for consistency in the approach and implementation of various containment measures across the country, a nationwide lockdown was announced,” said the release. The ministry also listed out various measures taken to address any issues arising out of it. The ministry credited the stricter lockdown and steps taken by it for India registering one of the lowest rates of active COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related deaths globally.
Refuting the allegation of human rights violations, the ministry said that the Indian Constitution provides for adequate safeguards under various statutes, including the protection of human rights. “The Human Rights Act 1993 provides for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions in the States for better protection of human rights and matters connected to this subject. The National Commission is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and works as a mechanism to inquire, investigate and make recommendations in cases where it finds that there is a violation of human rights in the country,” it added.
On the claims of intimidation to academics, journalists and crackdown on expressions of dissent by media, the ministry said that it attaches the highest importance to the safety and security of all residents of the country, including journalists. “The Government of India has issued a special advisory to States and Union Territories on the safety of journalists requesting them to strictly enforce the law to ensure safety and security of media persons,” it claimed.
Slamming the allegation of internet shutdowns, the ministry said that the temporary suspension of ‘internet services is resorted to with the over-arching objective of maintaining law and order under strict safeguards’.
Earlier, the Freedom House report invited controversy for using a wrong map of India in which it has portrayed Jammu and Kashmir as a separate region. When historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted the report, National Incharge of Social Media – BJP Mahila Morcha, Priti Gandhi reacted sharply to it. She wrote on Twitter, “Some random organization that doesn’t consider Kashmir as part of India publishes an unsubstantiated report about Freedom in India & this clown is going ga-ga over their findings. Then they cry when their nationalism is questioned!! And you @freedomhouse, delete that wrong map!!”
Some random organization that doesn't consider Kashmir as part of India publishes an unsubstantiated report about Freedom in India & this clown is going ga-ga over their findings. Then they cry when their nationalism is questioned!!
And you @freedomhouse, delete that wrong map!! https://t.co/vRA2foE0z3 pic.twitter.com/MOH3cwzK4s
— Priti Gandhi – प्रीति गांधी (@MrsGandhi) March 4, 2021
The Freedom House report had listed Kashmir separately based on its rule of assessing disputed territories separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons.