Following United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’ 3-day visit to India, at least 20 NGOs involved in human rights have written an open letter to him, stating that India’s freedom and democratic rights in the past four years under the BJP-led government have been undermined.
Seeking the Secretary General’s intervention, the letter said: “Over the past four plus years, much of the strengths of Indian state and society – of liberal freedoms, democratic rights, social coexistence, and a national consensus to attain equality and equity between the many social groups through constitutional means – all strengths assiduously nurtured since Independence, are being undermined.”
Pointing out the recent arrests of writers, activists by the Pune police and other atrocities and violence against Dalits and minorities prevailing in the country, they wrote, “The immediate victims of this undermining of the ‘Indian exceptionalism’ have been minorities (Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Tribals, and Women) and other marginalised groups, as well as HRDs, activists, lawyers, thinkers and writers, putting their lives on the line, in defence of the victims and of democracy and freedoms.”
To substantiate their claims on targeted violence against Dalits, minorities and women, the letter specified instances of violence across India along with dates.
They wrote, “A civil society study counted, in Sept. '18, 62 incidents of killings mostly by lynching and vigilantism, spread across 17 states, since 2014. Muslims have also been attacked in targeted mass violence, around festivals and national events, with significant loss of life and limb and property in specific states. Alongside, small-scale incidents of provocations, threats and attacks, including opportunistic ones, by Hindutva cadres on Muslim communities and their religious sites and practices, are increasingly being reported.”
“Christians have similarly been targeted, with 2017 described in a civil society report as “one of the most traumatic” years for Indian Christians in a decade, after it recorded 351 verified incidents of hate crime against Christians during the year, up from 147 in 2014,” the letter added.
The activists also mentioned the killings of rationalists like Govind Pansare, Narendra Dhabolkar and journalist Gauri Lankesh by Hindutva extremists. Besides, they also shared the death threats against journalists like Rana Ayub. They also explained about the government’s recent action in Assam to update the National Register of Citizens, in which an overwhelming 4 million of the population were declared stateless.
The activists said that they hoped the Secretary General would raise these issues with the government representatives during his interactions and help protect the democratic freedom of India.
The letter was signed by more than 250 activists from the All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AINNI) and the Association for Protection of Civil Rights, among many others.