Every month, we send a newsletter with news updates containing an overview of politics and human rights in India. You can read the archives here.
India News Updates Archives
India in the world
• On August 2, European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli arrived in Gujarat state for the G20 Ministerial Conference on Women’s Empowerment 2023, where she gave a statement on education and STEM.
• In a new report on “future shocks“, the European Parliament Research Service notes “recent democratic failure or erosion in countries such as […] India“, and warns that this poses a risk that “extremist and anti-democratic political forces could instrumentalise economic malaise to gain power either through elections or through violent insurgency”.
• On August 26, European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis told ANI news agency that the EU is not setting any “specific deadline” for the conclusion of free trade negotiations with India. The signing of the free trade agreement between India and Europe might take a while, as he noted that its “substance” matters more than a deadline and further discussion is needed.
• A new article by the Financial Times investigates potential front men used by the Adani Group to bypass rules for Indian companies that prevent share price manipulation. This follows an investigation by the short seller Hindenburg, which accused the Adani Group of running the “largest con in corporate history”.
Communal Violence and Riots
Violence in Manipur
• On August 1, the Supreme Court said that the state machinery in Manipur has “completely failed” and there is no law and order left in the violence-hit state.
• Prime Minister Modi’s government fails to respond to the conflict. On August 6, over 110 former civil servants urged the Central government to impose President’s rule in Manipur. On August 2, a newly founded opposition party alliance met the Indian President Murmu and urged for her “intervention” in establishing peace in Manipur.
• On August 7, the Manipur police suspended five officers, who were reportedly involved in the May 4 incident in which three Kuki women were paraded naked by a mob. The video sheds light on systematic gang rapes in India, and further evidence of targeted sexualised violence has emerged.
• Mobile internet remains shut off in Manipur, in violation of human rights law, despite an urgent need for accurate information.
• The state government of Manipur has asked its governor to convene a special session on the armed conflict on August 21, but Kuki members of the legislative assembly declared they would not attend such a session.
• Armed violence by civilians continues to escalate. On August 3, a mob of approximately 500 people looted police armoury and weapons. According to The Hindu, about 4,000 weapons have already been looted, of which only 1,600 weapons have been recovered. On August 5, five more persons were killed, and the death toll rose to at least 187. On August 18, three more people were killed. More than 150 people have lost their lives in the violence and tens of thousands have been displaced.
Violence in Haryana
• On Monday, July 31, communal violence erupted in the Nuh district of Haryana during a procession by the Hindu supremacist groups Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. The conflict killed at least six people and injured over 50. Prior to the procession, known cow vigilante Monu Manesar, who is absconding from the police in a murder case, called on people to participate in the procession. Unidentified police officials told the Hindustan Times and News18 that Manesar’s call might have incited the violence. The participants were armed, raising questions why the procession received permission. As violence erupted, the Home Minister of the state falsely claimed that “Muslim rioters” had taken Hindus hostage, further escalating the violence. A 19-year-old deputy Imam of the mosque in Gurugram was stabbed 13 times and killed by a Hindu supremacist mob. Hindu supremacists set numerous mosques on fire and destroyed numerous shops. Violence continued until at least August 7, and spread to Gurugram, a business hub in India home to international companies. Migrant workers and Rohingya refugees have been left homeless and displaced, and are fleeing Haryana.
• Twenty companies of central forces were deployed in Haryana. A total of 18 cases have been registered in Gurugram and at least 116 have been arrested: On August 15, police arrested militant Hindu supremacist Raj Kumar, alias Bittu Bajrangi, in connection with the Haryana communal violence. Bajrangi is the head of a cow vigilante group active in Faridabad, Haryana. The charges against him include assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty, voluntarily causing harm to deter a public worker from doing his duties, rioting, and Section 25 of the Arms Act.
• Local Hindu supremacist groups threatened local Muslims: On August 1, a group of men went around the locality threatening the Muslims to leave, and thousands of residents fled their homes. On August 6, Hindu supremacist group “Hindu Samaj” organised a “religious congregation” despite a blanket ban on public gatherings. At the event, participants called for a social and economic boycott of Muslims. On August 13, another “religious congregation” framed nine demands, which include that the district should become “cow slaughter-free” and that “the government should provide arms […] for self-defence” to locals.
• Following the violence, the government responded with further human rights violations: The district administration suspended internet services until August 11. On August 3, the Haryana government demolished the shanties of more than 250 Muslim migrant workers, who had fled the violence. Additional demolitions continued for the following days, and residents alleged they were not given any prior notice. On August 5, over 45 shops in the riot-affected area were demolished for being allegedly constructed “illegally”. Over five days, over 1200 buildings, overwhelmingly owned by Muslims, were reportedly demolished. On August 7, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo moto cognisance of the demolitions and ordered them to stop. In its order, the High Court asked whether the demolitions were “an exercise of ethnic cleansing”. The case was then passed on to another bench, in violation of procedure, which requires it to be passed on to the Chief Justice.
• In early August following the violence, over 50 village councils in the state released identical letters demanding that Muslims living in the villages submit their identity documents to the police, and barring the entry of Muslim traders.
• On August 17, Delhi police detained more than 50 people for protesting against the Haryana violence in New Delhi.
Human Rights Defenders and civil society
• On August 1, the Indian government suspended the passports of several Kashmiris, including journalists, arguing the affected parties “were a threat to Indian security” despite no reported charges against them. Recently, officials suspended the passports of two Kashmir-based journalists and one local politician and activist.
• On August 1, tweets by journalist Rana Ayyub, fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, and politician Asaduddin Owaisi on a reported hate crime were removed from Twitter, following a demand from the Indian government. They referred to an incident on July 31, when an Indian railway security constable shot and killed a colleague and three passengers on a train. In a verified video, he says: “If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” thereby suggesting the attack has a political motive.
• On August 1, the National Investigation Agency raided multiple locations in Kashmir, including the residence of human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, in an NGO-funding case registered in the year 2020.
• On August 9, the Supreme Court adjourned the bail hearing of human rights defender Umar Khalid, after a judge recused himself from the case. Khalid has been detained without a trial since 2020, when he was arrested under India’s anti-terror law UAPA and sedition laws for his participation in protests against India’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act. Khalid’s bail petitions have been repeatedly denied.
• On August 14, the Supreme Court gave Professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing, professor at Hyderabad University, protection from coercive action. Professor Hausing is facing criminal proceedings for giving an interview on the ongoing armed violence in Manipur.
• On August 15, an assistant professor at Ashoka University resigned from his post weeks after he published the research paper “Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy”, which explores the possibility of electoral manipulation in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The University had publicly distanced itself from the paper. On August 22, the Intelligence Bureau visited the university campus to speak with the former professor about the paper.
• On August 21, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Gerard Quinn called on India to end the inhumane detention of human rights defender GN Saibaba. Saibaba, who suffers from a spinal disorder, has been in pre-trial detention since 2014.
• On August 27, Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan marked five years of being arbitrarily imprisoned. Sultan is accused of “complicity” in “harbouring known terrorists” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, India’s counter-terrorism law that reverses the burden of proof. In 2019, Sultan was given the John Aubuchon Press Freedom award.
• On August 28, police arrested tribal rights activist Nitin Varghese, who is with Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, a group campaigning for Forest Rights. Police charged Varghese with criminal conspiracy and inciting to violence.
• On August 29, the house of Muslim woman journalist Khushboo Akhtar burnt down. Akhtar supposes that the house caught fire as an attack against her work as a journalist.
Hate crimes against minorities
• On August 3, police arrested three persons, including a member of the Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal, for assaulting Dalit (“untouchable”) villagers in Madhya Pradesh state.
• On August 15, a video circulated on social media showing a Hindu supremacist mob beating a Muslim man at a train station, condemning him for going out with a Hindu woman. The mob then shouted “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Hindu God Rama). The incident reportedly took place in July.
• On August 12, Hindu supremacists lynched a Muslim man with mental health conditions in North-Eastern Assam state on alleged suspicion of cow theft. Police have arrested six persons. On August 17, two more people were lynched in separate incidents in North-Eastern Assam state, allegedly for theft.
• On August 17, Hindu supremacists reportedly threatened and attacked a Muslim food vendor in Himachal Pradesh state. The attack took place following a Facebook post of the week before, in which a Hindu supremacist called on others to boycott Muslim-owned businesses.
• On August 18, a middle-aged Muslim couple was reportedly beaten to death in Uttar Pradesh, supposedly in retaliation for the fact that their son had eloped with a Hindu woman a few years before. According to The Indian Express, the woman’s family members are suspected to have carried out the attack.
• On August 19, a group of Hindu supremacists reportedly beat to death a 27-year-old Muslim man and two others, allegedly for illegally chopping wood in a forest in Rajasthan state.
• On August 20, members of the Hindu supremacist group Bajrang Dal reportedly attacked Christians who were praying inside a church in New Delhi. They carried speakers blaring the slogan “We will make a Hindu nation.”
• On August 25, six persons in Maharashtra state reportedly attacked a Dalit (“untouchable”) man, tied him upside down, urinated on him and forced him to lick their shoes. The incident was recorded on video, and police arrested one accused.
• On August 2, the body of a 14-year-old was found in Bhilwara, Rajasthan state, near a furnace where she had allegedly been set on fire, after reportedly being gang-raped by a group of men. Seven persons have reportedly been arrested.
• On August 4, a group of men reportedly forced two boys, ages 10 and 15, in Uttar Pradesh state to drink urine on suspicion they had stolen money. The men reportedly also thrust chillies into the boys’ anus. Six men were arrested after videos of the incident circulated online.
• On August 6, a video of the gang rape of two minor Muslim girls, aged 14 and 16, was circulated on social media. The incident itself reportedly took place in July.
• On August 25, a 14-year-old boy and three adult members of his family in Uttar Pradesh state reportedly killed their 15-year-old sister and daughter, allegedly because she had spoken to a Dalit (“untouchable”) boy over the phone.
• On August 24, a teacher forced children to beat their 8-year old Muslim classmate in Uttar Pradesh state. The incident was captured on video, which shows the teacher insulting the boy for being Muslim and scolding the children for not beating him hard enough.
• On August 26, police registered a case against two teachers in Rajasthan state, after a tenth-grade Dalit (“untouchable”) student committed suicide following reported caste discrimination and abuse.
• On August 27, a group reportedly beat to death a Dalit (“untouchable”) teenager over a sexual harassment case filed by his sister in 2019 in Madhya Pradesh state. His sister and mother were also beaten and stripped, and allege the attackers wanted them to withdraw the case.
• On August 1, a video circulated showing Hindu supremacists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal taking an oath to turn India into a “Hindu nation”. Hundreds of sharp-edged tridents were reportedly distributed among Hindu men.
• On August 15, India celebrated its 77th Independence Day. Meanwhile, several video clips surfaced on social media unambiguously showing hate speech against the Muslim community during the celebrations. For example, in Jammu, participants in an Independence Day rally shouted slogans calling for violence against Muslims, such as, translated from Hindi, “When Muslims are chopped, they will cry Ram Ram”.
• On August 17, members of Hindu supremacist groups including Bajrang Dal held a rally, giving an ultimatum that local Hindus vacate shops and homes rented by Muslims within two days or face consequences, in Haryana.
• On August 27, a group of Hindu supremacists reportedly attacked two Muslim households and vandalised Muslim fruit vendors’ carts in the presence of law enforcement and media.
• On August 28, members of the Hindu supremacist group Sri Ram Sena (“God Ram’s army”) reportedly attacked two Muslim cattle traders in Karnataka state. They were admitted to hospital for treatment.
Actions by state actors
• On August 5, Kapil Mishra was appointed Vice President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Delhi unit. Mishra, according to the Delhi Minorities Commission, in February 2020 incited riots in North Eastern Delhi, in which at least 53 people died. Mishra called to “shoot the traitors of the nation”.
• On August 6, police in Uttar Pradesh state arrested a 35-year-old businessman for being the administrator of a WhatsApp group in which an allegedly “derogatory” comment against Hindu supremacist Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was posted.
• On August 9, the authorities notified residents in the Nai Basti slum in Uttar Pradesh state that their houses were illegally constructed. Subsequently at least 135 houses were demolished. Commentators note that the slum is located merely 600 metres from the spot claimed by some to be the Hindu god Krishna’s birthplace, suggesting an ulterior motive. The Supreme Court ordered a stay on the demolitions.
• On August 16, the Uttar Pradesh government issued an order directing officials to investigate “negative” news items published by media outlets. The order said officials concerned must seek explanations from the media houses if the facts in the story were found to be “twisted” or “false” in order to tarnish the image of the government.
• On August 19, Delhi Police prevented people from entering a meeting venue in New Delhi, where a meeting critical of the G20 summit took place, citing that the organisers did not have “permission” for the event.
• On August 22, police registered a case against actor Prakash Raj over a tweet in which he reportedly mocks India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon. Hindu supremacist organisations had reportedly filed a complaint.
• On August 7, the Parliament passed a Bill that gives the BJP-led central government control over posting and transfers of bureaucrats in the capital Delhi. The Supreme Court had previously in May passed a verdict that the power over bureaucrats in the national capital lies with the state government, not the central government. This is now nullified.
• From August 8 to 10, the Indian Parliament debated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Modi, filed over his lack of response to Manipur. On August 10, the motion was defeated by voice vote. This is the second time that Mr Modi’s government is facing a no-confidence motion since it came to power in 2014. Opposition parties demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in Parliament, but the government has so far only agreed to a short duration discussion. In a 2-hour speech defending his government during the vote, Modi criticised the motion as an attempt by opposition parties to “defame India“. Modi only addressed the violence in Manipur when the opposition walked out on his speech after an hour.
• On August 10, the Central government tabled a Bill which proposes that the members of the Election Commission of India be selected by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, and a Minister nominated by the Prime Minister. Legal experts note that the Bill will give more power to the executive over the Election Commission and violate an order by the Supreme Court from March. The Election Commission oversees the integrity of India’s elections.
• On August 12, Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills to replace the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act. There are serious human rights risks associated with the penal code reform: While the government frames this as a measure to reduce colonial legacy in India’s penal system, others note that it expands police powers, and creates a new offence that de facto widens the definition of “sedition”. The new Bills also do not include procedural safeguards against false implication in terrorism cases.
• On August 4, the Supreme Court put a stay on the conviction of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi for defamation. Following a remark on the “Modi” surname, Gandhi was convicted to the maximum sentence of two years in prison, which is the minimum needed to disqualify him from Parliament. The suspension of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as Member of Parliament was subsequently overturned.
• On August 8, the Supreme Court started hearing a batch of petitions challenging the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution which unilaterally took away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The petitions had been left pending since 2019. Notably, on August 29, the Supreme Court asked the Union Government to provide a time-frame or roadmap for the restoration of statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, noting that it “cannot be a Union Territory” under direct control of the centre “permanently”. The Supreme Court also noted that “restoration of democracy is important”.
• On August 24, a Delhi court acquitted a Muslim man in a case related to the 2020 riots after observing that the police made “artificial statements” against him. This is the second time in a month that the court pulled up the Delhi Police over its investigation in a case related to the riots, in which at least 53 people died. On August 16, the same court said the police had “manipulated evidence” in another case.
Internet and technology
• On August 4, a coalition of 35 civil rights groups called on Reuters news agency to terminate its partnership with ANI, an Indian news agency, due to its reported Islamophobic reporting and dissemination of false information.
• On August 8, 20 current and former faculty members of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore have called in a letter on Indian corporates to defund “the spread of misinformation and hate speech through news channels and social media”, warning that “rapidly increasing levels of radicalization” are “fermenting an atmosphere conducive to large-scale violence.”
• On August 10, the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill was passed in the upper house of Parliament. Opposition MPs had staged a walkout due to another issue and were absent from the vote. The Bill is widely criticised, including by transparency activists, who note that the Bill restricts the Right to Information Act and allows public authorities to withhold critical information in the name of data privacy; that the Bill does not require actors to tell users with whom their data is shared, how long it will be stored, and if their data will be transferred to other countries; and that the Bill does not provide adequate safeguards against government surveillance.
• On August 19, Indian authorities blocked Indians from accessing the independent Kashmiri news outlet The Kashmir Walla and all its social media platforms, triggering strong criticism by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
India in the world
• From July 3-5, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J Mohammed visited India on an official visit. Her visit focused on digital technology, Sustainable Development Goals, and India’s ongoing G20 Presidency.
• On July 3, Indian diaspora held a protest in front of the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians and Muslims in India.
• On July 8, US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya, arrived in Delhi. During her visit, according to the State Department she discussed “the deepening and enduring U.S.-India partnership, including advancing shared solutions to global challenges, democracy, regional stability, and cooperation on humanitarian relief”. She met civil society organisations working on media freedoms, gender equality, restrictions on NGOs and “marginalised religious and ethnic minorities”.
• On July 19, India and the UK concluded their 11th round of negotiations for their free trade agreement. They reportedly made significant progress on five chapters dealing with contentious issues such as digital trade, environment and labour in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.
European Parliament Resolution
• On July 13, the European Parliament adopted an urgency resolution warning of the existence of “Hindu majoritarianism” in India. The resolution also calls on the Indian government to “put an urgent end to the ethno-religious violence”, which is ongoing especially in the state of Manipur.
• In its resolution, mainly negotiated by French MEP Pierre Larrouturou (S&D), the European Parliament “denounces in the strongest possible terms all nationalist rhetoric” and calls on the Indian authorities to “refrain from criminalising those who are critical of government’s conduct”.
• In addition to the resolution’s recommendations, MEPs from EPP and ECR in the plenary debate on July 12 called on the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion, Frans van Daele, to urgently visit India. Other MEPs called on the European Commission to act more strongly on human rights in its engagement with India. The European Commission responded on behalf of the High Representative Borrell that they are closely monitoring the situation.
• Ahead of the vote, India’s Foreign Secretary rejected the motion for the resolution, saying Manipur is “totally internal”.
• Alber & Geiger, a lobbying firm that lists its services to the Indian government on their website, contacted MEPs urging them not to table the resolution. The Indian government in a Right to Information request, however, “refused” to admit that it hired Alber & Geiger.
Narendra Modi’s visit to France
• On July 13-14, India’s Prime Minister Modi visited France for a diplomatic visit. Modi was the “guest of honour” on Bastille Day, which serves to celebrate democracy in France. During the visit, France and India announced several deals, including a naval fighter deal and a fighter jets deal.
• On July 10, Justice For Myanmar (JFM) asked Macron to raise the sale of Indian arms and weapons technology to the Myanmar military regime, and asked him to impose a condition that French arms and technology would only be exported to India if it does so.
• On July 11, French MP Arnaud le Gall posed a question in the French general assembly on human rights in India. He questioned why Modi is the “guest of honor” on Bastille Day, which celebrates French democracy.
Communal Violence and Riots
• On July 8, municipal elections took place in West Bengal. In the runup to the elections, at least 11 people (45 according to BJP) were killed and dozens more injured, according to the Press Trust of India. The Hindu supremacist BJP came second, while the centrist Trinamool Congress came first.
• On July 16, clashes erupted in Gujarat state over a social media post on the controversial movie “The Kerala Story”. 8 people were injured and 10 have been arrested, with the police accused of bias. The movie depicts the alleged conversion of women from Kerala to Islam and their recruitment by the Islamic State. Clashes over the movie across the country have resulted in at least one death.
• On July 27, the central government introduced the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, which would give Paharis – a linguistic minority in Jammu and Kashmir – the “Scheduled Tribe” status. The Gujjars and Bakerwals, other communities in Kashmir, have threatened protests. Commentators see parallels to protests over tribal recognition in May in Manipur, which triggered the ongoing armed violence.
Violence in Manipur
• The ongoing conflict is conducted with sophisticated firearms, as civilians have looted at least 4000 guns and as there are 35117 active gun licences in Manipur. A recent investigation shows that since the current BJP Chief Minister Biren Singh came to power in 2017, 8000 gun licences have been issued to civilians.
• On July 2 alone, four people were killed in Manipur. Police say one of them was beheaded.
• On July 3, the Supreme Court ordered the Manipur government to file a “detailed status report” about the “situation on the ground” in the ongoing conflict in the state.
• On July 7, the Manipur High Court ordered the State government to lift the internet ban in the state. On July 10, the Supreme Court heard a plea challenging the restoration of the internet.
• On July 8, the National Federation of Indian Women received a criminal charge for conducting a fact-finding mission into the ongoing violence. They were charged with sedition and conspiring to commit offences of waging war against India.
• On July 6, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said that the violence and killings in Manipur are a matter of “human concern”, and the US is willing to help India “if asked”.
• On July 12, Amnesty International published the results of its investigation into the violence in Manipur. They note complicity by police and right-wing groups affiliated with the ruling BJP in the violence, and note that the government’s response to the violence, including shoot-on-sight orders and an internet shutdown, has violated human rights.
• On July 12, the Forum for Restoration of Peace in Manipur called on Prime Minister Modi to visit Manipur and take steps towards restoring peace in the state within the next 10 days.
• On July 19, a video of two Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob emerged from Manipur. A police complaint filed by the relatives of the women states that one of the women was subsequently gangraped. The incident is estimated to have taken place on May 4, a day after violence broke out in Manipur state. Police arrested one person after the video surfaced, despite the complaint having been registered already in May. The victims allege the police were complicit in the incident. The Indian government asked Twitter and other social media platforms to take down the video. The video sheds light on systematic gang rapes in India. On July 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his 79 day silence on the Manipur violence through a 30-second statement. Specifically responding to the video showing women being paraded naked, he said his heart was filled with “with pain and anger” over the situation in Manipur. “The incident that has come to light in Manipur is a shameful incident for any civilised society… I am filled with anguish and anger. The incident of Manipur brings shame to the society… What has happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven, the guilty will not be spared.” Apart from the delay, Modi’s speech has been criticised for being inappropriate, as Modi apparently equated violence in Manipur with law and order issues across India. On July 28, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that the viral video had been released as a “conspiracy to embarrass the Modi government” ahead of the monsoon session of the Parliament.
• On July 20, a Border Security Forces Head Constable sexually assaulted a woman in a grocery store in Manipur, as CCTV footage shows. The Head Constable has been suspended from duty and arrested.
• On July 21, an 18-year-old woman approached the police in Manipur reporting she had been abducted, assaulted and gang raped on May 15. She reports that she was handed over to armed men by women, with “clear instructions” to kill them.
• On July 25, the Manipur state government decided to allow broadband internet access with strict conditions. Mobile internet remains suspended. This comes after a total internet shutdown of almost three months, which violates human rights law.
Human Rights Defenders and civil society
• On July 19, the Supreme Court granted bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad. She had been arrested in June and accused of fabricating evidence against Prime Minister Modi. On July 1, the Gujarat High Court directed social activist Teesta Setalvad to “surrender immediately” in a case against her. The Supreme Court, however, said that the High Court’s observations were “perverse” and “contradictory”. Setalvad has been advocating for an investigation in Prime Minister Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, but last year, the Supreme Court in passing accused Setalvad of conspiracy. The police initially arrested her in June 2022, which Amnesty India and Human Rights Watch called an attack on civil society and demanded her release.
• On July 3, a group of prominent civil society members, including economists, lawyers and retired IAS officers, issued a statement condemning the silence of the country’s senior leadership on ongoing wrestlers’ protests. Female wrestlers are protesting against the President of the Wrestling Federation of India, whom they accuse of sexual harassment and who is also a member of Modi’s BJP. The Wrestling Federation’s President was finally arrested after months of protest, but granted bail on July 19.
• In March, Union Minister of State for Home told the Parliament that the registration certificates of 1,827 non-profits to receive foreign contributions had been cancelled between 2018 and 2022. A day later, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) filed a Right to Information application seeking access to all 1,827 cancellation orders. In July, the Ministry responded, did not disclose this information, and instead told CHRI that details were available on the FCRA website. The website, however, only listed the 1,808 organisations and had a single order from October 2019. There are no detailed cancellation orders for every organisation that has lost its FCRA licence.
• On July 12, the Delhi High Court granted bail to Tahir Hussain in five different cases registered against him. Hussain, who reportedly participated in peaceful protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, was accused of conspiracy to incite the 2020 Delhi riots, in which at least 53 people died. However, Hussain will still remain in judicial custody, as he is also charged under India’s anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
• On July 28, human rights defenders Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were granted bail after five years of jail without trial. They were arrested alongside fourteen others – the “BK16” – under India’s counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for alleged association with Maoist groups. Evidence was found to have been planted on their laptops. One of the other accused, Father Stan Swamy, died in custody in 2022.
• On July 29, police arrested 93-year-old human rights defender Ayinoor Vasu, over a protest he led seven years ago against alleged extrajudicial killings by police. Police claim they arrested Vasu as he had failed to appear before a court.
• On July 17, nine opposition parties in Assam state moved the Supreme Court to challenge the Election Commission’s proposal to change the election constituencies in the state of Assam. Some Muslims in the region fear that the proposed change will divide voters on religious lines and that sitting legislators will lose their seats. Protests erupted and several protestors were detained.
• On July 18, Prime Minister Modi called an alliance meeting of opposition leaders a “hardcore corruption convention”. Leaders of 26 opposition political parties in India have united to form an alliance in an attempt to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 general election. The roadmap of the “Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance” (INDIA) reportedly focussed significantly on countering polarisation, hatred and religious divisions.
• On July 26, the Lower House of Parliament accepted to debate a “no-confidence” motion against Prime Minister Modi, filed by opposition parties. The date for the debate is to be decided. Commentators note that the move is merely procedural and symbolic, and that the BJP government is “at no risk of being voted out”.
• On July 9, a Delhi court framed charges against six men for burning a Muslim man alive during the 2020 Delhi riots, in which 53 people died. The court observed that the accused were part of a mob that planned to commit riots.
• On July 10, Kerala High Court criticised the state’s police for seizing a journalist’s mobile phone in a probe involving an online media organisation. The court orally observed that it was a violation of the fundamental rights of the journalist.
• On July 11, the Supreme Court after 3 years and 11 months heard a set of petitions filed challenging the change of Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomy. In 2019, the central government had unilaterally removed Article 370 of India’s constitution, which governs Jammu and Kashmir’s status in the country. The Central government argued that its decision has brought an “unprecedented era of development, progress, security and stability to the region.” The Supreme Court dismissed this as irrelevant, noting that political arguments do not have a bearing on the constitutional legality. The petitions had been left pending, and the Supreme Court in July set up a new constitution bench for the matter.
• On July 21, the Supreme Court heard the plea by India’s opposition leader Rahul Gandhi against a Gujarat High Court order that refused to put on hold his conviction and a two-year jail term in a defamation case. Gandhi was convicted in March in a case related to his speech ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi. This led to his immediate disqualification as an MP.
• In late July, civil society actors filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Gujarat High Court seeking a judicial inquiry into police behaviour. On June 16, the police had reportedly publicly flogged Muslim men.
• On July 28, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation filed National Federation of Indian Women raising alarm over an increase in cases of lynching and mob violence against Muslims, particularly by ‘cow vigilantes”. In a previous 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court had already issued guidelines to the union and state governments regarding the prevention of lynching and mob violence.
Actions by state actors
• On July 1, a BJP legislator, Sharanu Salagar, and several of his supporters reportedly barged into a Muslim electrician’s home and abused his family members claiming that they were slaughtering cows during Eid Al-Adha festival. The BJP legislator was criminally charged later.
• On July 8, police filed a case against a young man on the basis that his social media post “was against Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
• On July 11, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said that “no religion is under any threat” in India. He claimed: “India has successfully managed to provide space for all its citizens, regardless of their religious, ethnic or cultural backgrounds.”
• On July 17, police filed several complaints against the Chief Minister of Assam state, Himanta Biswa Sarma, for hate speech against Bengali-speaking Muslims. The Chief Minister had called on Assamese youth to take up farming to “push the ‘Miyas’ out of business”.
• On July 18, a video was posted showing BJP leader Naveen Dhul forcing Muslim-owned restaurants in Haryana state that serve meat to be closed, citing an ongoing Hindu festival.
• On July 18, the BJP mayor of Kanpur city demanded that the state government pass legislation preventing Muslims from buying a house from a Hindu and vice versa. She further reportedly said: “We are angry with their [Muslims] behaviour as they throw waste, dirt in temples.”
• On July 26, police in Bihar state shot and killed at least two people who were protesting against power outages, irregular power supply and tariffs.
• On July 31, an Indian railway security constable shot and killed a colleague and three passengers on a train. In a verified video, he says: “If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” thereby suggesting the attack has a political motive.
• Following the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha on June 29, police reportedly filed a case against 40 Muslims for praying in public in Kanpur.
• The work on the controversial Ram Temple in Ayodhya reportedly gathered pace in July, as the number of workers working around the clock increased from 550 to 1,600 and a deadline of January 2024. In 1992, Hindu supremacists had extrajudicially demolished a mosque in the town, as they claimed that the site is the birthplace of God Rama, and violence erupted. In 2020, India’s Prime Minister inaugurated the construction of a new temple at the site.
• In early July, government officials denied a Muslim registration for his newly built house, because they reportedly did not want a Muslim to live in their village. “Registration cannot be done because the concerned person is from the religion of Islam,” the officials wrote on the front page of the application.
• On July 1, the last day of the Eid celebrations, a Muslim juice vendor was reportedly harassed and heckled by a group of Hindu women for religious identity reasons in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun. In a video recorded by the women, one of those women says: “We don’t eat anything prepared by Muslims, we don’t eat spitted food).”
• On July 11, a video went viral showing a woman asking a bus conductor to remove his religious cap, which identifies him as Muslim. After an argument, the Muslim bus conductor takes off his cap.
• On July 17, police arrested a man in Uttar Pradesh, accusing him of converting 230 Dalit (untouchable) families to Christianity. Police registered a case against him under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act 2021, following a complaint by a Hindu supremacist group. The Uttar Pradesh law has been challenged by civil society for violating India’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.
• In mid-July, officials in Maharashtra state temporarily sealed a 16th century mosque. The move comes after Hindu supremacists claimed that the mosque was constructed on the remains of a demolished Hindu temple.
• In mid-July, the Indian Railways issued a notification to two historical mosques in Delhi, telling them they had been built without permission on its land, and demanding the mosques be removed. One of the mosques is reportedly 400 years old, and therefore older than the Railways.
• On July 26, child rights officials of Madhya Pradesh state reportedly raided a Christian orphanage. Citing attempts to convert children to Christianity, the orphanage has been closed down.
Hate crimes against minorities
• The United Christian Forum (UCF) reports that India witnessed 400 incidents of violence against Christians across 23 states in the first half of 2023 alone, Uttar Pradesh state leading with 155 incidents. In the same period last year, 274 incidents were reported.
• In the first week of July, a mob of Hindu supremacists reportedly beat the principal of a school in Pune city in Maharashtra state for allegedly teaching Christian education in the school.
• In the first week of July, Hindu supremacists in Uttar Pradesh state reportedly raided Muslim-owned meat shops and forced them to close down. In Delhi, members of Hindu supremacist groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal forced numerous Muslim-run meat shops to keep stores shut on Tuesdays, citing a need to honour “Hindu sentiments.”
• In early July, Hindu supremacists assaulted a Muslim man in Madhya Pradesh state. A video shows him being forced to lick the assaulter’s feet.
• In early July, a prominent Hindu supremacist TV anchor, Suresh Chavhanke, organized an anti-Muslim hate speech event in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Madhya Pradesh along with several Hindu extremist monks, to incite violence against Muslims. Another monk called for Muslim men in interfaith relations to be hanged, shot to death in public, or burnt alive. Last year, Chavhanke had administered a genocidal oath to a Hindu group in India’s capital, New Delhi, that said, “We take an oath and make a resolution that till our last breath, we shall fight, die for and if need be, kill, to make this country a Hindu Rashtra (nation).”
• In early July, an electricity department lineman forced a Dalit (untouchable) man to lick his slippers, and subjected him to humiliation and physical abuse in Uttar Pradesh state.
• On July 3, a 14-year-old Dalit (untouchable) boy in Bihar state was reportedly tied to a tree and physically assaulted for 10 hours after being accused of stealing a one-rupee (0.01 Euros) coin. Two people were arrested.
• On July 4, Hindu supremacists reportedly barged into a Muslim man’s house, sexually assaulted his 18-year-old daughter, injured other family members and vandalised vehicles in Uttar Pradesh state.
• On July 4, a video went viral showing a man urinating on a tribal person. The man was reportedly an “aide” of a BJP legislator in the state, and the video is supposedly several months old. In response, the police arrested the man. On July 5, local authorities demolished the house of the accused, alleging it had been “constructed illegally”.
• On July 6, Hindu supremacists reportedly assaulted two Muslims students, who were accompanying their friend, a female Hindu, to watch a movie in Karnataka state. The police filed a case against the attackers, and the Chief Minister of the state condemned acts of moral policing.
• On July 8, Hindu supremacists in Rajasthan state assaulted a young Muslim man and forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Hindu God Ram), as he was going to buy groceries. Police arrested three men in connection with the incident.
• On July 11, Hindu supremacists vandalised, turned over and set on fire the car of a Muslim couple.
• On July 13, an upper-caste man attacked a student from the Dalit (untouchable) caste who had urinated in his field. The upper-caste man also forced the Dalit student to manually remove his excreta, which is a crime under the Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes Prevention of Atrocities act.
• On July 16, police arrested three persons for gangraping a minor Dalit (untouchable) girl in front of her boyfriend in Rajasthan state. The police claimed that the accused are campaigning for the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, which is the ideological parent of Narendra Modi’s BJP.
• On July 21, an upper-caste man in Madhya Pradesh state reportedly smeared faeces on the face and body of a Dalit (untouchable) man. The victim initially reported the incident to a local council, but was fined Rs 600 (approx. 6 Euros). When he filed a police complaint, the police detained the accused.
• On July 23, approximately 30 Hindu supremacists reportedly attacked a Christian pastor and his family as they were getting ready to begin Sunday worship. The family was injured, and police reportedly held the pastor and his wife for 24 hours for forced conversions.
• On July 25, a mob beat a man to death on suspicion of cattle theft in North-Eastern Assam state. Police who intervened were injured and required treatment in hospital.
• On July 26, two young men reportedly stripped and beat a Dalit (untouchable) woman and tied her to a tree, where she remained overnight.
• On July 27, two men working for the trust managing a known Hindu temple in Madhya Pradesh state reportedly raped a 12-year-old girl. The two men were arrested.
• On July 28, four unidentified men reportedly attacked and attempted to rape a Muslim physiotherapist on her way home from work in Madhya Pradesh state. A woman neighbour reportedly came and supported the attackers.
• In mid-July, a middle-aged man reportedly raped a 5-year-old Muslim girl in Uttar Pradesh state and left her in a field.
India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, and India does not have a refugee law or policy. State governments have been conducting a drive against “illegal immigrants” on orders of the Central government:
• On July 12, news reported that the Manipur police detained ten people from Myanmar for illegally entering India without valid documents. It is not clear whether they are Rohingya refugees or whether they fled the coup. They have been undergoing treatment at Churachandpur district hospital for bullet injuries. Officials confirmed that the bullet injuries are not related to the violence in Manipur, but likely came from the Indian Armed Forces.
• On July 18, Jammu and Kashmir authorities allegedly shot and tear-gassed a group of more than 200 Rohingya refugees, resulting in several people being injured. Among the Rohingya were pregnant women, disabled persons, and sick and elderly persons who required urgent care and attention. On July 20, a one-month-old baby subsequently died at a refugee “holding centre”, and her parents attended her burial in handcuffs according to photos.
• On July 22 and 23, 718 Myanmaris, including 301 children, reportedly fled to India due to the ongoing unrest in Myanmar. The Manipur government ordered the paramilitary Assam Rifles to “push them back”.
• On July 24, the Uttar Pradesh state Anti-Terror Squad detained 74 Rohingya refugees, among them 5 minors, according to its official statement.
• On July 25, the Uttar Pradesh police estimated that 9000 Rohingya refugees live in Uttar Pradesh state. Police have been asked to send these details to the state government in order to start deportation.
Evictions and demolitions
• On July 17, a woman was killed during violence following an eviction in Assam, north East India. She was killed by gunshots during “retaliatory firing”. Five months before, 2000 people had been evicted by the forest department, which bulldozed their homes.
• On July 19, the district administration in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh state, demolished the home of a Muslim man, as it was allegedly a “dangerous building”. The demolition was accompanied by people banging drums and playing music. The demolition notice, issued the day before, was reportedly only pasted outside the home half an hour before the demolition. On July 17, the man had also reportedly spit on Hindus at a procession, causing outcry.
• From July 22, 210 poor families in North Eastern Assam state received eviction notifications by the forest department, ordering them to vacate their homes within 15 days. The forest department alleges the villagers are “encroaching” on forest land. Evictions due to alleged encroachment are increasing in India, and residents rarely receive sufficient time to prove their case before bulldozers arrive.
Internet and technology
• On June 30, a court in southern India dismissed a lawsuit brought by Twitter that challenged broad censorship orders issued by Indian authorities. Twitter had filed the lawsuit in July 2022 after receiving orders from Indian officials between February 2021 and February 2022 to remove more than 1,400 accounts on the grounds that they undermined India’s “sovereignty and integrity.” In dismissing the lawsuit, the judge noted that “many of [the accounts] have outrageous content; many are treacherous & anti-national.”
• On 13-14 July, Nneena Nwakanma called on India to “stop shutting down the internet anytime” at a G20 conference on “Crime and Security in the Age of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Metaverse”, where she was a panellist.
• On July 13, the central government reportedly cleared amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, to allow commercial mining of 6 critical minerals: lithium, beryllium, titanium, niobium, tantalum and zirconium. Previously, private companies were not allowed to mine these minerals. The amended law also allows pitting, trenching and sub-surface excavation, which were previously prohibited. Earlier this year, India announced it had discovered its first lithium deposits in the conflict region Jammu and Kashmir.
• On July 26, the Parliament passed the controversial Forest Conversation (Amendment) Bill. On July 13, more than 100 former civil servants had written to all members of parliament in India expressing their concern with the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023. They said they were worried both by the contents of the Bill, which redefines a “forest”, and the process being followed in passing it, as objections by stakeholders did not lead to amendments. The Bill passed without discussion.
India in the World
• From 11-12 June, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, was in Varanasi, India, to participate in the G20 Development Ministers meeting. She took part in the official session on ‘Multilateralism – Collective Actions for Acceleration Progress towards SDGs’ and ‘Green Development – a LiFE approach’.
• On June 13, at a Civil Society Dialogue with Sabine Weyand of DG TRADE, Weyand noted that India is a “difficult” partner during the ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement. Asked about human rights concerns, Weyand argued that geopolitical imperatives require the conclusion of an agreement, including compromises.
• On June 16, at a Civil Society Dialogue on the human rights and sustainability impact assessment of the EU-India trade agreement, civil society raised concerns regarding repression of civic spaces and human rights issues. Additionally, the preliminary assessment predicts an increase in production in sectors that cause high water pollution and foresees an increase in CO2 emissions.
• From 19-23 June 2023, the EU and India met for their fifth round of negotiations for trade and investment agreements in Delhi. Indian civil society actors report that the minutes of civil society consultations by India are confidential. In a joint statement, more than 130 Indian actors expressed concern at the lack of transparency and non-inclusive consultation processes adopted by India in its FTA negotiations. EU and Indian citizens called on them to take human rights and democratic values seriously in a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #SellGoodsNotValues.
• A new The Guardian investigation shows that since 2021, senior Indian officials have held at least four meetings to discuss India’s global democracy rankings, which widely do not consider India a democracy. Meeting minutes suggest that India’s Prime Minister Modi is concerned about the reputation of India’s democracy abroad.
• According to a recent YouGov poll conducted prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US, 4 out of 5 Indians are concerned regarding the state of their democracy. The YouGov poll was commissioned by Friends of Democracy, a new network of citizens devoted to protecting and promoting democracy globally.
• On June 27, the United Nations Secretary-General published its report on children and armed conflict, and for the first time since 2010 did not name India as a country with recruitment of children by armed groups. The report said India has been “removed from the report in 2023” in view of measures taken by the government to “better protect children”.
PM Modi’s visit to the United States
• On June 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for a three-day state visit to the United States. India and the US agreed to a cooperation roadmap for defense industries, aiming to enhance collaboration in co-production, co-development, and supply chain management, bolstering trade and investment relations, technology sectors such as telecommunications, space, and manufacturing.
• On June 26, former President Barack Obama expressed concern in an interview about human rights violations in India under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership. He said that if a US president meets with Modi, “then protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India, that is something worth mentioning.” He also said: “By the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility that India, at some point, starts pulling apart.”
• The visit was met with widespread criticism from civil society and US legislators. In a joint effort, U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led a letter signed by over 70 congresspersons across both chambers of Congress. The letter appeals to President Biden to prioritize discussions on safeguarding human rights and upholding democratic values in India. Bernie Sanders urged President Biden in a tweet to raise human rights concerns.
• On June 20, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organized a screening of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question”, which is banned in India. The documentary screening took place before Modi attended a state dinner and addressed a joint session of Congress during his visit.
• On June 23, three Congresspersons and the USCIRF Commissioner held a briefing on India, which addressed growing authoritarian rule and human rights abuses in India.
• Several Congresspersons announced their decisions on Twitter to boycott Prime Minister Modi’s address to Congress.
• A journalist with the Wall Street Journal has faced harassment online, including from the ruling BJP’s communications head Amit Malviya, after she posed a question on minority rights to Modi during a joint press conference in the US. The White House spoke out in support of the journalist.
• Over a dozen Indian diaspora groups, community advocates and organizations staged a National Teach-In on June 13, and hundreds attended a protest against human rights violations in India outside the White House.
• For a more extensive list of civil society efforts around Modi’s US visit, see this resource.
Communal Violence and Riots
• After more than a month of ongoing violence in Manipur, the death toll has risen to over 100, and incidents of firings continue to occur in various regions of the state. On May 4, violent clashes erupted between tribals and non-tribals in multiple locations across the northeastern state of Manipur, and the government imposed a blanket internet shutdown that continues to date. Prime Minister Modi has not spoken on the violence, while expelled opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on June 29 traveled to Manipur, but police stopped his convoy.
• On June 19, protests erupted in various cities due to a controversy surrounding the movie “Adipurush”. It adapts a Hindu mythology, the Ramayana, and criticism concerns the portrayal of certain characters from the mythological epic.
• On June 25, Hindu supremacist groups in the state of Himachal Pradesh held a rally in which they engaged in hate speech and incitement to violence. Examples include “When Muslims get chopped, they will cry Ram Ram” (a Hindu God), and demands for social boycott and expulsion from the state.
• On June 25, different religious communities held a rally in Maharashtra in support of inter-faith harmony.
• On June 27, one person from a political party died in reported clashes between political opponents from the BJP and the TMC in West Bengal. Since June 9, when nominations for local polls began, 11 people have died due to political violence.
Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society
• On June 5, Malini Parthasarathy, journalist and former chairperson of The Hindu Group Publishing, announced her resignation via a tweet. She cited a diminishing “space and scope” within the publication for her “editorial views” as the reason for her departure.
• On June 13, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the foreign funding license of CARE India due to alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. CARE India, a non-governmental organization and a member of the CARE International Confederation, has been actively involved in combating poverty and promoting social inclusion for the past 70 years.
• On June 14, the Ministry of Home Affairs revoked the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license of the Centre for Equity Studies, an organization affiliated with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Harsh Mander, for a period of 180 days. The ministry cited as a reason that Harsh Mander and colleagues have consistently contributed columns to prominent newspapers. Amnesty India stated that this cancellation “is an alarming reminder of the wide, arbitrary, and overly broad power FCRA provides the Indian government in restricting the legitimate work of NGOs”.
• On 5 June, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released an opinion urging the Indian authorities to immediately release human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who has been held in arbitrary detention since November 22, 2021.
• Renowned author Salman Rushdie has been awarded the German Peace Prize. The jury highlighted Rushdie as a “passionate defender of freedom of thought and expression”.
Hate Crimes and Attacks against Minorities
• After receiving eviction notices pasted on their homes and businesses, approximately twelve Muslim families were forced to leave Purola, located in Uttarakhand state in northern India. The threats were primarily issued by two Hindu supremacist organizations, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal. Hindu supremacists ordered Muslims to leave town before June 15. Hindu supremacist groups organized several rallies demanding the expulsion of Muslims from the area. Additionally, some Muslim shops were reportedly vandalized and signboards bearing Muslim names were removed, forcing most Muslim-owned businesses in Purola to close down. At least three abandoned homes of Muslims have now been put up for sale.
• The state of Uttarakhand responded to a petition filed by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) seeking to prevent a Hindu supremacist gathering, and denied permission to the gathering. The gathering was planned for June 15, in the context of the ongoing eviction notices towards Muslim families. The gathering was called in response to an alleged incident on May 26, where two individuals, among them one Muslim, were accused of attempting to abduct a 14-year-old Hindu girl. Minority groups and NGOs have expressed concerns that the proposed gathering specifically targets individuals from a particular community and could potentially escalate tensions, leading to a further decline in peace within the state.
• On June 8, a Muslim man was lynched and another injured after they were assaulted by a Hindu supremacist group in Maharashtra state. The police alleged that the perpetrators were associated with the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, and arrested six persons in the case.
• On June 14, a Dalit man was attacked by Hindu supremacists from an upper caste, in an instance of caste-based violence. The Dalit man had tried to stop the Hindu supremacists from felling a tree on his property. He reported that the attackers tried to chop off his private parts, injuring them, and attacked his pregnant wife.
• On June 14, a 28-year-old Muslim man was reportedly assaulted after being accused of mobile phone theft in Uttar Pradesh. He was reportedly tied to a tree, physically assaulted, had his head forcibly shaved, and was coerced into chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ (hail Lord Ram). The police initially arrested the victim, claiming to have found a knife in his possession, while taking no action against the perpetrators despite video recordings of the incident.
• On June 17, an estimated 500 Hindu supremacists tortured and publicly humiliated two Muslim men in Orissa state, binding them with ropes, stripping them, parading them through piles of garbage, shaving their beards, and filming the torture over suspicions of them carrying cattle meat.
• On June 24, a Muslim man was reportedly beaten to death on his birthday, and another severely injured by Hindu supremacists in Maharashtra state. They were traveling in a car and were accused of transporting beef. While police arrested 11 accused, they also charged the two Muslim men under the cow protection law.
• At a briefing on June 26 for European Parliament representatives, former ICC Prosecutor Dr Fatou Bensouda, former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp, human rights defender Cedric Prakash, and President of the PUCL Kavita Srivastava warned that there is credible evidence of crimes under international law committed against religious minorities in India. As Prime Minister Modi is expected to visit Europe next month, they called for immediate action at the highest level.
• On June 27, Hindu supremacists with the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) tore down the wall of an under-construction church near Kanpur and wrote “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) on the walls. Police filed a case but has not made arrests despite CCTV footage.
• On June 28, a Muslim truck driver was beaten to death by Hindu supremacists, who accused him of transporting beef.
• On June 29, during the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, a mob of an estimated 200 people reportedly attacked a Muslim family in Mumbai that was transporting a goat in accordance with the traditions of the holiday.
Action by State Actors
• On June 20, four people, including a lawmaker from the ruling BJP, allegedly set on fire a mosque in Alwar, Rajasthan. They were later arrested.
• On June 23, after former US President Barack Obama expressed concern about religious minorities in India, the Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma posted on Twitter that “there are many Hussain Obama [sic.] in India itself. We should prioritize taking care of them.”
• On June 24, Indian military personnel reportedly entered a mosque in Kashmir during prayers and forced Muslims to chant “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), a Hindu religious slogan that has been turned into a warcry by Hindu supremacists.
• On June 25, BJP leader and a former deputy chief minister of Karnataka state at a party gathering called for mosques to be demolished to make way for the construction of temples.
• On June 27, the Hindu supremacist Chief Minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, claimed that an “international syndicate” is operating in India to illegally convert people to other religions.
• On June 27, the Karnataka police filed a case against the head of the ruling party BJP’s communications (IT cell) head, Amit Malviya, over a video reportedly spreading disinformation on opposition leader Rahul Gandhi. Malviya is accused of “conspiring to create enmity among voters”.
• According to a new research paper, the degree of segregation experienced by Muslim and Scheduled Caste communities in Indian cities is comparable to the segregation issues faced by Black and White racialized populations in the United States.
• On June 9, a Muslim family alleged that railway staff subjected them to Islamophobic treatment during a train journey. Two railway staff members reportedly inquired about her religion. Once the family confirmed being Muslim, the woman alleged her family was served unsanitary food. The personnel reportedly admitted the food was retrieved from the garbage.
• On June 10, Hapur police arrested a man for allegedly offering namaz (Muslim prayer) on the premises of a Hindu temple. Members of Bajrang Dal alleged that the incident was a “conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony in the region”. Despite no evidence of the man offering namaz, the police arrested him based on footage of where he is seen entering and leaving the temple.
• While on an official state visit in the US, Prime Minister Modi during a joint press conference denied religious discrimination in India, and referred to constitutional safeguards for religious and ethnic minorities.
• On June 27, a Catholic school in a central Indian state was reportedly forced to hold online classes after police claimed ownership of the approach road and blocked it overnight and prevented entry of students.
• On June 26, the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad issued a warning to hotels in the city of Ahmedabad, warning them of consequences if they gave rooms to interfaith couples.
• On June 28, the administration in the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir prohibited prayers from taking place in the largest mosque, Jama Masjid, on the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Police in the state of Uttarakhand told local Muslims to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha in another town, 40km away.
• On June 15, fourteen individuals were arrested in a town on the Indo-Bangladesh border, for attempting to cross the border to India. Among them were four Rohingya refugees, including two infants. A report by the Border Security Force (BSF) revealed that at least 59 Rohingyas were arrested in Tripura in 2022 alone. Additionally, India regularly engages in illegal pushbacks of Rohingya refugees.
• On June 15, Karnataka’s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister announced that the new Congress government will repeal amendments to the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 introduced by the previous BJP government. The bill prohibits the act of converting from one religion to another through misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement, or marriage. The Minister also took decisions on changes made by the BJP in school textbooks, and said it would remove lessons on the founder of the Hindu supremacist RSS and Hindu supremacist ideologue Savarkar.
• In the week of June 19, the Election Commission proposed a change to the election constituencies in the state of Assam. Some Muslims in the region fear that the proposed change will divide voters on religious lines and that sitting legislators will lose their seats. Protests erupted and several protestors were detained.
• On June 10, a Delhi Court acquitted a Muslim man of rioting in the 2020 Delhi Riots, targeted religious violence which killed at least 53. The court noted that the police had “falsely” cited the complainant as a witness, and questioned the failure to stop the riots by the police.
Media and Technology
• During a statement on June 9, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, emphasized that while Artificial Intelligence (AI) is disruptive, it is unlikely to pose an immediate threat to the job sector. Chandrasekhar further mentioned that India intends to regulate AI by focusing on potential harm to users. He stated that the government plans to introduce regulations for online gaming, which will be based on three core principles: preventing harm, addressing addiction, and tackling betting practices, all with the aim of safeguarding digital citizens.
• On June 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company creating ChatGPT. The conversation covered a range of topics related to AI, including the importance of global regulation in this field.
• During an interview on June 12, Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, alleged that the Indian government had issued threats of shutting down the platform in the country because Twitter did not comply with its orders to take down content. Dorsey claimed that Twitter received numerous requests from the Indian government to block accounts related to farmers’ protests and posts critical of the government. He further stated that the Indian government had threatened Twitter with threats of raids at its employees’ homes in the country.
• On June 12, reports emerged that a bot on the messaging platform Telegram was allegedly leaking sensitive information about politicians, bureaucrats, and other individuals from the CoWIN portal, India’s Covid-19 vaccination tracking platform. A special unit of the Delhi Police arrested a man for allegedly leaking the data.
• On June 14, an Indian court ordered a temporary halt to broadcasting the AlJazeera documentary “India… Who Lit the Fuse?” investigating hate crimes by Hindu supremacist groups against Muslims. The court stated that broadcasting the movie could lead to “evil consequences”.
• On June 14, Human Rights Watch published a report that revealed that internet shutdowns in India have a disproportionate impact on poor communities who rely on the government’s social protection measures for sustenance and livelihood. Since 2018, India has imposed the most internet shutdowns worldwide. A mid-year report by AccessNow finds that India has imposed a total of 33 internet shutdowns already in 2023. Although many of these shutdowns continue to be implemented at a local or even neighborhood level in response to religious anniversaries, protests, and communal violence, authorities have also imposed sweeping state-wide shutdowns and extended shutdowns across the entire country.
India in the World
• A new investigation shows that the Modi government reportedly widely distributed fortified rice before fully understanding its impact on human health. This reportedly provided a Dutch company with significant profits. Despite concerns raised by the finance ministry dismissing the project as “premature”, the government proceeded with its plan.
• According to government and industry sources, India intends to submit a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concerning the European Union’s proposal to impose tariffs ranging from 20% to 35% on imports of high-carbon goods, such as steel, iron ore, and cement from India. With this, New Delhi aims to combat the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).
• On May 15, Fernand de Varennes, the UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, issued a statement saying the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy” whilst human rights violations are ongoing in Kashmir. China and Saudi Arabia boycotted a G20 meeting held in Kashmir. Civil society actors also called for a boycott, citing human rights concerns.
• On May 16, the European Union’s foreign and security policy chief, Josep Borrell, called on the EU to crack down on India for reselling fuels produced with Russian oil.
• From May 19-21, Prime Minister Modi attended the G7 Summit in Japan to reportedly represent “the voice of the global south”. Important agenda points included the impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine, but India chose not to explicitly condemn the invasion.
• On May 22, a 19-year-old Indian-origin man crashed a truck into security barriers near the White House in the United States. The driver told the authorities he would kill the president and expressed personal admiration for Hitler. He was detained and convicted afterward.
• On May 24, human rights groups, including Amnesty International, organised a screening of the BBC documentary, ‘India: The Modi Question’ at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra during PM Modi’s Australia visit. The documentary, which was released in January this year, examines responsibility for riots in Gujarat, India in 2002, in which at least 1044 people died, and reports partial responsibility of India’s current Prime Minister Modi.
• On May 25, the European Commission’s Climate Policy Chief, Frans Timmermans, began his two-day visit to India. Frans Timmermans engaged in discussions with government officials, stakeholders, and civil society regarding the upcoming COP28 UN Climate Change conference.
• On May 25, EU Special Representative Eamon Gilmore met with HRD Avinash Kumar to discuss mounting human rights challenges in India, including the situation of minorities.
• Global labor unions condemned the Indian government’s decision to disrupt the participation of independent unions at the G20. The Indian government has insisted on the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated with Prime Minister Modi’s ruling party and known for its Hindu nationalist stance, chairing the Labour 20 working group.
• The United States urged India to condemn religious violence one month ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. The US has expressed concerns about incidents of violence against religious minorities in India.
• India is shifting its focus from being a major arms importer, to becoming a defense manufacturing hub and export leader. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced plans for India to become the world’s largest defense manufacturing base. The government aims to increase defense exports by $5 billion over the next two years. India’s defense exports have reached a record high of approximately $1.95 billion for the fiscal year 2021-2022, marking an increase of more than 10 times in six years and sales to over 70 countries.
• For the second time, the re-accreditation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India has been postponed by a UN-affiliated agency for a year. The re-accreditation process occurs once every five years. Without this accreditation, the NHRC will be unable to represent India at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Communal Violence and Riots
Violent clashes on May 4 erupted between tribals and non-tribals in multiple locations across the northeastern state of Manipur:
• These clashes come after a longstanding ethnic conflict between the Meitei (mostly Hindu) and the Kuki (mostly Christian) over special protections under the constitution. There have also been concerns about a rise of Meitei nationalism, and an increase in militant groups, coinciding with the BJP assuming power in Manipur in 2017. The Manipur High Court on 20 April directed the Manipur government to consider the request of the Meitei community to include them in the Scheduled Tribe category.
• In response, the state government imposed a curfew, shut down internet services, and issued “shoot-on-sight” orders on May 4 to enforce the curfew. The Indian Army deployed an estimated 10,000 troops and paramilitary forces.
• It is reported that more than 80 people have been killed and at least 35 000 have been displaced (according to the Chief Minister) in this violence. At least 250 churches have been reportedly burned. Within the first four days, at least 1700 homes were destroyed.
• The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement that the violence in Manipur “revealed the underlying tensions between different ethnic and indigenous groups”. He urged the authorities to “respond to the situation quickly, including by investigating and addressing root causes of the violence in line with their international human rights obligations”.
On May 5, the controversial movie “The Kerala Story” was released in theatres:
• The film allegedly depicts the conversion of women from Kerala to Islam and their recruitment by the Islamic State. Initially, the filmmakers asserted that 32,000 women from Kerala had been converted to join the Islamic State. However, when pressed for evidence, they modified the trailer, now stating that the movie is a “compilation of the true stories of three young girls”.
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi argued that the film revealed a “terror conspiracy” and shed light on the “ugly truth of terrorism”.
• Movie screenings of “The Kerala Story” have been used by the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to recruit people, such as in this video which records VHP getting the audience to make an oath to take action.
• On May 8, the West Bengal government banned the screening of the movie. On May 18, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the West Bengal government’s ban, after the Kerala government approached the Supreme Court challenging the ban. Two state governments, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have made the film tax-free.
• On May 13, a heated argument on social media regarding the film escalated into violent clashes in Akola, Maharashtra. One group threw stones and caused damage to properties and vehicles. The violence resulted in the death of a 40-year-old man and left eight others severely injured. The local police responded by arresting around 147 individuals, implementing curfews, and suspending Internet services.
Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society
• In May, a new report published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre documented that India, Brazil, and Mexico had the highest number of attacks against human rights defenders. Next to the United Arab Emirates, India also had the highest number of attacks related to companies, such as JSW Steel, a prominent Indian steel and coal manufacturer.
• On May 3, independent journalist Sakshi Joshi was assaulted by police. According to Joshi, she was trying to capture footage of the police deployment at a protest organized by women wrestlers against alleged sexual harassment. Joshi was detained for approximately an hour and released without any charges.
• On May 3, India dropped to rank 161/180 in the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders (RIF). Between 2010-2020, 154 journalists were arrested, detained, interrogated, or harassed for their work in India.
• On May 6, 75-year-old human rights activist and lawyer, Mohammad Shoaib, renowned for taking up the cases of individuals falsely accused of terrorism, has allegedly been arrested by the anti-terror squad of Uttar Pradesh police.
• Teesta Setalvad, journalist and HRD, was awarded the PEN international ‘Empty Chair’ award at the 55th International Writers for Peace Committee Meeting in Bled, Slovenia.
• On May 12, sixteen human rights organizations issued a joint appeal to the Indian authorities, urging them to immediately cease the retaliatory actions taken against human rights defenders and organizations in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly targeting individuals such as Khurram Parvez, Irfan Mehraj, and the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Khurram Parvez has been subjected to arbitrary detention since 22nd November 2021 as a punitive measure for his dedicated human rights activities, which involve documenting and advocating for the rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
• After the BBC documentary ban and the office raid, the BBC has now been summoned by the court in a defamation case on 22 May.
Hate Crimes against Minorities
• On May 4, a 24-year-old Dalit groom and others were allegedly physically assaulted during a wedding procession. A group of 20-25 reportedly upper caste individuals, reportedly attacked the groom armed with sticks and iron rods. The groom’s mother-in-law reported that Dalit women who intervened were molested.
• On May 17, a Delhi-based cow vigilante group reportedly stormed a slaughterhouse and assaulted two Muslim men. Cow vigilante groups have been accused of increasingly cracking down on cow slaughter through violence, often resulting in assaults and lynchings of Muslims. Several similar incidents took place across May.
• On May 19, a man from Rajasthan was allegedly beaten to death by his wife’s family due to their interfaith marriage. Three members of the wife’s family have been arrested and sent to judicial custody.
• On May 25, a Muslim man was reportedly beaten by a mob in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, who stopped him on the pretext of asking for directions. Locals claim he was targeted because of his faith.
• During May, there were three separate instances of events where speakers delivered anti-muslim speeches in Maharashtra alone. One of these events was attended by Shrikant Shinde, a Member of Parliament from the Shiv Sena party and the son of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. During two of the rallies, it was noted that at least one speaker made references to weapons.
• Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Uttarakhand, Yashpal Benam, has decided to stop his Hindu daughter’s marriage to a Muslim man due to “current circumstances”. Following the circulation of the wedding invitation online, groups associated with the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal organized a protest against the inter-faith marriage.
• During May, several Hindu supremacist groups reportedly organised weapons training, such as the Durga for minor girls in Madhya Pradesh.
• The Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, a group led by Hindu supremacist Pravin Tagodia, reportedly organised a training camp for youth in Ahmedabad, in which firearms training was held. In several places, the Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal (“God Hanuman’s army”) reportedly held camps in which they also practiced using firearms. This came after the Bajrang Dal and other Hindu supremacist groups are increasingly holding street marches with weapons.
• On television, recorded in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, Bajrang Muni called on Hindus to pick up weapons. Bajrang Muni is a Hindu religious leader who is known for having threatened to rape Muslim girls in retaliation for harassment of Hindu girls. Similarly, television personality Suresh Chavhanke, whose hate speech is extensively documented in this report by The London Story, again called for Hindus to keep swords ready. Similar incidents took place across May.
• The province president of the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Kapil Khanna, threatened that Rohingya refugees will not be allowed to live in Delhi. India continues to deport Rohingya to Myanmar. Amit Shah has a consistently hostile approach to refugees, as is visible when he referred to Rohingya as being “termites” in 2019.
• In Nawagarh, Chattisgarh, Hindu supremacist groups reportedly organized a mass rally against the opening of a church in the village.
• Hindu supremacist leader Sadhvi Prachi engaged in hate speech against Muslims at a movie screening of the Kerala Story, and was subsequently charged with “delivering provocative speech”.
Demolitions and Evictions
• At least 1,600 homes have been forcibly demolished in India’s capital over three months, which has left approximately 260,000 people homeless. Demolition squads frequently served notices as they carried out the four destructions. Additionally, Delhi demolished homeless shelters. This is in the context of a “beautification” plan for Delhi, as it prepares for G20 summit meetings scheduled on 9 and 10 September. These incidents follow a surge in demolitions that violate due process across India, colloquially called “bulldozer raj”, including in Kashmir, Delhi, and across the country. In June 2022, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs condemned the demolitions across India, which they allege deliberately target Muslims through “collective punishment”.
• On May 3, an order from the Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) revealed that Myanmar refugees had been detained in Manipur’s state jails for longer than the prescribed detention period. The MHRC has instructed their release and urged the state government to address the issue with the Union Home Minister for their immediate deportation to Myanmar.
• On May 10, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lost the elections in the state of Karnataka, a key stronghold for the BJP. The defeat is seen as a significant setback for Modi and raises questions about his ability to secure a third term as prime minister in the upcoming national elections in 2024.
• On May 15, police raided a house where Christian community members were holding a prayer in Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh. Latest reports suggest police have confiscated their religious books and launched an investigation into allegations of religious conversions.
• On May 16, the Chief Minister of Assam announced that 300 more madrassas (Muslim religious schools) will be closed, which may be in violation of the freedom of religion enshrined in India’s constitution.
• On May 20, the Central Government issued an ordinance to strip Delhi’s power to control bureaucracy. This violates a ruling from the Supreme Court given on May 11. The constitution bench determined that the legislature has authority over bureaucrats in the administration of services, except in areas that fall outside the legislative powers of the National Capital Territory (NCT). The three areas outside the control of the Delhi government are public order, police, and land.
• On May 23, the Academic Council (AC) of Delhi University approved several modifications to the syllabi, one of which involved the removal of a Muslim poet from the BA political science syllabus. This revisionism comes against a larger trend. In 2022, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) of India conducted a textbook “rationalisation” exercise. In this, it reportedly deleted several passages and even entire chapters that concern controversial historical events, and education on democracy. For instance, the entire chapter “Key Elements of a Democratic Government” was omitted in one textbook. India also cut out periodic tables and evolutionary theories from textbooks last month. Both will not be taught anymore to under 16-year-olds.
• On May 25, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building in Delhi amidst major criticism. Earlier this week, 20 opposition parties decided to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building, demanding that President Draupadi Murmu, rather than PM Modi, conduct the ceremony.
• On May 28, several prominent female wrestlers and supporters were violently detained by the police. This incident unfolded as a culmination of the ongoing protests against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they accuse of sexual harassment. It was reported that officers “forcefully dragged and detained” the protesters.
• An article published on May 29 shows that according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-21 carried out by the Ministry of Education, while the enrolment rates of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in higher education witnessed improvements, there was a decline by 8% in the enrolment of the Muslim community. This is reported to be partially influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the economic challenges faced by the community, because many students are compelled to seek employment after completing school rather than pursuing higher education.
• On May 24, a Delhi court sentenced Kashmiri separatist leader and the chief of the banned Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Yasin Malik, to life imprisonment in a case related to terror funding. The National Investigative Agency (NIA) had previously sought the death penalty for Malik after he pleaded guilty to charges connected to terror funding, spreading terrorism, and engaging in secessionist activities in Kashmir back in 2017.
Media and Technology
• On the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Indian government has to blocked 14 mobile applications, including the secure messaging app Threema. Central intelligence agencies claimed they were being used by terrorists and their supporters in Jammu and Kashmir.
India in the World
• On April 4, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s General Secretariat expressed profound concern over the incidents of violence and destruction perpetrated against the Muslim community in multiple Indian states during the Ram Navami processions.
• On April 6, the Indian government condemned the recent vandalism of a Hindu temple in Canada‘s Ontario province with “anti-Hindu and anti-India graffiti” and has called for action against the perpetrators. Local authorities launched an investigation into the matter and described the vandalism as a “hate-motivated incident”.
• On April 12, a coalition of 10 NGOs published a joint statement on human rights concerns in the EU-India Free Trade Agreement, urging the EU and India to put strong commitments on TSD and all human rights at the core of their negotiations.
• On April 17, Russia announced they are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India to strengthen economic ties between the two countries and expand trade relations. Despite Western attempts to impose sanctions on Moscow and exclude Russia from global supply chains, trade between Russia and India has increased significantly since the invasion.
• On April 23 to 24, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen visited New Delhi where she met the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, and PM Narendra Modi. On April 24, Von der Leyen and Modi announced the recently launched joint Trade and Technology Council and reaffirmed commitment to negotiations for an EU-India Free Trade Agreement, an Investment Protection Agreement, and an Agreement on Geographical Indications.
Communal Violence and Riots
Human Rights Watch has said India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was using Hindu festivals “to rally voters, leading to an increase in violence”. Clashes and riots include:
• A recent communal clash on April 8 between Hindu and Muslim communities in Chhattisgarh left several people dead and injured. In response, a statewide shutdown was initiated by right-wing groups, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. Residents from Biranpur village have reported that tensions had been developing since January. This was allegedly due to a meeting held by members of the Sahu community, which urged Hindus to cut connections with the Muslim community and prevent interfaith marriages.
• On April 9, communal violence broke out in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, between members of Hindu and Muslim communities over the alleged desecration of a Hindu religious Ram Navami flag. As per the police, there was tension in the region since April 8 after a piece of meat was found wrapped in the flag. The incident led to the imposition of an internet shutdown and a prohibition of gathering more than four people in a public place. Muslim leaders have alleged that members of Hindu supremacist organizations and the Jharkhand police targeted Muslims and their properties during the outbreak.
• According to an officer, the Delhi Police denied permission to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu supremacist organizations to carry out a “Hanuman Jayanti” (birthday of God Hanuman) procession in Jahangirpuri on April 6. During the processions last year, communal violence broke out that left nine people injured.
Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society
• On April 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into Oxfam India for alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which led to a raid of Oxfam’s office in Delhi on April 19. The ministry alleged that Oxfam India continued to transfer foreign contributions to different entities in violation of the FCRA. Oxfam India is the second NGO to be recommended for a CBI inquiry for FCRA violations by the Home Ministry in a month, with the first being Aman Biradari, an NGO founded by human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Harsh Mander.
• The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a case against environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta and his non-profit organization, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The CBI has claimed that LIFE was receiving foreign funds from non-profits based in the US with the intention of “targeting and stalling” coal projects in India.
• On April 19, the Supreme Court of India overturned the Bombay High Court’s order acquitting former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba. In 2014, Saibaba was arrested for his alleged involvement in terrorism, which the initial acquittal order concluded was “bad in law and invalid”. Saibaba is wheelchair-bound and considered 90% disabled.
Hate Crimes against Minorities and Extrajudicial Killings
• On April 4, a delegation of Muslim leaders met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah to raise concerns about “violence committed against Indian Muslims” in the country, inter alia, during the Ram Navami processions. They requested Shah to “take stern action” against the culprits. Jamiat spokesperson Niaz Ahmad Farooqui said that Shah was “very positive” and that “he will take action on the matter”.
• On April 7, Adivasi people in the Bijapur district of Bastar, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were targeted by an aerial bomb attack. The bomb attack was carried out using drones. Immediately following the bombing, the government forces deployed three helicopters to discharge heavy machine gun fire on villagers. The attack on 7 April 2023 is the 4th such aerial attack in the past three years. Adivasis are indigenous people, who live in areas of India where mining for precious minerals takes place. The attacks are part of the ongoing Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar, a military policy against indigenous people who resist mining and environmental destruction.
• An online video has emerged allegedly depicting a 12-year-old boy from a minority community in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, being forced to chant religious slogans after being stripped. As a result, Indore police have filed a First Information Report against three minors who are accused of the act. The incident took place on April 12.
• A group of men in Barmer, Rajasthan beat a Dalit man to death with sticks, reportedly due to an old dispute over a piece of land.
• A Hindu supremacist mob tied a 20-year-old Muslim man to an electric pole and beat him to death over allegations of theft in a village near Ranchi, Jharkhand. Three men were arrested and the police reportedly have filed two First Information Reports; one for the man’s murder and another for attempted theft.
• A leader of the BJP youth wing, Shubhankar Dwivedi, has been charged by the Raipur police for allegedly posting hateful content on his social media page regarding communal violence in Biranpur village. He allegedly posted a video of a burning house with the caption ‘Relaxing anger in the heart of Bemetara’. The situation in the village has been tense since leaders of the Hindu supremacist Hindu Samaj called for a social boycott of Muslims who engage in interfaith marriages.
• Rajasthan police have arrested two of the eight suspects in the murder case of Junaid and Nasir. On February 14, the two Muslim men were allegedly kidnapped and burnt alive in Haryana by members of the Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal on the pretext of cow slaughter. A First Information Report has been registered against the accused.
• On April 12, four members of the Hindu supremacist group All India Hindu Mahasabha were arrested for filing a fake complaint against four Muslims for slaughtering a cow. Based on their complaint filed in Agra during Ram Navami festivities, a First Information Report was registered but the police investigation revealed the innocence of the four men. Rishi Trivedi, the state unit president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, claimed that implicating his group members is “[…] part of a conspiracy”.
• On April 15, two brothers, who are gangsters and former politicians, were shot dead on live TV while in police custody in the state of Uttar Pradesh. One of the three shooters shouted “Jai Shri Ram” (“Hail Lord Ram”) as he surrendered to police, a slogan that has become a war cry for Hindu supremacists. Uttar Pradesh has witnessed a disproportionate amount of extrajudicial killings since the ruling BJP came to power. Specialist international criminal lawyers have filed a formal submission for Magnitsky sanctions against the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, for his alleged role in extrajudicial killings.
• On April 22, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked more than 1,700 Muslims for offering “namaz” on the roads outside mosques in Kanpur on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr.
• During an interview held by the president of the US think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) in the US, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that widespread violence against Muslims is not taking place in India.
Demolitions and Evictions
• Three churches in Manipur, India, have been demolished by the administration for alleged illegal construction on government land.
• A Muslim man consumed poison along with his two children after administration officials informed him that his house would be demolished because it was allegedly built on government land. The man and one of his children died. The executive has been bulldozing houses without due process over the year.
• On April 7, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, announced in a video shared on Twitter that all illegal mazars (Islamic shrines) in the state will be demolished. “[…] No one should even think about encroaching on land here, let alone doing it […] We will not allow ‘land jihad’ because we trust in the law”, Dhami says in his speech.
• On April 9, a mob of about 15-20 men vandalized a mosque in Sonipat and attacked people offering prayers. At least nine people were injured and the police reportedly registered First Information Reports against 19 people.
• A school in Dehradun, India, was vandalized by protesters after Muslim students performed a play to celebrate Eid. Previously, parents and local organizations lodged a complaint with the Dehradun district administration, alleging that their children were forced to participate in Eid festivities and learn Urdu.
• On April 3, five alleged Maoists were killed in Jharkhand during a joint operation by the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force.
• In April, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) began implementing a school textbook “rationalisation” exercise, in which it reportedly deleted several passages and entire chapters. For instance, the entire chapter “Key Elements of a Democratic Government” was omitted in one textbook. Additional changes include the removal of references to the 2002 Gujarat riots, as well as of key passages about Muslim rule during the Mughal empire. Critics argue that erasing Muslim contributions from Indian history is a dangerous move.
• The Congress party accused the Modi government of targeting Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen following an eviction notice from Visva Bharati University, which demands that he vacate 13 decimals of land on the campus that is allegedly “illegally occupied”. The eviction order is, however, not a demolition order.
• On April 24, the Tamil Nadu government put on hold the Factories Amendment Bill 2020 which was passed on April 21 after facing opposition from trade unions. The bill includes provisions for extending the daily working hours of factory workers from 8 to 12 hours in the event that they choose to work a four-day week.
• India’s Ministry of Environment has stopped providing public access to information on projects affecting the environment, citing confidentiality and sensitivity. This move comes after the Ministry decided last September to only disclose information when sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
• On April 3, a court in Surat granted bail to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and suspended his sentence until the outcome of his appeal seeking a stay on his conviction in a defamation case related to his 2019 Modi surname remark. Gandhi was granted bail with a surety of Rs 15,000, and his request for a suspension of conviction will be heard by the court on April 13. The same court, however, has declined to stay the conviction, and Gandhi remains suspended as an MP.
• On April 11, the Supreme Court dismissed the objections of the Tamil Nadu government and upheld a ruling by the Madras High Court permitting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist organization associated with the BJP, to conduct route marches in the state. On March 3, the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court that certain restrictions shall be imposed on the ability of the RSS to hold marches in the state due to violent outbreaks.
• On April 13, a court in India acquitted all 13 police officers accused in the 2007 gang-rape case of 11 tribal women in Andhra Pradesh.
• On April 20, all the 67 accused in the “Naroda Gam” case, including BJP leader Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, were acquitted by the Gujarat High Court. On February 28, 2002, 11 Muslims were burnt to death in Naroda Gam during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
• On April 21, the Supreme Court of India granted bail to eight men convicted in the 2002 Godhra train burning case in which 59 people were burnt to death by a mob. Four other convicts were denied bail in view of their involvement in the case and the evidence found against them. Civil society actors express concern about the increasing trend of acquitting many of the accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
• On April 23, controversial self-styled preacher Amritpal Singh was arrested in Punjab under the National Security Act (NSA) after having been on the run for over a month. On February 23, armed supporters of Amritpal Singh stormed a police station in Punjab. Singh supports the Khalistan movement seeking to create a separate Sikh homeland.
• The Rajasthan High Court has ordered a stay on the arrest of yoga guru and businessman Baba Ramdev in connection with a case of hurting religious sentiments. On February 2, Ramdev made controversial remarks during a public gathering in which he accused Muslims of “resorting to terror” and “abducting Hindu women”. He furthermore alleged that both Christianity and Islam had no intent other than converting people.
Media and Technology
• Twitter has been accused of censorship in India after blocking more than 120 accounts in recent weeks, including those of activists, journalists, and politicians. The move came after the Indian Government introduced an internet shutdown in Punjab during the search for Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh, after which the government allegedly sent notices to Twitter requesting the removal of certain people from its platform. Twitter’s action drew criticism from free speech advocates who accused the platform of giving in to government pressure and cracking down on dissent.
• On April 8, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal criticized the Indian government’s recent amendments to the Information Technology rules, which allows the Ministry to appoint a fact-checking unit to determine whether online information related to the Central Government is accurate. All platforms are required to take down any news that has been flagged as “fake” by the Press Information Bureau’s appointed fact-checking unit. The unit has frequently faced criticism, and civil society expressed concerns about press freedom.
• The Indian government is reportedly in the process of procuring a new spyware system to replace the controversial Pegasus software and has allocated a budget of up to $120 million for the new contracts. The move comes in the wake of the Pegasus scandal, which had raised concerns about privacy violations and government surveillance.
India in the World
• On March 2, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that no joint communique was issued after the G20 Foreign ministers meeting in Delhi due to irreconcilable differences on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
• From March 1-4, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, visited New Delhi to attend the G20 Ministerial Meeting and the Raisina Forum. During his visit, Borrell had bilateral meetings with his counterparts from different countries to discuss regional and bilateral issues. Human rights organizations criticized his silence on human rights topics.
• On March 10, PM Modi expressed concern over several incidents of Hindu temple vandalism during a bilateral meeting with Australian PM Anthony Albanese. Modi reportedly did not bring up violence within the diaspora more generally. For example, in 2020, a member of the Indian diaspora was deported from Australia for a hate crime he committed against people of the Sikh faith.
• On March 17, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee chief Harjinder Singh Dhami raised the issue of human rights violations in India in front of different G20 delegates.
• On March 20, the US State Department released a report listing “significant human rights issues” occurring in India throughout 2022, including the targeting of religious minorities, dissenters, and journalists.
• On March 23, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with India, Morten Løkkegaard, welcomed Members from the Parliament of India for the 14th EU-India Inter-parliamentary Meeting (IPM). The agenda covered the G20 Presidency of India, trade, investment, green transition, and digital transformation.
• The 4th round of negotiations for the EU-India Free Trade Agreement took place. Insights from DG Trade and the chief negotiator Christophe Kiener suggest significant divergences across the board, including on labor, environmental, and human rights protections. These suggest that the concerns will not be able to conclude the agreement by the ambitious deadline before 2024.
• On March 29-30, the second Summit for Democracy was jointly hosted by the United States, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia. During the Summit, a declaration was drafted that reaffirms the leaders’ “commitments or obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights”. Whilst India endorsed it, they denoted a reservation or disassociation for Preambular Paragraph 3 (Rule of Law & Justice), Operative Paragraphs 4 (Military Accountability), and 14 (Business & Human Rights). Civil society organizations from India and their international allies urged the participating states to call on India to pledge to ensure constitutionally guaranteed democratic freedoms.
Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society
• On March 1, one of the leading public policy think tanks in India, the CPR, said it had been “intimated” by the Ministry of Home Affairs that its registration under the FCRA had been “suspended for a period of 180 days”. Following amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), there has been a decline of 40 percent in funding to NGOs in India between 2015 and 2018. The European Parliament called on the EU to “address the harmful effects of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) on civil society organisations”.
• On March 20, the Ministry of Home Affairs recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry against Aman Biradari, an NGO founded by human rights activist and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Harsh Mander, for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Between 2018 and 2022, the registration of 1,827 associations was reportedly canceled due to violations of the FCRA.
• On March 20, Kashmiri Journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under India’s counter-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for an alleged case of terror funding. Mehraj is the senior editor of twoCircles.net, a non-profit and digital news platform, and also the founding editor of Wande magazine.
• Khurram Parvez, who had already been in detention since November 2021 over terrorism allegations, was arrested for the second time on 22 March 2023 by India’s main counter-terrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency. He stands accused of funding terrorism under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act through his work with the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, called on India to immediately end its crackdown on Kashmiri human rights defenders.
Hate crimes against minorities
During March, xenophobic violence and discrimination continued to erode Indian civil society, with news of discrimination, mob violence, Islamophobic assaults, and killings. As the list of incidents is extensive, with several documented incidents a day, this list is illustrative and not comprehensive. For a more comprehensive list, see the documentation by HindutvaWatch.
• In March, 50 hate speech rallies against the Muslim community reportedly took place over 4 months in the state of Maharashtra alone. At almost all of these events, party leaders from the local BJP MLA and MP were present, and speakers called for an economic boycott and attacks against Muslims.
• On March 3, the Hindu supremacist leader of the Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP), Pravin Togadia, engaged in anti-Muslim hate speech. Statements recorded on video include: “We will control the state power, and we will decide what the police and army will do. Then we will not have to fight”.
• On March 4, members of the Hindu supremacist groups Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) targeted two churches in Kanpur accusing members of the Christian community of “forced religious conversions”. The police detained six people from the church, allegedly including minors. On March 5, another church in Kanpur was attacked by members of Bajrang Dal during prayers. The pastor and members of the church were taken into police custody but were later released.
• On March 7, Hindu supremacists beat a Muslim man to death in Chhapra.
• On March 7, members of Bajrang Dal and the cow vigilante group Gau Raksha Dal assaulted a Muslim man for allegedly transporting beef. On the same day, members of the Gau Raksha Dal assaulted another Muslim man over allegations of cow smuggling.
• On March 10, members of several Hindu supremacist organizations, including Bajrang Dal, protested in Jammu, claiming a murder of a woman to be a case of “love jihad”. Love Jihad is an Islamophobic conspiracy theory purporting that Muslim men target Hindu women for forced religious conversion.
• Hindu supremacist leader Radha Semwal Dhoni was invited to a Holi celebration organized by the far-right group Hindu Raksha Dal. She received a bouquet of flowers and was introduced as someone who has “demolished 370” Muslim shrines. It has been reported that Dhoni frequently indulges in hate crimes, such as demolishing shrines and harassing Christian NGO workers.
• On March 26, unidentifiable individuals entered a mosque in Anwa village, Maharashtra, and physically assaulted an Imam who had been leading a prayer. The attackers demanded that he chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (“Hail Hindu God Ram”), and beat him up upon his refusal.
• On March 29-30, communal violence broke out across several cities during processions for the Hindu holiday Ram Navami, leaving more than 20 people injured.
• An analysis of data submitted in the General Assembly revealed that 62.24% of those arrested in Assam’s crackdown on child marriages are Muslims. From February 3 on, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Assam launched a massive crackdown on “child marriages”, leading to the arrest of about 2,500 people and the filing of 4,074 cases.
• After posters with remarks critical of PM Modi were found in India’s capital, the Delhi Police registered 44 First Information Reports and arrested four persons on March 22. The four persons worked for example as drivers or in the printing press. At least 2,000 posters were reportedly removed and about 2,000 more were seized by the police.
• On March 22, actor Chetan Kumar was arrested by Karnataka police for criticizing the Hindu supremacist ideology in a tweet, following a complaint by a Hindu supremacist. Last February, Kumar was already arrested for tweeting against a judge who was hearing pleas against banning Muslim girls from wearing hijabs in schools.
• On March 25, one of the convicts who was granted remission in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case, Shailesh Bhatt, was present at an event by a state government. Officials claimed to have no knowledge of who invited him.
• The Karnataka state legislative assembly on March 1 passed an amendment to its labor laws, thereby increasing the previous limit of nine-hour shifts to 12 for four consecutive days before taking three days off and allowing women to work at night. According to an official, Karnataka modified its labor legislation following “extensive inputs” from multinational firms Foxconn and Apple.
• On March 2, the Supreme Court of India appointed an expert committee to investigate allegations made against the Adani Group, a major Indian conglomerate. On January 24, Hindenburg research found that the Indian conglomerate Adani Group has engaged in serious market manipulation and accounting fraud over the last decades.
• On March 3, the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court that certain restrictions shall be imposed on the ability of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organization associated with the BJP, to hold marches in the state. The speaker highlighted that there had been explosions in Coimbatore previously, and therefore, the state told the RSS to not march openly in such sensitive areas. On March 27, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on the plea of the Tamil Nadu government challenging the Madras High Court order allowing the RSS to hold rallies in the state.
• Seven Hindu men accused of killing two Muslim men during the Delhi riots in 2020 have been granted bail by a Delhi court, citing a lack of serious evidence against them. As per the police investigation report, the prime accused were members of a WhatsApp Hindu supremacist group called “Kattar Hindut Ekta”, formed by rioters the night before the killings. The charge sheet stated that group members bragged about “killing Muslims” and offered weapons.
• In the Hathras gang rape and murder case, three of the four accused were acquitted. One was sentenced to life imprisonment. The victim was a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped in September 2020 and later died of her injuries.
• On March 23, Rahul Gandhi, a member of India’s main opposition party, was convicted under India’s criminal defamation law for remarks made over PM Modi’s surname during an election campaign in 2019. The court sentenced him to 2 years in jail and imposed a fine of 15,000 Rs, leading to Gandhi’s disqualification from the Indian Parliament on March 24. Gandhi also recently criticized the Modi government during his speech at Cambridge University in London. During a press briefing on March 30, the German Foreign Ministry spokesperson took note of the case.
• On March 29, the Supreme Court of India stated that hate speech continues to occur due to the state’s inability to take effective action against it. The court made the remarks while hearing a plea by a Kerala journalist who sought contempt proceedings against Maharashtra Police for not acting to restrain hate speeches at rallies.
• The Rajasthan High Court has acquitted four Muslim men who were convicted and sentenced to death in 2019 in connection with the Jaipur bomb blast case. The Court stated that “apparent manipulations and fabrications have been done during the investigation”.
• New research shows that while India has a unique law that mandates companies to pay for reforestation if they are responsible for deforestation, the allocation of funds has been hindered by unused funds and the unsuitability of the land allocated. This has led to a lack of progress in meeting India’s reforestation and climate change goals.
Media and Technology
• The Indian government is reportedly planning to amend clause 17 in the new Data Protection Bill which would allow cross-border dataflow to all geographies by default but includes an official blacklist of countries where transfers would be restricted. Another expected change concerns excluding private entities from the provision of ‘deemed consent’ for processing personal data. Clause 8 of the original draft implies that if a user has willingly shared their data with an entity for a specific purpose, the entity may assume given consent for other related purposes.
• On 18 March, authorities in Punjab imposed an internet shutdown, leaving 30 million people without access. The shutdown was launched as an operation to search for Amritpal Singh, leader of the Khalistani separatist organization Waris Punjab De. Although the shutdown was lifted in most districts, restrictions were extended until March 23 in five. Sikhs abroad launched a protest in front of the European Parliament in Brussels on March 27 demanding condemnation of India’s ongoing mass targeting of Sikhs in Punjab.
India in the World
• On February 5, India, France, and the United Arab Emirates finalized their plan for a trilateral cooperation initiative in defense, energy, and technology.
• On February 6, the EU and India strengthened their relationship as strategic partners by setting up a new Trade and Technology Council (TTC).
• On February 6, the Managing Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS) publicly expressed concern about India. At an event organized by the Swedish Council Presidency, she said that when India abstained from the Russian vote at the UN, the EU saw it as a “signal of where we are failing in promoting democracy” and “of where we should possibly engage more.” India is a “democratic system which is under a lot of threat.” Days before this speech, the European Parliament called on the EEAS to make more public statements about the safety of journalists and human rights abroad.
• On February 21, Kyiv sought support from Delhi on a resolution to be presented at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
• From February 25 to 26, German chancellor Olaf Scholz visited India. In their meeting, Scholz and Modi agreed on a vision statement to strengthen collaboration in the areas of innovation and technology and highlighted their strong economic ties.
• In February, a new report by internet rights group Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition documented India as the world leader of Internet shutdowns for the fifth consecutive year. India imposed 84 internet shutdowns in 2022.
Business: Adani Group
• Opposition parties in India have held protests across the country in the context of new findings regarding the Adani conglomerate. Opposition parties in India have previously demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee against the Adani Group and questioned the silence of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on the matter. On 24 January, Hindenburg research found that the Indian conglomerate Adani Group has engaged in serious market manipulation and accounting fraud over the last decades. Previous research identified close ties to and favoritism by the Modi government. For instance, a protest outside the BJP headquarters in New Delhi alleged that the ruling BJP favors the Adani group.
Human Rights Defenders
• On February 2, the Kerala High Court granted bail to journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested while on his way to report on the gang rape of a Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh in 2020. Although the Supreme Court had granted him bail on September 9, he remained in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges.
• On February 16, human rights defender Khurram Parvez was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award in Geneva. Parvez was arrested in November 2021 and falsely charged with criminal conspiracy to wage war against India, and participation in and financing terrorist activities.
Hate crimes against minorities
• On February 3, the Maharashtra government informed that it would only allow a public meeting organized by the Sakal Hindu Samaj in Mumbai on the condition that “no hate speech will be made by the participants”. Sakal Hindu Samaj is an umbrella organization of Hindu nationalist groups opposing interfaith marriages and religious conversion. It reportedly engaged in anti-Muslim hate speech during a previous event held on January 29.
• On February 5, several Hindu supremacist groups held events at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar where speakers made offensive remarks about minority communities. In one video, a monk asks Hindus to stock weapons to kill Muslims and Christians.
• On February 12, a church in Madhya Pradesh’s Narmadapuram district was vandalized.
• On February 14, two Muslim men were allegedly kidnapped and burnt alive in Haryana by members of the Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal on the pretext of cow slaughter. A first information report (FIR) has been registered against the accused. Members of the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal rallied in Haryana to support one of the accused, Monu Manesar, the leader of Bajrang Dal. Protesters gathered across Haryana and Rajasthan in support of the Muslim men and demanded justice.
• On February 14, Valentine’s Day, Hindu supremacists harassed and assaulted couples. In Gujarat, several Bajrang Dal members were detained for wielding sticks in a park to intimidate couples. In Uttar Pradesh, a Bajrang Dal group publicly humiliated a Muslim man and called him a “Rohingya Muslim”. At least 50 Bajrang Dal members harassed couples in Jamshedpur city. Members of the Hindu supremacist Shiv Sena (“Shiva’s army”) wielded oil-soaked sticks, shouting: “Wherever couples are found they will be given befitting treatment.” In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, mobs associated with the Hindu supremacist Bajrang Dal stormed the apartments of people in interfaith relationships in Indore city.
• On February 15, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal members vandalized a mosque in Uttar Pradesh, claiming it was illegal.
• On February 16, members of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti organized a protest in Panvel demanding India be declared a Hindu nation and the death penalty for “love jihad.”
• On February 19, Christians held a protest against the vandalization of churches in India and the ongoing violence carried out against Christians. The United Christian Forum, a human rights group based in Delhi, recorded 598 incidents of violence against Christians in 21 states in 2022.
• During the Hindu Janakroash Morcha rally on February 26, Hindu supremacist leader Raja Singh made open calls for violence against Muslims. He threatened that if the government does not pass laws on love jihad, religious conversions, and cow slaughter, then “Hindus will take law into their own hands and use swords”.
• On February 3, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre on petitions challenging the ban on the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’. The court will hold the first hearing in April.
• On February 6, Justice K M Joseph of the Supreme Court stated that “there is no room for hate crimes in a secular country” like India and reiterated the country’s constitutional duty to protect the freedom of individuals irrespective of caste and religion. This statement occurred in the context of a July 2021 incident, in which a Muslim man alleged that a gang that robbed him also mocked his religious identity. The Uttar Pradesh Police, however, did not label the incident as a hate crime against the man’s religious identity.
• On February 20, the Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on former police officer Sanjiv Bhatt for challenging the fast-tracking of a Gujarat High Court order in a drug planting case from 1996, which critics say punishes him for exercising his legal right. Bhatt had alleged that he was falsely implicated in the case and had sought a stay on the proceedings against him. Sanjiv Bhatt is a whistleblower who claims that Modi was complicit in the Gujarat riots in 2002. He was charged with several false charges, and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2018.
• From February 4 on, authorities in Jammu and Kashmir demolished the homes and properties of residents without due process. The demolitions are based on a circular issued by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, which is under the control of the central government, to remove “all encroachments on state land”. Several residents alleged that they did not receive any prior notices nor any opportunity to provide proof of ownership. Amnesty International described the ongoing incidents as a “gross violation” of human rights.
• On February 16, authorities in Sonitpur district in the North-Eastern state Assam evicted over 2,500 families, predominantly Bengali-speaking Muslims, who allegedly live illegally on forest land. On February 27, the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority in the North-Eastern state Assam launched an eviction drive, reportedly to make Guwahati city “flood-free”. The evictions have caused mass displacement.
• These incidents follow a surge in demolitions that violate due process across India, colloquially called “bulldozer raj”. In June 2022, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs condemned the demolitions across India, which they allege deliberately target Muslims through “collective punishment”.
• From February 3 on, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Assam launched a massive crackdown on “child marriages”, leading to the arrest of about 2,500 people and the filing of 4,074 cases. Chief Minister Biswa has been accused of targeting religious minorities with this, especially as people accused of “child marriage” have been detained in “transit camps” meant for immigrants.
• On February 14, Indian tax authorities raided the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai alleging that they detected “irregularities and discrepancies” in BBC’s taxes. The BBC defended its documentary and said it was complying with the tax investigation. The crackdown on BBC has raised new concerns about press freedom in India.
• On February 23, Pawan Khera, a senior member of India’s main opposition Congress party was arrested for allegedly insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s Supreme Court ordered Khera to be released on interim bail. For context, 96% of sedition cases after 2014 have been filed against citizens criticizing the government and politicians.
Media and Technology
• According to a report published in February, a software linked to an Israeli company is allegedly being used to operate fake social media campaigns and spread disinformation online in several countries, including India. The “Team Jorge” unit has been linked to using “hacking, sabotage, and automated disinformation online”.
• On February 27, the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 against four shows hosted by news anchor Aman Chopra of the popular news channel News18 India for making objectionable statements about Muslims.
• Since mid-February, Sikh activists are holding protests in a tent camp in Punjab demanding the release of Bandi Singhs. ‘Bandi Singhs’ is a term given to Sikh prisoners who were convicted and imprisoned for involvement in militancy in Punjab three decades ago. The issue became current after a signature campaign was launched by the Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) in November 2022.
• On February 23, armed supporters of controversial self-styled preacher Amritpal Singh Amritpal Singh stormed a police station in Punjab. Singh supports the Khalistan movement seeking to create a separate Sikh homeland.
In focus: BBC Documentary Ban
• A new BBC documentary, “India: The Modi Question” examines responsibility for riots in Gujarat, India in 2002, in which at least 1044 people died, and reports partial responsibility of India’s current Prime Minister Modi. On January 19, India’s Ministry of External Affairs put out a statement that the BBC documentary is “propaganda” and “lacks objectivity”.
• On January 21, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting reportedly invoked its emergency powers under the IT Rules 2021 to direct social media platforms to block links to the documentary. The Supreme Court will hear petitions challenging the centers’ ban on the documentary in February.
• Twitter complied with the direction from India’s government to block the documentary, sparking criticism among diaspora and digital rights NGOs. Indian diaspora members who tweeted about the documentary received notices from Twitter that the Indian government issued a legal removal request.
• On 24 January, a campus screening of the BBC documentary at the Jawaharlal Nehru University was disrupted by a power shutdown. One day later, at least 70 students were detained at Jamia Millia Islamia university ahead of a planned screening. While the police released a majority of the students on the same day, the remaining 13 detained students were only released after the Republic Day parade on 26 January.
• On January 29, Indian diaspora members in London protested against the Modi documentary and asked the BBC to cease broadcasting it.
India in the World
• On 5 January, the Regulator of the University Grants Commission presented a draft legislation to facilitate the entry and operation of foreign universities in India.
• On 10 January, the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee held a formal oral evidence session exploring India’s evolving geopolitical role, the UK’s relationship with the country, and an in-depth examination of India’s human rights record with a special focus on Kashmir. The recording can be found here.
• On 13 January, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told his counterparts from the developing countries that “choosing peace, cooperation and multilateralism” is the course that the world must take.
• On January 17, Guernica 37 Chambers in London filed a criminal complaint under the principle of universal jurisdiction before the General Prosecutor in Switzerland against the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, for crimes against humanity. Adityanath is reported to have ordered the false imprisonment, torture, and murder of civilians to suppress protests against adopting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India.
• On 18 January, the European Parliament adopted its annual report on human rights and democracy in the world. The 2022 report calls on the EU to adopt specific local strategies to combat caste-based discrimination. It affirmed the importance of protecting Dalit rights and called for stepping up consultations with communities and the adoption of a policy addressing intersectional discrimination. The European Parliament published its annual report on the Implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which calls to strengthen the EU’s strategic partnerships with India in a comprehensive way. The report also calls for human rights and democratic values to be adequately addressed in this partnership and expresses concern about India’s stance on the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
• On 25 January, Alviina Alametsä, the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on India spoke at an event by think tank The London Story. She said: “The celebrations of Republic Day are overshadowed by urgent human rights violations.” And: “Defending human rights should be at the core of the EU-India partnership. When freedom of speech and democratic opposition are at risk within a country, their international partners must cooperate and hold each other accountable.”
• On 26 January, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attended India’s Republic Day celebration as the chief guest. India and Egypt maintain a strategic partnership.
• On 16 January, a report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar noted that companies from India support Myanmar’s military with raw materials, training, and machinery, and are thereby reportedly complicit in human rights violations. The Myanmar military is under EU sanctions.
• On 24 January, Hindenburg research found that the Indian conglomerate Adani Group has engaged in serious market manipulation and accounting fraud over the last decades. Previous research has identified close ties to and favoritism by the Modi government, and Adani has previously been the focus of 4 major government fraud investigations which have alleged money laundering, theft of taxpayer funds and corruption, totaling an estimated U.S. $17 billion. While most private investment companies have halted their investments in the Adani Group following the revelation, the government-owned Life Insurance Corporation of India continues to invest in Adani. In total, it has invested more than $4 billion into the group. Gautam Adani has refuted Hindenburg’s findings as an “attack on India”.
Human Rights Defenders
• Activist Hidme Markam was acquitted in four cases and granted bail in one after the police failed to prove charges. Markam works as forest rights and prisoners’ rights activist, was accused of involvement in Naxal activities and arrested nearly two years ago.
• On 9 January, the Supreme Court extended the house arrest of social activist Gautam Navlakha once more until February 17. On November 10, the Supreme Court allowed Navlakha to be placed under one-month house arrest due to his medical condition. He has been in custody since April 2020 on fabricated charges of supporting terrorism.
• On 27 January, Emmy-nominated US-based journalist Angad Singh was deported from India because his documentary India Burning allegedly presented a “very negative view of India’s secular credentials”.
Hate crimes against minorities
• In its most recent report, the Early Warning Project ranks India 8th highest-risk of concern for mass atrocities among 162 countries.
• On 2 January, approximately 50 people barged into a school in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district and attacked the Sacred Heart Church that shares its premises with the school. The mob attacked a police team that was trying to stop them.
• On 7 January, over 100 retired lawmakers and civil servants sought legal action against BJP MP Pragya Thakur, who recently delivered a speech urging attendees of a conference to “keep weapons sharpened” so they can be used if Muslims attack. Thakur is the prime accused in the Malegaon terror attack in September 2008.
• On 9 January, a Dalit man was allegedly assaulted by a group of people for trying to enter a temple in Uttarkashi district. Four days later, five persons were arrested in connection with the incident. In its annual report on human rights, the European Parliament affirmed the importance of protecting Dalit rights.
• On 23 January, a video went viral of Hindu supremacists beating up a Christian man in Bihar, accusing him of encouraging religious conversion.
• On 28 January, the family of a 22-year-old Muslim claimed that he was beaten to death by Bajrang Dal members for allegedly transporting a cow in Haryana. The police claimed that the man died after a car collision, although videos show he was assaulted.
• On 29 January, at least 10,000 people participated in the Hindu Janakrosh Morcha (“Hindu public outrage rally”) in Mumbai. There, suspended BJP leader T Raja Singh publicly engaged in hate speech and provocative comments against the Muslim community. The police have issued a notice.
• On 9 January, former senior Supreme Court judges warned that branches of the executive and other oversight bodies had been “turned into extended arms of the central government” and had been “ignoring the Constitution of India”.
• On 3 January, Justice Nagarathna delivered a separate judgment on the extent of free speech available to public functionaries, reiterating their duty to be more responsible and restrained in their speech. Nagarathna also touched on the aspect of hate speech and said that “[…] whatever its content may be, [hate speech] denies human beings the right to dignity”.
• On 5 January, the Supreme Court stopped the Uttarakhand High Court’s direction to evict people living in Haldwani, north of Delhi. On 20 December, the order declared 4,365 houses “illegal” and ordered their demolition. The Supreme Court stated that they cannot be uprooted overnight and rehabilitation schemes are necessary for those claiming legal rights in the land.
• On 9 January, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea challenging the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in Uttarakhand and Gujarat. The plea contended the law violates constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.
• On 13 January, the Supreme Court made a strong oral observation against TV anchors who engage in hate speech.
• On 16 January, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Union government on several pleas seeking the criminalization of marital rape, which is currently legal.
Media and Technology
• On 4 January, a tribunal declined Google’s request to block an antitrust ruling that had fined Google for exploiting its dominant position in markets. Google said that denying their request would hurt consumers and also the firm’s financial viability.
• On 17 January, the Union Information Technology Ministry introduced a draft amendment to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, which will make it mandatory for online platforms to take down any content deemed fake by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) or any other agency authorized by the government. The PIB has frequently faced criticism, and associations expressed concerns about press freedom.
India in the World
• On 1 December, India assumed the monthly rotating presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC). Two signature events took place, an open debate on Reformed Multilateralism and a Counter-Terrorism meeting.
• On 1 December, India formally assumed the G20 presidency. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said New Delhi will seek to emerge as the “voice of the Global South”. PM Modi presented the theme of the G20: “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.
• From 4-6 December, German Foreign Minister Baerbock visited India. She and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar discussed the Russian war against Ukraine, cross-border terrorism and they signed a mobility partnership pact, which will make it easier for people to study, do research, and work in each other’s countries.
• On 7 December, Member states of the UN Economic and Social Council voted to grant consultative status to the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN). With 15 years, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) held the record for the longest pending application in the history of the UN NGO Committee, as India had blocked its application.
• On 26 December, 185 Rohingya refugees were rescued in Aceh, Indonesia, after their boat drifted in the Andaman sea for a month. It was one of five Rohingya boats fleeing the overcrowded refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Approximately 180 Rohingya refugees died. The UNHCR stated that previous calls for intervention were ignored by surrounding countries. Indian diaspora organizations published an open letter appealing to governments for their rescue.
Human Rights Defenders
• On 13 December, a US-based forensic firm found that digital evidence was planted on the computer of Human Rights Defender Father Stan Swamy. Swamy was then arrested, and died in custody in July 2021 while denied bail on medical grounds.
• On 13 December, the Supreme Court extended the house arrest of social activist Gautam Navlakha until the second week of January. On November 10, the Supreme Court allowed Navlakha to be placed under one-month house arrest due to his medical condition. He has been in custody since April 2020 on fabricated charges of supporting terrorism.
• On December 8, author Farhat Khan received an arrest notice while in hospital and was charged with “insulting religious feelings” with her academic book Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System (2011). Members of the Hindu supremacist ABVP, the student wing of the RSS to which Narendra Modi belongs, had alleged that Khan’s book contains objectionable content against Hindus and Hindu supremacist organizations. Khan is suffering from kidney ailment and needs dialysis on a regular basis.
Hate crimes against minorities
• The government recorded over 2,900 cases of communal or religious rioting in the country between 2017 and 2021.
• Christians were attacked ahead of Christmas. On one day, there were 20 coordinated attacks in the state of Chharrisgarh alone, with 200 people forced from their homes. On 20 December, a Hindu supremacist mob in Gujarat state attacked a man who was distributing chocolates while dressed as Santa Claus.
• On 1 December, the Hindu extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), affiliated with the ruling BJP through a common parent entity, released a list of 400 alleged ‘love jihad cases’. Love Jihad is an islamophobic conspiracy theory purporting that Muslim men target Hindu women for forced religious conversion, and the release of the names puts the couples at risk.
• On 4 December, BJP leaders such as minister KC Narayana Gowda and district president Umesh joined a Hindu supremacist mob in an attempt to barge into a mosque in Karnataka and claim it as a Hindu temple. None of the BJP leaders complicit in the violent mob has faced any consequences or condemnation from party leadership.
• On 6 December, police in Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by the BJP, allegedly harassed and assaulted Muslims to stop them from casting their votes in the current elections. A number of videos went viral showing Muslim residents reporting about the police allegedly taking away their voter ID cards, and verbally abusing and beating them.
• The Hindu extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has announced that swords, knives, and sticks will be distributed freely to BJP members in Uttar Pradesh. Such groups are increasingly offering violent training sessions across India.
• On 14 December, Hindu extremist leader Pravin Togadia stated that India will become a Hindu Nation in which Muslims will have no constitutional rights.
• On 15 December, a video surfaced showing a bus passenger who was brutally assaulted in Southern India by RSS members, an organization to which Narendra Modi belongs. The bus conductor accused him of misbehaving with a woman when he offered to hold her bag and handed him over to the RSS members.
• On 5 December, the Supreme Court heard a plea seeking directions against ‘forced religious conversion’ and noted that forced religious conversion is a “very serious issue”.
• On 8 December, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the organization ‘Roots in Kashmir’ seeking a probe into killings of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir during 1989-90 and subsequent years.
• On 14 December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition by a gay couple seeking legal recognition of their marriage in India after their requests have been refused repeatedly.
• On 17 December, the Supreme Court dismissed Bilkis Bano’s plea seeking a review of its May 2022 order which affirmed the early release of 11 convicts who gang-raped her and murdered 14 persons during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat.
• On 20 December, an order passed by the Uttarakhand High Court declared 4,365 houses in Haldwani, north of Delhi, “illegal” and ordered their demolition. This would forcibly evict over 50 000 people. In January, the Supreme Court stayed the order.
• On 7 December, the Rajya Sabha was informed that the government canceled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) registration of 6,677 NGOs between 2017 and 2021 for alleged violations of the law. Under the FCRA, Amnesty International was previously forced to cease its operations in 2020, leading several countries to recommend India amend the FCRA at the UN Universal Periodic Review.
• On 25 December, BJP MP Pragya Thakur delivered a speech urging attendees of a conference to “keep weapons sharpened” so they can be used if Muslims attack. “Just like how knives cut vegetables, it will also chop mouths and heads,” she said. While her speech was widely condemned, she has faced no consequences from the BJP. Thakur is the prime accused in the Malegaon terror attack in September 2008, was arrested in October that year, and has been out on bail since April 2017 on medical grounds.
• The Election Commission of India concluded that Home Minister Amit Shah’s remark during the Gujarat Assembly election campaign did not violate the model code of conduct. During his November 25 speech, Shah claimed the BJP has “taught a lesson” to rioters since communal violence 20 years ago.
Media and Technology
• In December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology invited feedback from the public on the draft of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 published in November. However, more than 70 notable citizens wrote to MPs, such as former Supreme Court judge Justice A.P. Shah and social activist Medha Patkar, expressing concern over the undemocratic manner of this consultation.
India in the World
• On November 10, India’s human rights record was assessed during the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). 130 UN member states issued their recommendations and urged India to increase their efforts to combat gender-based violence, religious discrimination, and religious hatred, and stop the broad application of anti-terrorism legislation.
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not attend COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Instead, the Indian delegation at COP27 was led by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, who strongly supported the decision for a climate fund for poorer nations. India, however, is expanding its fossil fuel infrastructure and increasing imports of coal.
• On November 8, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar indicated that New Delhi would continue purchasing Russian oil as it benefits India’s access “on the most advantageous terms” during the current natural resource crisis.
• On November 14, India abstained from the vote in the UN General Assembly for a resolution that called on holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine. India has also previously abstained from resolutions related to the Russia-Ukraine war.
• On November 15 and 16, Modi attended the G20 Summit held in Bali, which reaffirmed collaboration on food security, international financial resilience, energy security, and other topics. India’s Presidency of the G20 starts on December 1 and will be grounded in the theme “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – Hindi for “one earth, one family, one future”.
Human Rights Defenders
• On November 10, the Supreme Court allowed jailed human rights activist Gautam Navlakha to be placed under one-month house arrest due to his medical condition. Although the Court indicated it would process his release within 48 hours, Navlakha was still in prison until the evening of the 14th. Navlakha has been in custody since April 2020 on fabricated charges of supporting terrorism.
• On November 18, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Dalit rights activist and scholar Anand Teltumbde. Teltumdbe was arrested in 2020 for his alleged connection to the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018, and has been repeatedly denied bail.
• On November 22, UN experts and several NGOs, including The London Story, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez. The day marked the 1-year anniversary of Parvez’s arbitrary arrest on terrorism charges. His detention has been prolonged five times by the NIA Special Court under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
• On October 31, a court rejected the bail plea of journalist Siddique Kappan. Kappan was arrested in 2020 when traveling to report on the rape of a Dalit girl and is held in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges. Although the Supreme Court granted him bail on September 9 in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act case, he remains in jail.
• On November 9, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was sworn in as the 50th Chief Justice of India. He will have a tenure for two years. Chandrachud is seen as progressive; in the past, his judgments have touched upon crucial issues of fundamental rights, privacy, rights of women, and LGBTQ+.
• On November 30, Bilkis Bano approached the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of the 11 convicts who gang-raped her and murdered members of her family during the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Hate crime against minorities
• On November 3, Hindu supremacists assaulted and publicly humiliated two Dalits for allegedly selling beef in Chhattisgarh. They beat the two with a belt and paraded them half-naked, while bystanders filmed the attack.
• On November 29, several men attempted to lynch a Muslim man, Adam Khan, in Maharashtra. Police arrested five men after videos of the assault went viral on social media. Khan has been hospitalized with head injuries and a fractured leg.
• On November 14, the Supreme Court termed “forced religious conversion” a serious issue in need of action. However, anti-conversion laws have been criticized for being routinely used to target religious minorities and arrest them on false charges of forced conversion. Hard data is missing on those alleged conversion cases.
• A false report made by a Hindu supremacist on November 21 led to six Christians being charged for alleged forced conversions in Uttar Pradesh state. Several Christians have now sought action against misuse of the state’s recently enacted anti-conversion law to harass and persecute religious minorities.
• The upcoming Bollywood movie “The Kerala Story” has been condemned for circulating the false claim that over 30,000 Hindu women were converted to Islam and forced to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The wide circulation of the trailer resulted in outrage over the film’s mobilization of anti-Muslim propaganda. Several movies in recent months circulate propaganda against Muslims.
Places of worship
• On November 9, a Karnataka court ruled in favor of the Hindu supremacist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demanding to probe an 800-year-old mosque in Mangaluru city. The VHP falsely claims that remnants of a Hindu temple are located in the mosque. Although the management of the mosque had filed a plea to protect the place of worship, it had been rejected in court.
• On November 14, a Varanasi court indicated that it will rule on the validity of a petition that seeks a ban on entry of Muslims to the Gyanvapi Mosque. The petition was filed by Vishwa Vaidik Sanatan Sangh, who also seek permission to worship the “Shivling” (symbol of Hindu God Shiv) claimed to be inside.
State actors who advocate hatred
• On November 14, BJP politician Pratap Simha threatened that he would demolish a bus stand because it resembles a mosque. In response to the threat, the local government changed the appearance of the bus stop. This threat comes against a backdrop of BJP leaders calling for and inciting the destruction of Muslim properties, including places of worship.
• On November 20, supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed Uttar Pradesh’s openly extremist Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with bulldozers and the Hindu religious chant “Jai Shree Ram” as he arrived in Gujarat state for his election campaign.
• In the beginning of November, the Gujarat state Ministry of Home Affairs announced an anti-Muslim citizenship policy. The policy provides Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian, and Jain communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh with citizenship certificates, but denies them to Muslims. Critics have called this out as a move to subject Muslims fleeing danger to further persecution and discrimination.
• Home Minister Amit Shah ordered intelligence officials to identify 100 refugees (“infiltrators”) in each state and deport them. Shah indicated that this should be continued even if the countries do not accept the refugees back. India has not signed the Refugee Convention and continues to deport Rohingya to Myanmar. Amit Shah has a consistently hostile approach to refugees, as is visible when he in 2019 referred to Rohingya as being “termites”.
Media and Technology
• On November 17, Meta appointed Sandhya Devanathan as the new upcoming head and vice president of Meta India. Meta also appointed Shivnath Thukral as its new director for public policy in India. Investigations reported that when Thukral was the India and South Asia public policy director at Facebook from 2017 to 2020, he ignored hate speech violations by BJP leaders and had close ties to the BJP.
• On November 22, the Adani Group, a conglomerate run by Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani, initiated the process of acquiring a majority stake within the popular media firm NDTV, intending to take it over fully. Experts stated that Adani moving closer to acquire the platform poses a serious threat to independent media because of his strong ties to the BJP government.
India in the World
• The UN appointed Indian Dalit Ashwini K.P as the UN Special Rapporteur for Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. Dalits in India face increasingly severe violence. Caste discrimination is formally recognized as discrimination around the world and is especially of concern among the Indian diaspora.
• The EU and India met for the second round of trade negotiations in Brussels. India was skeptical towards the EU’s proposed ‘trade and sustainable development’ chapter, which includes the possibility of resorting to commercial sanctions for non-compliance with core labour standards and with Paris Agreement commitments.
• During his official visit to India from 18-20 October, UN Secretary-General Guterres reminded India of the power of diversity and emphasized the importance of a strong domestic commitment to inclusivity and human rights.
• On 28-29 October, India hosted a UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) special meeting on countering the use of new technologies for terrorist purposes. The resulting ‘Delhi Declaration’ calls for respect for human rights while countering terrorism. Conversely, the UN has previously condemned India’s approach to counter-terrorism for violating human rights law, including the right to a fair trial.
Human Rights Defenders
• The Peace Research Institute Oslo shortlisted Indians Mohammed Zubair, Pratik Sinha, and Harsh Mander for the Nobel Peace Prize 2022. Zubair and Sinha are the co-founders of the fact-check site AltNews. Earlier this year, Zubair was arrested for one month as part of a crackdown on independent journalism, which MEPs publicly condemned. Mander launched a campaign to support victims of hate crimes, but the Indian government has raided his home and the orphanages he founded.
• On 10 October, Kashmiri political prisoner Altaf Shah passed away in custody. Shah, a Kashmiri leader, was convicted in 2018 for alleged terrorism. He was diagnosed with cancer but did not receive medical attention nor bail on health grounds. Human rights organizations are concerned about human rights in Kashmir, such as over 60 instances of crackdowns on journalists and human rights defenders since August 2019.
• On 15 October, Kashmiri photojournalist and Pulitzer prize winner Sanna Irshad Mattoo was arbitrarily banned from traveling to the US by immigration authorities at Delhi airport, despite having a valid visa and ticket. She was given no official reason. The government has imposed travel bans on at least 22 journalists, several of whom have faced raids, threats, and detention.
• On 15 October, the Supreme Court suspended the order which previously acquitted Human Rights Defender Prof. G.N. Saibaba. In 2014, Saibaba was arrested for his alleged involvement in terrorism, which the initial acquittal order concluded was “bad in law and invalid”. Saibaba is wheelchair-bound and considered 90% disabled. One of Saibaba’s co-accused, Father Stan Swamy, died in custody, which MEPs publicly condemned.
• On 18 October, the Delhi High Court again dismissed the bail application of student activist Umar Khalid. Despite a lack of evidence, Khalid has been in custody for over two years for his alleged conspiracy to incite violence in the February 2020 riots in New Delhi. Earlier this year, MEPs expressed deep concern and demanded Khalid’s immediate release.
Hate crime against minorities
• On 4 October, police officers tied nine Muslim men to a pole and publicly flogged them in Gujarat for allegedly throwing stones at a Hindu celebration. Videos of the incident went viral on social media platforms, showing that a civilian crowd cheered on the police.
• On 12 October, a Hindu extremist mob attacked Muslims offering prayers in a mosque near Delhi. Surendra Jain, the leader of the VHP, a Hindu supremacist group affiliated with the ruling BJP through a common parent entity, publicly congratulated the mob and said that the extremists “taught the Muslims a lesson”.
• On 25 October, a man shot and killed a Dalit man and his parents in Madya Pradesh for allegedly stalking the perpetrator’s wife.
• On 29 October, several men tied two minors to a vehicle and dragged them on a road in Madhya Pradesh after they allegedly stole from a local market. The boys, aged 13 and 17, have been treated in a hospital and police filed a case against the perpetrators.
• Hindu extremists of the Bajrang Dal group dragged a Muslim man to the police falsely claiming that he lured a Hindu woman into a hotel room.
State actors endorse hate
• On 19 October, BJP lawmaker Ranbir Gangwa and party leaders from Haryana state attended an online event of rape-and-murder convict and religious cult leader Ram Rahim Singh.
• On 23 October, BJP leader Radheshyam Mishra and others assaulted a Dalit man, blackened his face, and shaved his head after accusing him of theft. Two people have been arrested but Mishra remains on the run.
• India’s Home Minister Amit Shah confirmed the early release of 11 Hindu extremists. The men were previously convicted for gang-raping a Muslim woman and murdering 14 persons during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat.
Abuses by executive
• On 14 October, a tribunal recovered damages from people who allegedly caused destruction during riots in Khargone in April 2022. A new law authorizes the government to do so through quasi-judicial tribunals, which use principles of ‘natural justice’ and do not have the safeguards of a criminal trial. Among those on trial is a 12-year-old boy.
• On 26 October, police detained three activists who were opening a museum in the North Eastern state of Assam for their alleged association with terror outfits.
• On 21 October, the Supreme Court called anti-Muslim hate speech in India a “very serious issue” and directed the police to take action in hate speech cases, irrespective of religion of the speaker, and without waiting for a formal complaint to be registered. Hateful anti-minority rhetoric has become commonplace in India. NGOs draw attention to how stakeholders have failed to address hate content and hateful actors targeting religious minorities in India.
• On 27 October, the Supreme Court dismissed Amnesty International’s plea to unfreeze their bank accounts, which previously forced the organization to shut down their operations in the country.
• On 29 October, the Supreme Court issued notice to the central government regarding a petition to allow women under 35 to have a prenatal diagnostic test. Preventing this, the petition argues, is a restriction on the reproductive rights of women. The case is one of many on women’s rights in recent weeks, such as one on increasing access to abortion. Women’s rights remain dire in India, and the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks India at 140 of 156 countries.
Surveillance and Technology
• On 28 October, the Indian government announced its new Information Technology Amendment Rules 2022, which effectively grants the government control over content moderation decisions of social media platforms. The amended rules provide for the creation of a government panel to hear complaints from social media users. Critics are concerned that this law may open the door to a censorship body, thereby incentivizing platforms to remove content that does not suit the government’s political agenda.
Harassment of journalists and HRDs
• Despite being granted bail by the Supreme Court, journalist Siddique Kappan remains in prison as a case by the government’s Enforcement Directorate against him is “still pending.” Kappan was arrested in 2020 when travelling to report on the rape of a Dalit girl and held in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges.
• Police in Gujarat are continuing the judicial harassment of HRD Teesta Setalvad by filing fresh charges against her. She had been arrested in June and accused of fabricating evidence in a petition to the Supreme Court seeking to investigate Prime Minister Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. More than 2.200 writers, activists and other parts of civil society worldwide signed an open letter demanding her release, and MEPs and UN Special Rapporteurs came out in her support.
• Gujarat police arrested four people on September 26 before their march in solidarity with Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman who was gang-raped and left for dead in a pogrom in 2002. Her convicted attackers had been granted remission in August. After public outcry, the police released one of the marchers, social activist Sandeep Pandey. The V-Dem institute’s data on peaceful assembly shows that India often arbitrarily denies citizens the right to assemble peacefully.
• On August 24, India for the first time voted against Russia during a procedural vote at the UN Security Council. India had previously abstained in all votes because of its historical and contemporary ties. India has sharply increased its imports of oil, coal and fertiliser from Russia, while India rarely bought Russian oil before the Ukraine war.
• Indian negotiators reportedly visited Brussels for trade negotiations with the EU. Experts note that many of India’s priorities do not align with those of the EU.
• International media reported on Indian diaspora mobs in the UK mobilising to “defend the community” in patterns they describe as reminiscent of mob violence in India.
• After a delay of nearly three years, the Supreme Court announced it would begin hearing the over 200 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2020. Protests against the act had erupted across the country, as its provisions add a religious criterion to citizenship.
• Indian Christian leaders filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India for protection of Christians citing 300 attacks in the first six months of 2022. The Supreme Court then in a welcome move directed eight states to investigate and verify these claims.
• After 10 days of hearing, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on petitions to lift a recent ban on hijab in schools in the state of Karnataka, which de facto prevents Muslims girls from attending school. The choice of clothing falls under the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which can under the Indian Constitution and international human rights law only be infringed upon on grounds of public order.
Violence against minorities
• On September 7, an upper-caste social science teacher assaulted his 10th grade student, a Dalit, for reportedly writing the wrong answers on a test. The boy died soon after. Despite constitutional protections against caste discrimination, discriminatory treatment and violence remains endemic.
• Following communal violence in Bihar state, police arrested dozens of Muslim men from a local mosque for allegedly inciting violence, including an 8-year-old boy. The family of the boy reported that police demanded money in exchange for his release. He was kept in custody for several days and finally granted bail. He sustained injuries.
• A new report by the Indian government’s National Crime Records Bureau shows that Muslims make up almost 30% of all detainees in Indian prisons in 2021, despite the minority group having a demographic percentage of only 14.2%. In Assam state, 61% of inmates on death row and 49% of those awaiting trial were Muslims.
• A former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) disclosed that RSS members “carried out many bomb blasts across the country and with the help of biased police and one-sided media blamed them on Muslims. That helped them in 2014 Loksabha [Parliamentary] elections.” Senior members of the Indian government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are members of the RSS.
• Hate speech and calls to violence against religious minorities continues. Yati Narsinghanand called for the Aligarh Muslim University to be “bombarded”, and for “students associated with these institutions should be lodged in detention centres.” He is a Hindu supremacist leader known for organising Dharam Sansads “religious congregations” where attendees pledged to exterminate Islam in December 2021.
• Mob violence against religious minorities continues. A Hindu extremist mob attacked a Muslim family travelling through Madhya Pradesh state and filmed the incident. Hindu extremists in Uttar Pradesh attacked a group of Muslim men for praying by the side of the road. Police did not take any action against them, saying only that praying by the road was “not allowed”, which is legally incorrect.
• Over the summer, xenophobic violence and discrimination continued to erode Indian civil society, with news of discrimination, mob violence, Islamophobic assaults, plunderings, killings, lynchings and illegal detentions.
• In June, India signed the “Joint Statement of G7 and Partner Countries (2022 Resilient Democracies Statement)”, committing itself to defend democracy and to enable open and pluralistic debates. Ironically, this statement was signed on the same day that the HRD Zubair was arrested (see below). India had already fallen eight ranks in the World Press Freedom Index this year and ranks 150 of 180 countries.
• In June, HRD Mohammed Zubair was arrested for a tweet dating back to 2018 which “insulted Hindu religious beliefs”. He is the co-founder of Alt News, an Indian non-profit fact checking website. Alt News monitors viral social media posts and news to expose manipulations, lies and misinformation used to promote right-wing and Islamophobic narratives, often exposing the government itself. By adding new charges to the original reason for arrest, authorities were able to keep Zubair detained until the Supreme Court finally granted his application for bail in July.
• In June, Indian civil rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad was arrested. She was accused of fabricating evidence in a petition to the Supreme Court seeking to investigate Prime Minister Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Amnesty India and Human Rights Watch called this is an attack on civil society and HRDs and demanded her release. More than 2.200 writers, activists and other parts of civil society worldwide signed an open letter demanding her release.
• Several BJP-led states in India are demolishing Muslim homes with bulldozers as reprisals for protests without due process. This is backed by BJP politicians, either directly stating that this is a reprisal for participants of the protests, or claiming these demolitions are carried out in efforts against illegal constructions.
• On July 15, the 10th EU-India Human Rights Dialogue took place. Both parties reiterated their commitment to protecting and promoting all human rights and exchanged views about civil and political rights and their importance in civil society. Meanwhile, critical journalists are prosecuted or kept from travelling abroad and activists are detained under fabricated charges. The human rights organizations FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, Front Line Defenders, OMCT and FIDH expressed their disappointment at the failure of the EU to speak up about the continuous attacks on HRDs.
• Droupadi Murmu, a member of the right-wing Hindu supremacist BJP, is the first person from a tribal community to become President of India. This has been criticized as mere tokenism by the BJP to deflect from its policies such as the discriminatory citizenship laws and attempts at implementing draconian forest laws which endanger the livelihood of tribals. While many hope that she can move beyond symbolism and bring attention to the vulnerable position and economic, social and cultural injustices tribes face in Indian society, the role of the Indian President is mainly ceremonial and therefore restricts her potential for bringing about change.
• On the 15th of August, India celebrated 75 years of Independence. Their vision of India was multiethnic and secular, but many fear that this picture of India is increasingly being attacked and replaced by the ideologists of a Hindu nation, which leaves little space for minorities to live freely. Since Modi’s government took power in 2014, legislative, institutional and societal changes have put India on the path towards an autocratic Hindu supremacist state.