Civicus, a global civil society alliance, has kept India’s status as ‘repressed’ when it comes to civic freedoms in its new report, People Power Under Attack 2022. India, despite the hype around the leadership of the G-20 stands with seven other countries in this category: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Five years ago, in 2018, India’s civic freedoms had been categorised as ‘obstructed’ – but it was downgraded to ‘repressed’ in 2019 and has stayed in that zone ever since.
The section on India talks about the use of draconian laws like the UAPA and the use of the FCRA to target NGOs who do not toe the government’s line:
“In India, anti-terror laws such as the repressive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been systematically used by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep student activists and HRDs – such as people the state alleges to have instigated violence in the village of Bhima Koregaon in 2018 – in detention. Among those detained under the law is Kashmiri HRD Khurram Parvez. The government also used the restrictive Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to raid and harass critical CSOs such as the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns and Oxfam India and block CSOs’ access to foreign funding.”
After the category “repressed”, there is one worse category, called ‘closed’. In this year’s reports, seven other Asian countries were categorised as ‘closed’ – China, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Myanmar.
This is not the first time that state repression in India has been flagged internationally.
Several international civil society organisations have questioned the status of India’s freedoms and rights in recent years. Most recently, the US State Department-funded USCIRF said that anti-conversion laws being passed in various BJP-ruled states go against international human rights conventions that India is a party to.
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