Global monitor adds India to its watchlist due to decline in space for dissent
India’s rating has been downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’, due to its increased restriction of space for dissent during 2019 and particularly following PM Modi’s re-election in May 2019
A global monitor tracking civic space, Civicus, has added India to its ‘Monitor Watchlist’. “The Watch List draws attention to countries where there is a serious and rapid decline in respect for civic space, based on an assessment by CIVICUS Monitor research findings, our Research partners and consultations with activists on the ground,” said the organisation in a statement.
India’s rating has been downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’, due to its increased restriction of space for dissent during 2019 and particularly following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election in May 2019. Students and civil society organisations have been particularly targeted by repressive laws and judicial harassment.
Citing reasons for downgrading the ranking, Civicus said, “Tens of thousands have taken to the streets since December 2019 in opposition to a new Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 which seeks to provide citizenship only to non-Muslim irregular migrants facing persecution.”
Quoting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC), the global monitor stated that the controversial new law as ‘fundamentally discriminatory in nature’ while human rights groups have called the law ‘unconstitutional and divisive’.
Early last week, UNHRC Michelle Bachelet informed India that her office has filed an application urging the Supreme Court to make the UN body a third party in a petition filed by a former civil servant against the law. But, India said CAA is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
Civicus, in its statement, added that the students have been at the forefront of these protests and these protests have been met with excessive force and deadly violence by the authorities. It adds that at least 27 have been killed, many allegedly due to bullet injuries suffered from police use of firearms, while hundreds have been injured.
“Despite calls by human rights groups for an independent and credible investigation into the police violations, no one has been held to account. Hundreds of people have been detained, including activists and intellectuals. The Indian authorities have also accused the protesters of being ‘anti-national and shut down the internet in several districts during the protests, contending it was necessary to maintain law and order. The police have also used a colonial-era law - Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code - against the protesters. The law prohibits, among other things, a gathering of more than four people if they fear a possible violation of law and order. The authorities also put limits on public transportation to prevent the protests,” the organisation stated.
Along with India, Lebanon, Iraq, Nicaragua, and Guinea have been added to the watch list. Guinea and Lebanon have been given ‘obstructed’ civic space ranking, while the other have been added to the ‘repressed’ list.