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HRW slams BJP crackdown on India’s civil society groups

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The Indian government should change its course and uphold democratic principles and protect the human rights of all Indian citizens, says HRW. AFP/Sajjad Hussain/Files

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday slammed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) crackdown on the country’s civil society groups and using its counterterrorism laws to “silence peaceful dissenters, human rights activists, and journalists”.

In a statement, the rights group criticised the Indian authorities for carrying out several raids on the offices of non-governmental organisations, activists’ homes, and a newspaper office in occupied Kashmir, Delhi, and Bangalore.

“The raids are part of a crackdown by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on civil society groups,” said the group. It also added that India has brought “politically motivated criminal cases” to target activists, journalists, academics, students, and others and “used foreign funding regulations to target outspoken groups for their human rights work”.

“India faces serious security challenges, but instead of addressing the problems in a rights-respecting manner, the authorities appear determined to crush peaceful criticism and calls for accountability,” said South Asia Director of HRW Meenakshi Ganguly in the statement.

“Using authoritarian tactics against outspoken critics and journalists needs to stop.

“The Indian government seeks to be a global leader, but instead is drawing international criticism by systematically weakening the country’s long-respected democratic institutions,” said Ganguly.

The rights campaigner said the government should change its course and uphold democratic principles and protect the human rights of all Indian citizens.

HRW highlighted that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has accused the targeted groups of “raising funds in India and abroad in the name of charitable activities and then using those funds for carrying out secessionist and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir”.

The group said that the NIA raided the offices of activists Khurram Parvez, Parvez Ahmad Matta, Swati Sheshadri, chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) Parveena Ahangar.

The watchdog also said that the NIA has raided the home of AFP journalist Parvaiz Bukhari; office of the Kashmiri newspaper Greater Kashmir; and the nongovernmental organization Athrout.

In Delhi, the authorities raided the Charity Alliance and the Human Welfare Foundation. They also raided the home of Zafarul-Islam Khan, Charity Alliance head and former chief of the Delhi Minorities Commission.

The group noted that the BJP-led government is also increasingly using the laws under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to “harass organisations that question or criticise government policies and to cut off funds from abroad”.

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