Authorities in India are increasingly using summary and abusive punishments against Muslims accused of violating laws, non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
The statement came three days after videos surfaced on social media of police officials in Gujarat’s Kheda district beating Muslim men after tying them to a pole. The police accused the men of having thrown stones at a garba site during the festival of Navratri on October 3.
Videos of the flogging show the men being asked to apologise to the public. They are then led into the Kheda police bus while they are still being beaten.
Kheda Superintendent of Police Rajesh Gadhiya said that he has received orders to investigate the case. It was not immediately clear if the police had acknowledged the role of its officers in the incident.
Human Rights Watch alleged that the videos of the incident were praised on “some pro-government television news networks”.
The police ordered an inquiry into the matter only after the videos were criticised on social media, the organisation added said.
“Officials blatantly disregarding the rule of law are sending a message to the public that Muslims can be discriminated against and attacked,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at the organisation said.
The human rights group also expressed concerns about demolitions of the homes and properties of Muslims accused of crimes, particularly in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. It said that authorities sought to justify the demolitions by claiming that the structures were illegal, but “their actions and statements indicated that the destruction was intended as collective punishment for Muslims”.
The organisation took note of such demolitions in Delhi, Khargone city in Madhya Pradesh, and the Anand and Sabarkantha districts in Gujarat. It also took note of the killing of two protestors in Jharkhand allegedly due to excessive use of force by the police.
“Indian authorities are increasingly acting as if summary punishment has become a state policy,” Ganguly said. “If the Indian government does not take immediate action to roll back discriminatory laws, policies, and actions targeting minorities, rule of law will be replaced by bulldozers and sticks.”
The organisation said that India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for equality before law and prohibition discrimination on any grounds. It noted that the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, an independent expert which monitors compliance with the document, has stated that demolition of homes as a punitive measure is contrary to the Covenant.
“The summary demolitions of homes and structures of Muslim communities have compounded the vulnerability of women, children, older persons, and people with disabilities who live there,” Human Rights Watch said.