A global monitor tracking civic space has added India to its “monitor watchlist”, The Wire reported on Friday. Civicus cited the government’s handling of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests as it continued to rank India in the “repressed” category.
Among the top civic space violations listed by the watchdog are detention of human rights activists, use of excessive force and “harassment”. “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,” Civicus said in a statement.
The global monitor said there has been an increased restriction of space for dissent particularly since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election in May. “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,” said the global research collaboration. “The protests have been met with excessive force and deadly violence by the authorities, with at least 27 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 organisation pointed out that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the Act “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”. Earlier this month, Michelle Bachelet filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court over the Citizenship Amendment Act.
India, however, has maintained that the citizenship law is an internal matter of India, adding that it concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act are continuing across the country, more than three months after it was passed in Parliament. The amendments, notified on January 10, provide citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.
Along with India, Lebanon, Iraq, Nicaragua and Guinea have been added to the list.
In December 2019, India’s rating was downgraded from “obstructed” to “repressed”.