BJP govt aiding dangerous regression in free speech rights: HRW

HRW South Aisa director says farmers have now joined list of activists facing politically motivated charges

News Desk February 03, 2021
HRW South Asia director noted that independent institutions including investigators, prosecutors and courts are protecting the BJP government's supporters and targeting its critics. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

In pursuit of its dangerous Hindutva nationalism, the government of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is presiding over "dangerous regression in free speech rights", stated Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly.

Activists seeking protection of marginalised Dalit and Adivasi communities, protesting against discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Bill already face politically motivated charges, she added.

The farmers, many of them who are Sikhs, have now joined that list, facing criticism for opposing the government's controversial farm laws. Many of the activists and journalists are facing criminal charges for mere participation or coverage of the farmers protest, Ganguly noted.

In Modi's India, independent institutions including investigators, prosecutors and the courts, which should be impartially defending human rights, are protecting the BJP government's supporters and targeting its critics. So much so, the courts refused to protect from arrest the producers of an Amazon Prime drama series, Tandav.

A local official from India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party on Sunday registered a police complaint against the web series alleging it insults Hindu gods and goddesses, and threatened to launch a protest at the company’s office in Mumbai.

However, this isn’t the first time the BJP has displayed its fascist streak. Recently, another Muslim artist was bullied and trolled for a very similar reason. 28-year-old Munawar Faruqi was arrested for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments and insulting the Hindu faith” through his work - both crimes under India’s penal code.

Even without proof, the standup comedian was put into police custody after being beaten up by a Hindutva vigilante group called the Hind Rakshak Sangathan in Uttar Pradesh. The assault was led by Aklavya Singh Gaur, the chief of the organisation and son of a BJP MLA on January 1. While one would assume Faruqi's problems have ended by now, another case has now been dug up against him, hanging his career – and his life - by a thread.


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