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US State Department Highlights Human Rights Abuses in India’s Northeast and Nationwide

The annual human rights assessment by the US State Department has highlighted “significant” abuses in India’s northeastern state of Manipur in the past year, alongside instances of attacks on minorities, journalists, and dissenting voices across the country.

In Manipur, tensions between the tribal Kuki-Zo and the majority of Meitei communities escalated following a court order suggesting an extension of Kuki minority privileges to the Meitei population. This resulted in intense clashes, leading to the loss of over 200 lives. The State Department’s report revealed that more than 60,000 individuals were displaced between May and November in Manipur alone.

While the Indian embassy in Washington has not provided an immediate response to the report, it’s noted that in other parts of India, there were numerous instances where the government and its affiliates allegedly exerted pressure or harassed media outlets critical of the administration. For instance, the Income Tax Department searched the BBC’s offices in early 2023 following the release of a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The Indian government, however, denied any vindictive intent behind the search.

Reporters Without Borders ranked India at its lowest position ever in terms of press freedom in 2023, citing growing concerns over media freedom. The US assessment also highlighted reports of discrimination against religious minorities in India, including instances of incitement to violence and the dissemination of misinformation.

Despite these concerns, Prime Minister Modi, who is expected to secure a record-equaling third term in the ongoing election until June 1, denies allegations of minority abuse. He asserts that his policies are designed to benefit all Indians.

However, human rights groups argue that the situation has worsened under Modi’s leadership, citing a surge in hate speech, the revocation of Indian-occupied Kashmir’s special status, a controversial citizenship law labeled “fundamentally discriminatory” by the UN, and the demolition of Muslim properties under the guise of removing illegal constructions.

While the US report echoes concerns raised in previous years, political analysts suggest that Washington’s public criticism of New Delhi remains restrained, partly due to hopes that India will serve as a counterbalance to an assertive China.

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