In a rare frontal censure of India’s human rights record, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was monitoring what he described as a surge in human rights abuses by some officials in India.

“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights), and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday.

Blinken didn’t go into detail. The human rights issue was not mentioned by Singh or Jaishankar, who spoke following Blinken at the briefing.
Blinken’s comments come only days after US Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the US administration’s purported hesitation to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights issues.

“What must Modi do to India’s Muslim population before we no longer consider them a peace partner?” Last Monday, Omar, a member of President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, remarked.

Modi’s detractors claim that since taking power in 2014, his Hindu nationalist ruling party has exacerbated religious polarization.
Right-wing Hindu groups have increased attacks on minorities since Modi took office, claiming they are attempting to prevent religious conversions. Anti-conversion legislation have been implemented or are being considered in several Indian states, putting the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of belief in jeopardy.

The government approved a citizenship law in 2019, which critics claimed compromised India’s secular constitution by banning Muslim immigration from neighboring countries. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan before 2015 were to be granted Indian citizenship under the law.

Modi’s government withdrew Kashmir’s special status in the same year, shortly after winning re-election in 2019, in order to fully integrate the Muslim-majority territory with the rest of the country. To quell protests, the administration imprisoned a number of Kashmiri political leaders and dispatched a large number of paramilitary police and soldiers to the Himalayan region, which Pakistan also claims.

In the state of Karnataka, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently outlawed the wearing of the headscarf in classrooms. Hindu fundamentalists later asked that such restrictions be imposed in more Indian states.

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