By Arun Kumar
Even as it praised India for holding “the largest democratic elections in history”, the US highlighted “police and security force abuses” and “widespread corruption” among its “most significant human rights problems”.
“India’s parliamentary contest in April 2014 was one of the largest elections in history,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in his preface to the annual Human Rights Reports speaking of “stifling of free and open media” from China to Saudi Arabia.
“Governments in China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, among others, continued to stifle free and open media and the development of civil society through the imprisonment of journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics,” he said.
“For far too many people, 2014 was defined by suffering and abuse perpetrated by terrorist groups exploiting religious discourse and divisions to advance their totalitarian ideology,” said Kerry who later presented the report at a State Department briefing.
Taking note of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance’s victory in the May 2014 elections in India, the report said: “These elections, the largest democratic elections in history, were considered free and fair, despite isolated instances of violence.”
“Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces,” it said.
In India, “the most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape”, as also “societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe,” the report said.
“Widespread corruption (that) contributed to ineffective responses to crime, including those against women and members of scheduled castes or tribes,” it added.
Other human rights problems included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention, the report said.
“A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted,” it suggested.
“Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to infrequent convictions.”
“The judiciary remained backlogged, leading to lengthy delays and the denial of due process. There were instances of infringement of privacy rights,” it said.
Noting that “the law in some states restricts religious conversion”, the report said, “there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws”.
“Some limits on the freedom of movement continued,” the report said.
“Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious societal problems.”