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India, Bangladesh Challenge US State Department Report on Human Rights

BenarNews staff
Washington
2017-03-06
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During a protest in New Delhi, members of the Indian Jat community demand that the government classify their caste as an Other Backward Class under the country’s caste system which would entitle them to government jobs and educational benefits, March 2, 2017.
AFP

Indian and Bangladeshi officials Monday rebutted a new U.S. State Department report that points to extrajudicial killings and other abuses committed by police and security forces in their countries as among “the most significant human rights problems” recorded last year.

Reacting to the report, an official from India brought up attacks against its citizens in the United States. Meanwhile, officials in Bangladesh rejected the State Department’s findings as “sweeping,” saying they were based on inaccurate information.

According to the latest edition of the State Department’s annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” – the first published under the new Trump administration – the most significant human rights problems in India in 2016 involved abuses by police and security force including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape.

It also pointed to ineffective responses to crimes against women, children and members of scheduled castes.

The report’s 64-page chapter on India stated that insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and the Maoist belt committed serious abuses including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians.

While she had not read the report, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, challenged the United States for issuing it on Friday.

“The U.S. has no locus standi to talk about human rights violations in India when in their own country Indians are facing abuse,” she told BenarNews, before saying she would need to see the entire report before she could comment further.

The annual report assesses human rights practices worldwide except for the United States.

Two Indian citizens were shot, one fatally, in Kansas on Feb. 22. Nine days later, a Sikh man who is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin, was shot near Seattle, Wash. In both instances, the suspects allegedly told the men to get out of the United States.

Others pointed out that some of the concerns raised in the report were legitimate.

“There is no accountability of the state of acts committed by police. People, especially the poor and minorities are picked up and put behind bars,” Ritu Kumar, a social activist and lawyer with the Human Rights Law Network, told BenarNews.

“Police have no real evidence and innocent people are framed up. The police are seldom accountable and seem to enjoy the immunity thinking that they can always get away with their deeds,” Kumar said.

In the southern state of Kerala, a leader of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties blamed the local government for silencing activists.

“There is massive corruption. Atrocities are committed against Christian minorities and even minor girls are not spared. Atrocities have become chronic and have exceeded all permissible limits. The state government is framing draconian laws to silence the social activists,” General Secretary P.A. Pouran told BenarNews.

Bangladesh responds

In its executive summary on Bangladesh, the State Department also said that the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had increased attacks last year by “executing high-profile attacks” on religious minorities, academics human rights activists and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

Human rights groups said the government’s response resulted in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, torture and other abuses, according to the report.

“We formally reject the report published by the U.S. state department because this is not based on correct information,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told reporters on Monday. “Bangladesh does not support in principle the U.S. government’s sweeping comment on the human rights situation of other countries.”

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said there was nothing new in the report and reiterated his much-repeated claims from last year that IS and AQIS have no presence in Bangladesh.

“The militants have not been able to carry out a single attack since July 2016. We have foiled their plans and destroyed dens. We will eliminate them,” Kamal told reporters as he responded to the report that includes a 57-page chapter on Bangladesh.

An attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in July left 20 hostages dead. Since then, police have killed at least 34 suspected militants in raids and other shootings.

He praised police efforts to eliminate militants. “We have not carried out any extrajudicial killings in the pretext of an anti-militant drive,” Kamal said.

In denial

Mizanaur Rahman, former chairman of Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission, said the report raised some good points – specifically on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

“What the government is doing is denial. We have to discard the culture of denial to improve the situation at the ground level,” he told BenarNews.

Despite agreeing with some of the contents, Rahman questioned the messenger.

“Publishing such a report needs a solid moral ground. But I think, at this moment, the U.S. government’s moral ground to publish such a report is shaky,” he said.

Akash Vashishtha in New Delhi and Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.

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