CIVICUS Monitor downgrades India’s civic space rating » Kashmir Media Service

Expresses concern over clampdown in occupied Kashmir

Bangkok, December 05 (KMS): CIVICUS Monitor, an international alliance of civil society organisations, which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries has downgraded India’s civic space rating from “obstructed” to “repressed”.

CIVICUS Monitor, in its new People Power Under Attack 2019 report posted on its website, cited its extreme concern about the crackdown on human rights activists, attacks on journalists and civil society groups, and the lockdown in occupied Kashmir. A repressed rating indicates that democratic freedoms such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are significantly constrained.

The report said that the Indian government revoked the special status of occupied Kashmir in August and imposed a blanket communications blockade. In the protests that followed, excessive use of force was used to disperse protesters and prominent leaders in the region were put under house arrest or placed on a no-fly list, it added.

The CIVICUS Monitor raising concerns about the clampdown on civic space in occupied Kashmir said that the people of the territory had long suffered violations of their fundamental freedoms. It said that instead of ensuring justice and accountability for these abuses, the Indian government had resorted to increasing its repression with arbitrary detentions and restrictions on access to information.

“The Modi government seems to be turning its back on civic freedoms by going after its critics including activists and journalists,” said Josef Benedict, civic space researcher for CIVICUS. “The deterioration of India’s civic space is alarming – particularly its assault on freedom of expression using an array of restrictive laws – and its attempts to impede human rights groups,” he added.

On civic space in India, the report said this has been a tense year for civil society in the country. It said, the government has used restrictive laws such as the National Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to harass, detain and criminalise opponents. “This was seen in the case of academic and intellectual Dr Anand Teltumbde, who was illegally arrested in February 2019 and has faced judicial harassment. Students have also been targeted – some were charged with sedition for shouting ‘anti-India’ slogans, while a brutal crackdown on students at Allahabad University left activist Richa Singh in hospital,” it said.

The report maintained that the CIVICUS Monitor is also worried that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government remains hostile to human rights NGOs. “It is using the draconian Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to stop foreign funding and investigate organisations that are critical of the government. In July 2019, for example, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided the offices of the Lawyers Collective, a prominent public interest NGO. This organisation played a key role in passing legislation about violence against women. The offices of Amnesty International and Greenpeace have also been raided,” it added.

The report said, over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. “The Monitor has posted more than 536 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2019. Civic space in 196 countries is categorized as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression,” it maintained.

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