Human rights abuses in Manipur after outbreak of ethnic conflict: US report

India has previously said that interference in the country's internal affairs is unacceptable, and reflects a colonial mindset.

Washington:There were significant human rights abuses in Manipur after the outbreak of ethnic conflict, the US State Department said on Monday in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the incident as “shameful” and urged action on the case, it said.

In its annual report of the State Department, which is mandated by the US Congress, it also mentions the raids by tax authorities on the office of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the conviction and sentencing to two years of prison to Rahul Gandhi by a court in Gujarat.

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Released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the report mentions some of the positive developments on the issue of human rights and freedom of expression and gathering in the year 2023, the duration of the report.

In July, the government permitted a march in Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir, allowing Shia Muslims to mark the religious Muharram event. This procession represented the first government-sanctioned recognition of the event in Srinagar since it was banned in 1989. The government imposed some restrictions on the use of slogans or the display of logos of any banned organisations, it said.

India has previously criticised the US for releasing reports on human rights and religious freedoms based on “misinformation and flawed understanding.”

Motivated and biased commentary by some US officials only serves to undermine further the credibility of these reports, the Ministry of External Affairs had said last year.

The State Department report also talks about the ethnic violence in Manipur.

“The outbreak of ethnic conflict between the Kuki and Meitei ethnic groups during the year in India’s northeastern state of Manipur resulted in significant human rights abuses. Media reported at least 175 persons were killed and more than 60,000 displaced between May 3 and November 15,” the State Department said.

Activists and journalists reported armed conflict, rapes, and assaults in addition to the destruction of homes, businesses, and places of worship.

India has previously said that interference in the country’s internal affairs is unacceptable, and reflects a colonial mindset.

“Indian authorities at all levels, including the judiciary, are seized of the situation in Manipur and are taking steps to maintain peace and harmony and law and order,” the Ministry of External Affairs had said in response to media queries on the European Parliament discussing developments in Manipur last year.

The report said that local human rights organisations, minority political parties, and affected communities criticised the national government for the delayed action to stop the violence and provide humanitarian assistance.

On September 4, UN experts urged the government to step up relief efforts and provide timely action to investigate acts of violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and foster a process of reconciliation between the Meitei, Kuki, and other impacted communities.

According to the report, there were a number of press and civil society reports of representatives of political parties using disinformation tactics against civil society organisations, religious minorities, such as Sikhs and Muslims, and the political opposition, sometimes depicting them as security threats.

Referring to the tax raid on BBC offices, the report said although tax authorities described the search as motivated by irregularities in the BBC’s tax payments and ownership structure, officials also searched and seized equipment from journalists who were not involved in the organisation’s financial processes.

There were multiple reports of journalists and human rights activists being investigated in J&K, with at least 35 journalists reporting facing assaults, police interrogations, raids, fabricated cases, and restrictions on movement since 2019,” the report said.

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