India is still a caste based society
In response to the corona pandemic, new restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly were imposed. On March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown that included mandatory home quarantine. The legal basis for this was the Disaster Management Act, a draconian law that gives the government extensive powers in disaster situations. Violations of the lockdown resulted in arrests and imprisonment.
A year after the government lifted the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two union territories, the repression of civil liberties and restrictions on communications services continued. Prominent politicians such as Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who were administrative detained in 2019, were released in 2020. However, the Union government continued to silence those who demanded accountability and put a rigorous blackout on the news.
In Kashmir, at least 18 journalists were assaulted by the police or summoned to police stations. Opinion was made even more difficult when the government of Jammu and Kashmir introduced a new media policy to ensure "sustained media coverage" by controlling "anti-national activities".
On October 20, 2020, the government of Jammu and Kashmir closed the office of the Kashmir Timesafter its editor Anuradha Bhasin challenged the blockade of communications in the Supreme Court. The NIA also searched the offices and homes of civil society activists. They included Khurram Parvez and three of his co-workers, as well as Parveena Ahanger, who had reported extensively on human rights violations in Kashmir. The NIA accused the activists of raising funds for "conducting secessionist and separatist activities" in Jammu and Kashmir.
During the nationwide lockdown that followed the outbreak of Covid-19, more than 50 journalists were arrested or charged with disseminating "false information" or "fake news" under emergency legislation. On April 7, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh state police wrote a First Information Report (FIR) - the Indian equivalent of a criminal complaint - against journalist Prashant Kanojia for making "indecent statements" about Prime Minister Modi and the Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh , Yogi Adityanath, is said to have done on social media. Shortly afterwards, the Uttar Pradesh police created another FIR against the news website The Wire and its editor, Siddharth Varadarajan, for reporting that Yogi Adityanath had attended a religious event even after the nationwide lockdown was announced.
On September 28, 2020, the government amended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act - FCRA, banning large NGOs from transferring funds received from foreign donors to grassroots NGOs. The changes made also required all nonprofits registered under the FCRA to limit their administrative expenses from a previous 50% to 20% of donations received. As a result of this change, it can be assumed that many NGOs will be forced to downsize their staff, which could lead to a reduction in their human rights work.
On September 30, 2020, Amnesty International India was forced to suspend its activities for the time being after the government freeze bank accounts without notice. As a result, the organization was forced to lay off all its staff in India and interrupt its campaigning and research work. The government action came shortly after Amnesty International India publicly called for an account of the serious human rights violations committed by the Delhi police and government during the riots in Delhi and in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
More than 160 farm workers died after Parliament passed three new agricultural laws in August 2020 without sufficient involvement of those affected. The causes of death included suicides, but also heart attacks and traffic accidents during the protests against the legislative package. In November, farmers from various states marched towards Delhi to protest the laws. Police indiscriminately used water cannons and fired tear gas grenades, injuring demonstrators.
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