During the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet lambasted the Indian government for using vague laws to arrest dissenting voices and stifle the operation of NGOs and other human rights organisations.
“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy. However, the [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, including official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts”.
Bachelet, a former Chilean President, added that those raising their voices against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act are particularly being targeted by the Indian government. More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested, she said.
“I am concerned that such actions based on the grounds of vaguely defined ‘public interest’ leave this law open to abuse, and that it is indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature,” she added
She urged the Modi government to let people exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In recent months India has arrested students, activists and journalists that have been critical of the state. In September, Amnesty International – a human rights monitor – halted operations in India due to reprisals by the government the freezing of its bank accounts.