2020 has seen the deadliest Hindu-Muslim violence for decades in Delhi. And the majority of the victims belonged to India’s Muslim minority. The riots were soon eclipsed by another crisis: coronavirus.But in the months since, people involved in the protest movement say they’re being quietly targeted. India’s government claims it is bringing perpetrators of February’s violence to justice. But activists and monitors are raising questions about these moves: is India’s government trying to silence its critics?
In December 2019, the Indian parliament passed what it called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The new law grants amnesty to people who came to India illegally from three neighboring Muslim-majority countries. It also offers a fast-track to Indian citizenship. But it includes a key exception. It only applies to non-Muslim migrants. Opponents of the law say is unfair and discriminatory. Over 1,500 people were ultimately arrested or detained in connection with the Delhi riots. Some of those detained or questioned by police say victims of the violence are being treated like perpetrators. Rights monitors say his case is part of an alarming pattern. Apart from arresting Khalid, the police have named at least 15 prominent academics and activists in connection with the riots. And there’s one thing in common: They have all publicly spoken out against the CAA.
Activists and human rights defenders have also come under mounting pressure in recent months, particularly because of their engagement in mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act that took place across the country earlier this year. More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards.
India’s standing on the World Democracy Index has declined since Prime Minister Modi took office in 2014: It ranked 27th at the time. By 2019, India had dropped to position 51. There’s growing fear India could be drifting away from its status as the world’s largest democracy.
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