The Indian government must immediately stop its escalating crackdown on protesters, farming leaders and journalists, amid ongoing nationwide demonstrations against three recently introduced farm laws, Amnesty International said today. The organization also called for the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Rather than investigating reports of violence against protesters and bringing suspected perpetrators to justice, the authorities have resorted to hindering access to protest sites, shutting down the Internet, censoring social media and using draconian laws against protesters who have been peacefully voicing their opposition to the new laws for several months now.
“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Indian authorities’ targeting of anyone who dares to criticize or protest the government’s repressive laws and policies”
Rajat Khosla, Senior Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at Amnesty International
“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Indian authorities’ targeting of anyone who dares to criticize or protest the government’s repressive laws and policies. The crackdown on those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act still hasn’t ended, while new efforts to quell the anti-farm legislation protests have taken shape. The crushing of dissent leaves little space for people to peacefully exercise their human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in the country,” said Rajat Khosla, Senior Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy at Amnesty International.
At least eight leading journalists and politicians have been charged with sedition after reporting on the farmers protests. They have been charged with misreporting, spreading disharmony and inciting riots via their tweets on Republic Day.
Mandeep Punia,a freelance journalist for The Caravan, was arrested on the evening of 30 January, shortly after The Caravan ran a Facebook Live session in which he reported that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had sent activists to attack the protesting farmers. Initially accused of obstructing the police, and then of violence, Mandeep Punia was detained for an initial period of 14 days without being allowed to see a lawyer but was later granted bail.
On 1 February, hundreds of Indian Twitter accounts including those belonging to news websites, activists and actors were suspended for more than 12 hours after the government said users were posting content inciting violence due to their use of the hashtag #FarmersProtests. Twitter reversed its decision by the evening.
“The authorities must stop threatening, demonising, and arresting peaceful protesters and stop treating them as ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘terrorists’ “