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Authorities in India fail to “prevent incidents of religious violence”: Amnesty

Authorities in India failed to “prevent many incidents of religious violence” and sometimes “contributed to tensions through polarising speeches”, Amnesty International said as it condemned growing intolerance in the country in its annual report released today.

The rights body in it its report for 2015-16 warned against worldwide assault of freedoms with many governments “brazenly” breaking international law, including an “intensified crackdown on key freedoms” in India.

“Scores of artists, writers and scientists returned national honours in protest against what they said was a climate of growing intolerance,” the report said in reference to India.

“Authorities clamped down on civil society organisations critical of official policies, and increased restrictions on foreign funding. Religious tensions intensified, and gender and caste-based discrimination and violence remained pervasive. Censorship and attacks on freedom of expression by hardline Hindu groups grew,” it added.

Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty India, said: “In 2015, India saw several backslides on human rights. The government intensified restrictions on civil society organisations…”

“What is heartening is that there has been opposition to the erosion of rights. The widespread outrage around incidents of religious intolerance, a Supreme Court ruling striking down an oppressive law on free speech online, the many public protests against ill-conceived reforms to land acquisition laws – these offer hope that 2016 can be a better year for human rights in India.”

Amnesty rebuked Indian authorities for “failing to prevent many incidents of religious violence, and sometimes contributing to tensions through polarising speeches and pervasive caste-based discrimination and violence”.

“There was some progress when the lower house of Parliament passed an amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, recognising new offences and requiring that special courts be established to try them, and stipulating that victims and witnesses receive protection,” it said.

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