US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring what he described as a rise in “human rights abuses” in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of New Delhi.
“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials,” Mr Blinken said on Monday in a joint press briefing with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
Mr Blinken did not elaborate. Mr Singh and Mr Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken at the briefing, did not comment on the human rights issue.
Mr Blinken’s remarks came days after US Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the US government to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights.
“What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?” Ms Omar, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, said last week.
Several Indian states have passed or are considering anti-conversion laws that challenge the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief.
In 2019, the government passed a citizenship law that critics said undermined India’s secular constitution by excluding Muslim migrants from neighbouring countries. The law was meant to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.
In the same year, it revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate the Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country.
Recently, Karnataka banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in the state.