(New York) – The Indian government blocked foreign funding and escalated pressure on media and civil society groups critical of government policies, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing its World Report 2017. Authorities also failed to address attacks and harassment against religious minorities by vigilante groups claiming to be supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights as an impediment to the majority will. For those who feel left behind by the global economy and increasingly fear violent crime, civil society groups, the media, and the public have key roles to play in reaffirming the values on which rights-respecting democracy has been built.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government continued to use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which regulates foreign funding for civil society organizations, to cut off funds and activities of environmental and rights groups. In 2016, three United Nations special rapporteurs called on the government to repeal FCRA. However, the Modi administration blocked funding for 25 groups, including some prominent human rights defenders, without offering valid reasons.