New Delhi, Jan 13 (EFE).- The nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) published Thursday its 32nd annual World Report for 2021 in which it underlined a deteriorating rights situation in South Asia.
Almost all the countries in this region, namely India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives witnessed a deterioration of the human rights sitution or access to justice as the pandemic continued for the second year.
India recorded an increase in attacks towards ethnic and religious minorities, especially Muslims, along with the use of violence by the law enforcement agencies, according to HRW.
Critics of the ruling BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including activists, journalists, peaceful protesters, artists and businesses faced increasing risk of politically motivated harassment, prosecutions, and tax raids.
“A devastating second wave of Covid-19 in April exposed systemic weaknesses in India’s health infrastructure and the government’s mishandling of the pandemic,” the report said, adding that criticism of the pandemic response was met with threats while data was allegedly suppressed to downplay its impact.
In 2021, India also witnessed a 9.4 percent increase in attacks on dalits – the lowest strata in the Hindu caste system – and a 9.3 percent increase in attacks on members of tribal communities, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
The Pakistani government has intensified its efforts to control the media to curtail dissent, as well suppress the voices of women, religious minorities, and transgender community in the face of violence, discrimination, and persecution, the rights watchdog said.
“A climate of fear impedes media coverage of abuses by both government security forces and militant groups,” HRW said adding “journalists who face threats and attacks have increasingly resorted to self-censorship.”
To stifle dissent, the authorities have expanded the use of draconian sedition and counter terrorism laws and strictly regulated civil society groups critical of government and the opposition parties.
The Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made no attempt to address a pattern of grave abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances by its security forces in 2021.
The report said that the authorities continued its crackdown on critics, journalists, and even children who criticized the government or dared to question its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the government denied the allegations of rights violations.
“If they categorically say, we could investigate. HRW is always engaged in propaganda. It is absurd, we respect the rights of people of this country,” senior minister and head of cabinet committee on law and order, Mozammel Haque, told EFE.
The Taliban regime in Afghanistan is responsible for dozens of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and attacks on activists and dissidents since their return to power in the country in August, the report said.
In the last six months, the crisis has turned into a catastrophe, with an acute economic and food crisis, while the rights of women were curtailed and activists and independent reporters were arrested and beaten up.