US Secretary of State Blinken visits India, meets civil society leaders
Dr. Narjeet Kaur
US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken arrived In Delhi On A Two-day Visit To India. He met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister S Jaishanka, and Doval. It is Blinken's first visit to India after assuming charge as the US Secretary of State and the third by a high-ranking Biden administration official after it came to power in January.
He discussed supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan, India’s human rights along with other important issues like Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values and climate crisis.
Apart from his official meetings with the Indian authority, Blinken also met with a group of civil society leaders in New Delhi. After the civil society’s discussion Blinken spoke to the media and said, “The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief.
Speaking to a group of civil society leaders , after his discussion at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world”. His tweets are a reflection of his intentions.
He further stated that "Like our own, India's democracy is powered by its free thinking citizens. We applaud that. We view Indian democracy as a force for good in defence of a free and open Indo-Pacific and a free and open world," he said.
The efforts taken by Secretary Blinken for raising these issues with the Indian officials are appreciated, though can be called long overdue. Also, it would be worthwhile to know who are at the frontline of fighting for civil rights. Their names and designations would be welcome information. These efforts from the US minister are barely enough to keep the human rights in India to be upheld. What is happening is just a mockery and not justice.
Sikh NGO & Political lobby group Sikh Federation UK. In their recent tweet they have appreciated the way the US administration has taken serious note of concerns raised about actions of Indian government.
Several organisations have raised concerns over the gravity of efforts being made. Jaspreet Kaur, counsel for Voices For Freedom said “Voices for Freedom regularly brings up issues concerning freedom of religion and belief with the US State Department and are thankful to Secretary Blinken for raising the issues with the civil society in India. The Indian government should be held accountable for the 1984 Sikh genocide and also the attacks on the minority communities in India. More than 500 farmers are dead while fighting for their rights. How cold-hearted a government could be and still call itself a democracy?”
The Government of India, at both the national and state level, has been taking punitive actions to proscribe non-violent countenance. The government uses draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law, and laws dealing with hate speech to silence disagreement.
Initially, the government tried to foil the peaceful protests of farmers by barricading the highways, digging ditches in the roads and parking heavy trucks filled with sand on the roads leading to the Capital. The police even used water cannons and tear gas shells on unarmed farmers without considering their safety, to stop them from entering the capital.
Not only are there reports of direct use of force against the protesting farmers, the government even espoused indirect and unethical ways by using the state mechanism to wane the protest by sending investigation agencies after the farmers and organizations aiding the protest. There have been Income Tax raids and inquiries against the farmer agents of Punjab for adding pressure on the ongoing agitation and attempt to dissuade the movement.
The government has also tried to hush journalists and politicians speaking in favour of the protest by either arresting them or charging them with sedition for causing disharmony via their tweets and by misreporting facts. A journalist Mandeep Punia was brutally assaulted, arrested and later detained in judicial custody for allegedly obstructing the police proceedings.
Additionally, the internet services were suspended on the sites of the protest and in several districts of Haryana under the lieu of maintaining public order which led to a complete information blackout for the protesting farmers and limited their access to the developments around the border area. The Twitter accounts of individuals, organizations supporting farmers' protest and several news agencies were also suspended to restrict live reporting from the protest sites.
Wonder if these issues were taken up by the Civil rights leaders in their meeting with Mr. Antony Blinken.
The space for free speech in India’s public sphere is attenuating. A climate of harassment threatens to silence critical voices, particularly those of minorities and women. We really hope that the Secretary Blinken and other contentious groups will keep raising the issue of farmers, freedom of the minorities , and also would continue to closely engage with the Government of India on issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, continue to monitor developments that positively and negatively affect civic space and fundamental rights and freedoms.