Human Rights Watch asked candidates and political parties contesting India’s parliamentary elections, slated for April and May 2019, should commit to strengthening human rights protections. In a open letter, it called on candidates to commit to human rights reforms on several key issues.
“India is the world’s largest democracy, but there is more to a democracy than simply participating in elections,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Candidates should commit to respecting and strengthening the fundamental rights of all Indians, and reject efforts to foment communal divisions and hatred.”
Human Rights Watch said that candidates should pledge to ensure accountability of the security forces for killings and torture; to protect freedom of expression and assembly by ending the abuse of sedition, criminal defamation, and counterterrorism laws; to enforce laws that protect the rights of women and children including against sexual violence; to end discrimination and violent attacks against Dalits, Adivasis, and minority communities; to safeguard disability and refugee rights; to uphold Supreme Court rulings on privacy; and to promote a human rights foreign policy.
“It is important for voters in India to have the choice to elect leaders who will genuinely uphold human rights protections,” Ganguly said. “That means every candidate should promote the principles of equality, freedom and justice.”
HRW expressed concern that respect for economic, social, and political rights has declined in India in recent years. It expressed hope that parties and candidates will commit to amend the FCRA so that it does not interfere with basic freedoms of association and assembly and cannot be misused to choke the protected activities of civil society organizations. It also urged to amend the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to ensure that restrictions on organizations respect the right to freedom of association under international law.