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Rights body urges India to end violence against women, minorities
Tuesday January 21, 2014 6:08 PM, IANS

The Indian government's inability to protect women and children from rape and sexual violence undermines its commitment to uphold the rights of all Indians, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

During 2013, the authorities also failed to enforce laws that protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, religious minorities and tribal groups, it said in its World Report 2014.

Government efforts to increase mass surveillance raised concerns over rights to privacy and free speech, it said.

In the 667-page world report, its 24th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

India has strong legislation to protect rights, Human Rights Watch said, but entrenched corruption and lack of accountability foster human rights violations.

The civil society groups, which play a crucial advocacy role in addressing these problems through protests and free expression, were increasingly at risk due to misused sedition laws and financial regulations.

In April, India rolled out a Central Monitoring System for all phone and Internet communications, which rights groups fear could lead to abuse in the absence of adequate oversight or safeguards for the right to privacy, the report said.

The courage and persistence of victims' families and human rights activists did result in court interventions and investigations in several cases of extrajudicial killings in which the security forces had falsely claimed that the deaths occurred during armed exchanges.

In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, there was an increase in communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims, Human Rights Watch said.

"There is risk of additional violence as political interest groups seek to exploit tensions between the two communities."

Maoist insurgents in central and eastern India continued to attack civilians and security forces while villagers were at risk of arbitrary arrests and torture by state forces.

Maoists continued to attack schools and government security forces occupied school buildings for operations in violation of court orders.

Internationally, India engaged in efforts to promote human rights in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar but did little to address the crises outside of South Asia, such as in Syria, the report said.

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