India is among the deadliest countries for defenders of rights related to land, territory, environment, rights NGO Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

In its global report ‘Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights’, released on Tuesday, the rights watchdog said: “In India, journalists, land rights activists, and those advocating the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, Dalits and Adivasis (tribal) are among those at risk of attack.”

Among the deadliest countries for this group of human rights defenders are Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, India and Honduras, it said.

According to an Amnesty release, as many as 3,500 human rights defenders were killed worldwide since 1998 while the number in 2016 was 281– a significant increase from 156 defenders killed in 2015 and 136 in 2014.

Also, 48 journalists were killed worldwide in 2016, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The report included testimonies from human rights defenders as well as their relatives and colleagues in India, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritania, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Sudan and Syria.

Many described how victims’ pleas for protection had been repeatedly ignored by the authorities and how the attackers had evaded justice, fueling a deadly cycle of impunity, it said.
Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India, said human rights defenders were painted as a threat to development or traditional values.

“Human rights defenders, instead of being recognised and protected by the state, are portrayed as ‘criminals’, ‘foreign agents’, ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘terrorists’, and painted as a threat to development or traditional values. Such labels are divisive, signal contempt for constitutional rights, and give a green light to further abuses,” she said, as per the release.

The report has brought together stories from around the world including that of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was fatally shot outside her home in Bengaluru in September 2017.

It also mentioned Chhattisgarh’s Jailal Rathia, who had challenged the Adivasi land grabbing and later died of what was suspected as deliberate poisoning, and killing of Maharashtra Dalit activist Chandrakant Gaikwad.

The report focused on the gravest of violations against human rights defenders– killings and enforced disappearances.

“The motives behind these attacks are multiple and layered. Some people are attacked because of their legitimate activities, for example, as they stand up to powerful actors violating human rights, share information and raise awareness, or confront discriminatory public opinion and social norms. Others are attacked both for what they do and who they are,” it said.