India Restricts Religious Festivals Over New COVID-19 Surge Fears

Devotees chant religious hymns of Hindu god Krishna on the occasion of ‘Janmashtami’ festival that marks the birth of Krishna, at a temple in village Bhadaj, some 25 kms from Ahmadabad on August 30, 2021. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY / AFP)

 

 

 

Indian authorities are restricting major religious festivals that start this week and attract huge crowds, warning that a new Covid-19 wave had already begun in the financial capital Mumbai.

State governments across the country of 1.3 billion people, which saw a devastating coronavirus surge in April-May, are clamping down on mass gatherings.

“The third wave is not coming, it is already here,” Mumbai’s mayor Kishori Pednekar told reporters on Tuesday.

“We can celebrate festivals later. Let us first prioritise the lives and health of our citizens,” added Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.

He was speaking ahead of the 11-day Hindu Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which starts Friday.

The last Covid-19 wave overwhelmed India’s hospitals and was known to have killed more than 200,000 people.

It struck after one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings, the Kumbh Mela, which attracted some 25 million Hindu pilgrims.

That gathering, large state election rallies and the infectious Delta virus variant — first detected in India — were blamed by experts for fuelling the surge.

 

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) suits attend to a Covid-19 coronavirus patient inside the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Teerthanker Mahaveer University (TMU) hospital in Moradabad on May 5, 2021.
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Authorities said a recent spike in cases in the southern state of Kerala after the Onam festival in August should be cause for alarm.

But festive crowds have still packed markets in Maharashtra and other states in recent days, ignoring the warnings.

The state government will limit the height of effigies of the elephant-headed god Ganesha to reduce the number of devotees carrying them during the festival.

Processions on the festival’s first and last days will be banned.

Restrictions on movements and activities are expected to be introduced this week as cases rise in another major Maharashtra city, Nagpur.

In the neighbouring state of Karnataka, a night curfew will remain in place and districts posting higher positive test levels will be banned from holding Ganesh celebrations.

Karnataka health minister, K. Sudhakar, told AFP officials were also concerned the recent resumption of high school classes could increase cases.

Viti Kumar, a resident of Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said she feared people would let down their guards during the festivals.

“I cannot take chances with my daughter. I am not sending her to school,” she told AFP.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu has banned public festival celebrations, while the eastern state of West Bengal was expected to impose curbs on the nine-day Durga Puja in October.

India has the world’s second-highest known caseload, with more than 33 million infections, and 441,000 deaths.

India Vaccinates 10 Million In One Day

A child uses a mobile device to attend an online class at the premises of her home amid the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in Hyderabad on July 26, 2021. (Photo by Noah SEELAM / AFP)

 

 

India has given more than 10 million COVID-19 jabs in a single day for the first time, authorities said Saturday, as the South Asian giant bolsters its defences for a predicted new surge.

The health ministry said the 10 million landmark was passed on Friday, beating the country’s previous daily record of 9.2 million. The government has been stung by criticism after a brutal coronavirus wave in April and May killed more than 200,000 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the milestone as a “momentous feat” for the nation of 1.3 billion people.

“Kudos to those getting vaccinated and those making the vaccination drive a success,” he said on Twitter.

The government had aimed to vaccinate about 1.1 billion adults by the end of the year but shortages, administrative confusion and hesitancy have held back numbers. Only around 15 percent have had two doses since the drive began in January.

India’s daily infection count has dropped dramatically since the devastating surge in April-May which overwhelmed its creaking health infrastructure.

Almost all restrictions on movement and activity have been lifted even though experts have warned of a new wave hitting as early as next month as the festival season starts.

Daily case numbers have started rising again above 40,000 and more than 500 deaths were reported on Saturday. The 46,000 new cases reported Saturday was the highest figure in two months. Much of the spike has been blamed on a surge in the southern state of Kerala.

India is currently administering three vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, known locally as Covishield, Covaxin by Indian firm Bharat Biotech and the Russian-made Sputnik V.

The country has so far recorded 437,370 deaths and more than 32 million infections, the second-highest in the world after the United States. Experts say that because of under-reporting, India’s true toll could be more than four times higher.

India Approves Emergency Use Of 2nd Locally-Made Covid-19 Shot

A health worker inoculates a catholic nun with the first dose of the Covaxin vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus during a vaccination drive at Saint Mary's Basilica in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on August 19, 2021. NOAH SEELAM / AFP
A health worker inoculates a catholic nun with the first dose of the Covaxin vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus during a vaccination drive at Saint Mary’s Basilica in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad on August 19, 2021. NOAH SEELAM / AFP

 

India on Friday authorised the emergency use of a second homegrown Covid-19 vaccine, which is also the first approved for children older than 12 in the country.

India’s Department of Biotechnology announced its approval for ZyCoV-D, by Indian pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila, as the “world’s first and India’s indigenously developed DNA-based vaccine for Covid-19.”

The approval for ZyCoV-D, which can be applied using a needle-free injector, comes with vaccination rates picking up across the country over the last few weeks.

READ ALSO: Three More US Senators Test Positive For COVID-19

“This three-dose vaccine… when injected produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and elicits an immune response,” the biotechnology department, which partnered with Zydus Cadila, said in a statement.

“The plug-and-play technology on which the plasmid DNA platform is based can be easily adapted to deal with mutations in the virus, such as those already occurring,” it added.

ZyCov-D is now the sixth vaccine to be approved by New Delhi after Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, Covaxin — which was developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech, Russia’s Sputnik V, and Johnson and Johnson.

More than 574 million jabs have been administered so far in India.

The country broke its daily record earlier this week by administering more than 9.2 million vaccine doses in the mass vaccination programme which began in mid-January.

India hopes to inoculate its entire eligible population by the end of December. But with only about 10 percent — or 127 million people — having received both doses of a two-shot regime, some health experts say the country will need to further boost its indigenous vaccine production.

Logistical challenges make Indian vaccines, which don’t need any special storage facilities, the easiest to transport and use across the country.

The nation of 1.3 billion people was hit by a massive spike of coronavirus cases in April and May that pushed the health care system to breaking point.

India has so far recorded at least 433,589 deaths and more than 32 million Covid-19 infections.

 

AFP

India’s Monsoon Claims 16 More Lives

Police manages the traffic amid a waterlogged road after monsoon showers in Kolkata on July 30, 2021.
DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP

 

At least 16 people have been killed and a quarter of a million people displaced from their homes after heavy monsoon rains lashed eastern India, officials said Tuesday, as the air force joined rescue efforts.

The latest deaths in West Bengal came a few days after 11 people were also killed in the state as the torrent of water swept away homes and triggered landslides.

Flooding and landslides are common during India’s treacherous monsoon season from June to September and cause widespread devastation.

The annual downpours have been worsened by climate change, experts say.

Two river banks were breached and flooding affected at least half a million people in six districts in West Bengal over the past two days, the state’s disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan told AFP.

Five of the 16 people killed were swept away in the flood and the rest died when their mud houses collapsed, officials said.

Dozens of people were plucked from the rooftop of a submerged building with military helicopters, including a 100-year-old woman and a nine-month-old baby, Khan added.

Panicked residents had to flee for higher ground after water from a nearby dam was released, causing sudden flooding.

“We fear scores of people are still marooned. Indian Air Force helicopters and disaster management personnel are struggling to rescue them,” he added.

Villager Samir Nandi, 65, said he had “never witnessed such a flood”.

“Many people in (my) village took refuge on the roof of the buildings and they are waiting to be rescued.”

Authorities have set up more than 40 relief centres for the displaced in the flood-affected districts, senior state official Harekrishna Dribedi, said.

This year’s monsoon, which had earlier inundated the western coast, has claimed the lives of at least 250 people so far.

Last month, at least 200 people died in the western state of Maharashtra after landslides sent torrents of mud onto villages.

The northern Himalayan states, including Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, have also reported several deaths.

-AFP

India Rescuers Hunt For Survivors As Monsoon Toll Hits 76

In this picture taken on July 23, 2021, a man stands inside his damaged house following heavy monsoon rains in Valpoy in the Indian state of Goa. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

 

Rescuers in India combed through mud and debris Saturday in a desperate search for survivors as the death toll from heavy monsoon rains climbed to 76, with nearly 90,000 others evacuated.

Torrential downpours have lashed India’s western coast in recent days, leaving dozens missing near the financial capital Mumbai and causing the worst floods in decades in the resort state of Goa.

“People have lost virtually everything,” said Goa’s health minister Vishwajit Rane, pointing out that the state had not seen such heavy rains in half a century.

He said more than 1,000 houses had suffered serious damage in the area as rising waters flooded homes.

Goa’s floods were its worst in decades, according to its chief minister Pramod Sawant, who said the monsoons had caused “widespread damage” but no casualties, unlike in neighbouring Maharashtra state, where 76 people died.

More than half of the deaths occurred in hard-hit Raigad, south of Mumbai, where landslides buried dozens of houses, killing 47 and with another 53 feared trapped under layers of mud.

The downpour caused the Savitri river to burst its banks, leaving the town of Mahad completely inaccessible by road, and prompting terrified residents to climb onto rooftops and upper floors to escape swelling waters.

National Disaster Response Force teams could not land their choppers in the area due to bad weather on Friday but were eventually able to rescue locals as waters began to recede.

The hillside resort of Mahabaleshwar recorded nearly 60 centimetres (23 inches) of rain in a 24-hour period ending Friday morning, the India Meteorological Department said.

Rescue teams and military units worked frantically to evacuate stranded people but their operations were hampered by landslides blocking roads, including the main highway between Mumbai and Goa.

Water levels rose to nearly 20 feet (6 metres) on Thursday in areas of Chiplun, south of Mumbai, after 24 hours of uninterrupted rain submerged roads and homes.

“Contact from the town was completely cut off due to land routes being inundated,” the Maharashtra state government said.

Seven naval rescue teams equipped with rubber boats, life jackets and lifebuoys were sent to the affected areas, along with specialist divers and a helicopter to airlift marooned residents.

Nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated in Maharashtra so far.

– Red alerts –
India’s weather bureau has issued red alerts for several regions in the state and forecasts heavy rainfall to continue for the next few days.

Flooding and landslides are common during India’s treacherous monsoon season, which also often sees poorly constructed buildings and walls buckling after days of non-stop rain.

Four people died before dawn on Friday when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum, authorities said.

The incident came less than a week after at least 34 people lost their lives when several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide in the city.

Rainwater also inundated a water purification complex in Mumbai last weekend, disrupting supply “in most of the parts” of the megacity of 20 million people, civic authorities said.

Roxy Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said the monsoon flooding was “unprecedented, but not unexpected”.

“We already see a threefold rise in widespread extreme rains that cause floods across India,” he tweeted.

Climate change is making India’s monsoons stronger, according to a Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research report published in April that forecast dire consequences for food, farming and the economy affecting nearly a fifth of the world’s population.

India Denies Millions Have Died From COVID-19

A health worker unloads the body of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 19, 2021. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP

 

The Indian government rejected on Thursday recent studies suggesting that millions of people have died in the country from Covid-19, several times the official toll of almost 420,000.

It said in a statement however that several Indian states were now “reconciling” their data after dealing with a spike in cases in April and May.

On Tuesday a study by US research group the Center for Global Development suggested anywhere from 3.4 million to 4.7 million people had died in India, between eight and 11 times the official number.

That would give the country the world’s highest number of fatalities. Currently its official toll of 419,000 trails the United States on 610,000 and Brazil with 545,000.

The study is the latest to cast doubt on India’s official numbers, pointing to poor record-keeping and the death rate per million being around half the global average.

Researchers have looked in particular at “excess mortality”, the number of additional fatalities compared with normal times, and at death rates in other countries.

But the Indian government said Thursday it was an “audacious assumption that the likelihood of any given infected person dying is the same across countries”.

The studies, it said, ignored “factors such as race, ethnicity, genomic constitution of a population, previous exposure levels to other diseases and the associated immunity developed in that population”.

Assuming that all excess deaths were from coronavirus was “not based on facts and totally fallacious”, the government said.

It added that India has a “thorough contact tracing strategy”, a “vast availability” of testing labs and that while some cases may go undetected, “missing out on deaths is unlikely”.

The statement however left some room for blame against local authorities, saying the health ministry “only compiles and publishes data sent by the state governments” and that it had been “repeatedly advising” states on properly recording deaths.

States overwhelmed by the surge in April and May have now been “advised to conduct thorough audits that could have been missed”, and several have in recent weeks updated their figures, it said.

Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state, has upped its death toll by around 15,000 while Bihar added about 4,000 and Madhya Pradesh 1,500.

AFP

India Records More Than 45,000 Cases Of ‘Black Fungus’

n this picture taken on May 5, 2021, relatives wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) suit carry the dead body of a person who died due to the Covid-19 coronavirus at a crematorium in Moradabad. 
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

 

India recorded more than 45,000 cases of the deadly “black fungus” over the last two months, the health ministry said, as a nationwide outbreak sweeps through COVID-19 patients.

The country’s junior health minister Bharati Pravin Pawar told parliament on Tuesday that over 4,200 people had died of the fungus — scientific name mucormycosis.

The infection was previously considered very rare but cases have ballooned during the pandemic, usually striking patients after recovery from Covid-19.

It is a highly aggressive disease and surgeons have been forced to remove eyes, the nose and jaw from patients to stop it spreading to the brain.

The death rate is over 50 percent.

According to government data, the highest number of cases were reported in the western state of Maharashtra at 9,348.

India dealt with just 20 cases a year on average before the pandemic, with only people with severely compromised immunity at risk, including those with high blood sugar levels, HIV or organ transplant recipients.

Experts have attributed the recent rise to the excessive use of steroids to treat Covid-19.

The Indian government declared the fungus an epidemic in May as cases shot up and social media has been flooded with desperate pleas for medicines to treat the illness.

Government data tabled on Tuesday suggested infection numbers peaked during May and June and have since substantially decreased.

But the Hindustan Times newspaper reported Monday that there had been a rise in cases among children in the northern state of Rajasthan.

At Least 23 Killed In Landslide, Wall Collapse In India Monsoon Rains

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021.
Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

At least 23 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in India’s financial capital Mumbai, authorities said Sunday.

A falling tree demolished a wall in the eastern suburb of Chembur during Sunday’s early hours, burying nearby residents, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said.

Seventeen bodies had been recovered from the rubble, it added. Rescuers were searching the scene for more survivors and bodies.

And in the suburb of Vikhroli in the city’s northeast, six people were killed after a landslide hit five homes early Sunday, the NDRF added.

Building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon season, with old and rickety structures buckling under days of non-stop rain.

Mumbai, home to 20 million people, has been hit by downpours since Saturday, with local transport services affected.

The Indian Meteorological Department said early Sunday that “moderate to heavy rain or thundershowers” were forecast for the next two days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and added that there would be financial compensation for victims’ families.

Last month, 12 people were killed when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum.

In September, 39 people died when a three-storey apartment block collapsed in Bhiwandi near Mumbai.

AFP

Lightning Kills 76 In India, Including Selfie-Takers


Members of State Disaster Response Force conduct a search operation near the watchtowers of the Amer Fort on the outskirts of Jaipur on July 12, 2021, after 11 people were killed in lightning strikes at the fort. AFP

 

Several people reportedly taking selfies near a historical fort in northern India were among nearly 80 killed by lightning strikes during the early stages of the annual monsoon season, officials said Monday.

Deadly lightning strikes are common in the vast Asian nation during the June-September deluge, which bring respite from the summer heat across the northern Indian plains.

Of the 76 killed, at least 23 people died in the mostly desert state of Rajasthan, including a dozen who were watching the storm cross Jaipur city from watch towers near the famous 12th-century Amer Fort late Sunday, a state disaster department official told AFP.

“It was already raining when the people were there. They huddled in the towers as the rainfall intensified,” a senior Jaipur police officer, Saurabh Tiwari, added.

He said up to 30 people were on the towers when the lightning struck. Emergency teams were checking if any victims had fallen into a deep moat on one side of the towers.

“Some of the injured were left unconscious by the strikes. Others ran out in panic and extreme pain,” he added.

Officials told local media some of those killed were taking selfies during the storm.

Every year, tens of thousands of tourists visit the Amer Fort, a medieval complex on a hilltop outside Jaipur also known as the Amber Fort.

People had been flocking to the fort, which gives a panoramic view of the tourist city of Jaipur, after several weeks of intense heat in the state.

In the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, at least 42 people were killed in lightning strikes on Saturday and Sunday, officials said. They did not give further details about where they had been killed.

Another 11 people died in the central state of Madhya Pradesh over the weekend, an official at the state’s disaster control room told AFP.

Two of them, who had taken their camels and sheep for grazing, were sheltering under a tree when they were hit by lightning, the official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the victims’ families would be offered compensation.

Last month, 27 people were killed and four passengers on a flight were hospitalised after severe turbulence during monsoon storms the eastern state of West Bengal.

Nearly 2,900 people were killed by lightning in India in 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau — the most recent figures available.

The monsoon is crucial to replenishing water supplies in South Asia, but also causes widespread death and destruction across the region each year.

AFP

12 Indian Ministers Resign In Major Reshuffle

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a joint media briefing at the Hyderadad House in New Delhi on February 8, 2020. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is on his four-day state visit to India from February 7.
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

 

Twelve Indian ministers including the health chief resigned Wednesday following a catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.

The resignations form part of a major cabinet expansion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of seven state elections in 2022.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, 66, came in for particular criticism during the spike in infections in April and May.

The health service was under severe pressure in many areas with hospitals running out of beds, medical oxygen and drugs.

The Covid-19 explosion was blamed on new virus variants and the government having allowed mass religious and political gatherings to take place from January.

Modi had declared victory over the virus in January and critics say his government failed to use the time to prepare the historically underfunded health system for another wave.

India’s official death toll has exploded from around 160,000 at the end of March to more than 400,000 now, the third-highest in the world.

But many experts suspect the figures are an undercount and the real number of dead could be several times higher.

– Elections -Three dozen new faces have been inducted into the new Modi cabinet, taking the number of ministers to 77, up from 52.

More than a dozen ministers are from poll-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, representing different castes and regional communities, a dominant factor in India’s electoral politics.

Four members from southern Karnataka state were also added, including millionaire media mogul Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and Shobha Karandlaje, a sectarian rabble-rouser politician.

Karandlaje has several police cases filed against her over her anti-Muslim remarks.

Six other women ministers also found a place in the new cabinet.

But the expansion has witnessed the shock exit of two key members from the Modi cabinet, including Ravi Shankar Prasad — minister for law and justice and information technology — and Prakash Javadekar, minister for information and broadcasting, environment and climate change.

Both Prasad, 66, and Javadekar, 70, were seen as faces of the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government, with some press reports suggesting they would handle party work ahead of the key state elections.

Seven Indian states are due to hold elections next year, six of them currently ruled by the BJP. They include Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, Gujarat and Punjab.

Earlier this year the BJP suffered a major setback when it failed to wrest power in the important eastern state of West Bengal from a high-profile Modi critic.

Some commentators said this was a reflection of Modi’s falling popularity because of his handling of the pandemic. The BJP did however retain Assam in the northeast.

Twitter spat

Prasad’s exit from the cabinet has been particularly surprising as he was locked in a bitter dispute with foreign social media companies over a new law.

He authored a controversial law that required social media firms to remove and identify the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India’s sovereignty, state security or public order.

Social media companies and privacy activists fear the vagueness of the rules means they could be forced to identify the authors of posts critical of the government.

WhatsApp is challenging the rules in court over user privacy violations.

But the war of words has been sharpest with Twitter, with the microblogging site failing to appoint a permanent compliance officer based in India.

Prasad has several times publicly slammed Twitter for not following the new rules, and undermining Indian laws.

His ministry recently told a court that the social media platform does not enjoy an intermediatory status in India, making the company criminally liable for content posted on the platform.

This follows police visits to Twitter’s India office in May after the firm labelled tweets by the BJP’s national spokesman as “manipulated media”.

Twitter responded by accusing the government of “intimidation tactics”.

Drunk Indian Buffaloes Blow Cover On Contraband Booze

File photo of the Indian flag

 

Three Indian farmers in the dry western state of Gujarat have been arrested for selling illegal alcohol after their own buffaloes got drunk on the hooch, police said.

One of the men called a local vet after their buffaloes starting to “act strangely and their mouths started frothing”, local police official Dilipsinh Baldev told AFP.

The vet then inspected the water trough that the animals had been drinking from and “observed a strange smell and found the water to be coloured”.

READ ALSO: Death Toll In Philippines Military Plane Crash Rises To 52

This, it turned out, was because the men had hidden bottles of moonshine in the trough and some of them had broken, contaminating the water.

The vet then informed the police, who raided the farm on Monday and recovered 100 bottles of alcohol worth 32,000 rupees ($400).

The three farmers were arrested.

In Gujarat — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state — making, buying, selling or transporting alcohol is outlawed, punishable by hefty fines and even prison sentences.

AFP

UN ‘Disturbed’ By Death In Jail Of Indian Priest

Priest and human rights activist was denied bail despite being weakened by Parkinson’s and Covid-19.

 

 

The United Nations said Tuesday it was deeply disturbed by the death in pre-trial detention of Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Indian rights activist and Jesuit priest.

Swamy, who was detained for nine months without trial under Indian anti-terror laws, died on Monday ahead of a bail hearing.

The priest, who campaigned for marginalised tribal communities, was arrested last year for allegedly inciting violence between different Indian castes in 2018.

“We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.

Swamy was denied bail despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments. He was admitted to hospital in May with coronavirus and suffered a cardiac arrest over the weekend.

The priest had been detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made use of the law to have campaigners, journalists, students and others arrested, in what critics say is an attempt to silence dissent.

“High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the same events with the government of India over the past three years, and urged their release from pre-trial detention,” said Throssell.

“The high commissioner has also raised concerns over the use of the UAPA in relation to human rights defenders — a law Father Stan was challenging before Indian courts days before he died.”

Throssell said that given the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries — India included — should release everyone detained without a sufficient legal basis, including those held simply for expressing dissenting views.

“We stress, once again, the high commissioner’s call on the government of India to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association,” the spokeswoman said.