by Qurat Hashmi 8 November 2022
Natural justice and history are the sources of essential human rights, not any legislation. Recent years have seen significant efforts to end gross human rights violations from an international perspective. The UN Human Rights Council is one such platform for enhancing the global system to guarantee victims’ justice and accountability for crimes against humanity. This is why it holds yearly review conferences and meetings with its member states, where a stronger emphasis is placed on the right to restitution and ways to help victims of torture and other severe human rights violations recover.
Human rights violations have been taking place all over the world. But the extent of human rights violations in India has assumed alarming proportions since 2014. Owing to the sensitivity of the issue and the extent of the gross human rights violation, the upcoming UNHRC’s 41st Universal Periodic Review (UPR)- 7 to 18 November, 2022, will review India for the human rights situation and addresses the violations. India has been chided by the international community for its human rights abuse. On his visit to India on October 19, 2022, UN chief Antonio Guterres criticized India over its human rights record. He stated that “as an elected member of the Human Rights Council, India has a responsibility to shape global human rights and to protect and promote the rights of all individuals, including members of minority communities.”
The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government has increased its hate speech and fascist ideology against religious minorities since Modi took office in 2014. In the country of 1.4 billion-person with a majority of Hindus, life is particularly challenging for the 200 million-strong Muslim minority. The government used repressive laws to restrict freedom of expression. There have been numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions, caste-based discrimination, hate crimes, excessive use of force, and other human rights violations.
The government uses repressive laws to stifle online and offline speech, thus silencing critics. Actors, activists, journalists, students, lawyers, and human rights defenders continue to be targeted for intimidation and harassment. Independent investigations have exposed a sizable, illegal surveillance system that the government was using against human rights advocates, thus violating their rights to privacy, non-discrimination, and data protection.
Previously, the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process had recommended that the government should take swift action to solve the problem of human rights. Various stakeholders suggested that Indian security forces should be held to higher accountability standards, freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly, and the death penalty should be abolished. However, the Indian government is unwilling to abide by these crucial recommendations. At its United Nations review in Geneva on September 21, 2017, Human Rights Watch stated that “the Indian government had rejected several important human rights recommendations. The recommendations by UN member nations during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) should be implemented as soon as possible by the government.”
Numerous times, the safety of religious minorities in India has been questioned. This includes the December 2019 passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act by the Indian Parliament. As the only means of preserving the territorial integrity of the disputed territory for Hindu Rashtra, the BJP-led Hindu right wing has started demographic engineering in Jammu and Kashmir. This act sparked international outrage and was deemed “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” by the UN Office for the Protection of Human Rights. Asserting that it was “deeply troubled” by the act, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also expressed its sentiment.
Furthermore, the Indian government has chosen to remain in denial in the face of numerous assaults on free speech and threats against marginalised communities. Tax authorities searched and raided offices of the newsgroups, to report actual numbers of COVID-19 victims’ dead bodies dumped along the Ganga River due to high cremation costs. Likewise, on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering for “religious conversion,” the offices of news organizations, the homes of philanthropists, and human rights activists, were raided.
Subsequently, according to the country report 2020 on Human Rights Practices: India, “unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings committed by police, were significant human rights issues in India. Also, members of minority communities and farmers protesting peacefully against agricultural laws were treated harshly by police and security personnel. Courts undermined the right to a fair trial and postponed hearing significant cases involving human rights violations.
Governmental entities abused the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to intimidate NGOs. A human rights organisation that promotes access to justice and information, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, had its FCRA licence suspended by the Ministry of Home Affairs in June. More than 80 charitable and human rights organisations were placed on a “Prior Reference Category” list without explanation. In addition, the Ministry also revoked the registration of 10 international NGOs working, on climate change and child labour issues.
Human rights and “equality” are now distant concepts in apartheid-style India. Therefore, serious actions must be taken by the international community and International nongovernmental organizations to stop India from human rights violations. There are hopes that in the upcoming UPR 41st session, India will be under strict observation by the UNHR watch group, and it will implement the recommendations given by the stakeholders. This is the ultimate solution to regional peace and prosperity.