Minority rights, NGO crackdown raised at UN meet, India says freedoms secure

Concept of torture alien to our culture: Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published:May 5, 2017 5:17 am
India human rights issues, UN Human Rights Council, India minority rights, India NGO crackdown, India women's right, India news, India UN meet, Indian express Several countries expressed concerns on India’s FCRA laws, incidents of religious intolerance, women’s rights and even racism

From complaints of eroding minority rights and religious intolerance to the crackdown against NGOs, women’s rights to LGBT rights, Kashmir to Afrophobia — India’s track record on human rights came under sharp scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday in Geneva.

Several countries expressed concerns on India’s FCRA laws, incidents of religious intolerance, women’s rights and even racism. The Kashmir issue was also raised by Pakistan during the hearing of the third “Universal Periodic Review.” India has undergone this voluntary review twice before, in 2008 and 2012.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who presented India’s position, strongly denied the allegations. “The right to fair trial and free legal aid up to the highest court are enshrined as fundamental rights in the Constitution of India and thus guaranteed to all individuals. So much so that as the Attorney General of India, I was summoned by the Supreme Court at 2 in the morning to hear a last-ditch petition, after several rounds of litigation, by a convict who was guilty of terrorism to escape punishment (a reference to the Yakub Memon case). This shows the importance attached to upholding of human rights by India,” he told the UNHRC.

Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka backed India on its human rights record. But a group of countries, including the US, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway and Ireland, asked India to look at its FCRA laws with US saying that there is “complete lack of transparency” in the implementation which affects NGOs in India.

Germany, Vatican, Kazakhstan, Kenya, UK, South Korea and the Netherlands expressed concern over the issues of rights of religious minorities and intolerance.

Pakistan called for a stop to the use of pellet guns. India countered saying the situation in Kashmir is due to Pakistan’s actions and there is zero tolerance to terrorism.

Haiti raised the issue of “Afrophobia” which was denied by an Indian delegate who called the country a “land of Buddha” which did not have a racist mindset and said that these incidents were a case of local crime.

While Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Liechtenstein were among countries which raised concerns on women’s rights, Israel and Ireland raised the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community. Several countries asked India to ratify the convention against torture.

Leading the Indian delegation, Rohatgi said that India makes no distinction between caste, creed, colour or religion of a citizen. “India is a secular state with no state religion,” he said, adding that the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to every individual. He said the right to free speech and expression occupies its rightful place in the core of the Constitution.

“As the world’s largest multi-layered democracy, we fully recognise the importance of free speech and expression. Our people are conscious of their political freedoms and exercise their choices at every opportunity,” Rohatgi said. “We believe in peace, non-violence and upholding human dignity. As such, the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation.”

On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Rohatgi said the Act is applied only to disturbed areas — few and in proximity to some international borders. Several countries, including the US, raised the issue of AFSPA. “Whether this Act should be repealed or not is a matter of on-going vibrant political debate in my country,” he said.

On transgenders, Rohatgi said that India has been at the forefront of recognising their equal rights. The Supreme Court gave a landmark judgement in 2014 directing the government to declare trans-genders a “third gender” and included them as an “Other Backward Class” entitled to affirmative action benefits.

The apex court also reinforced that trans-genders should have all rights under law, including marriage, adoption, divorce, succession and inheritance, Rohatgi added.

Rohatgi said India seeks to ensure inclusive development and the protection of rights of vulnerable groups and it has enacted a range of laws to address sexual assault and other gender-based crimes.

“We have overhauled the legal framework for dealing with child sexual assault,” he said, adding that India remains deeply committed towards reinforcing and accelerating efforts towards combating human trafficking.

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  1. V
    vs
    May 7, 2017 at 6:04 pm
    Which western catholic country who call themselves so called 'secular' give holiday on Diwali (Hindu Festival) or ED (Muslim festival) or any buddhist festival holiday or Any Jew festival holiday or any Sikh festival holiday or any Jain festival holiday. India recognises all these festivals including Christianity and provide holidays for all religion people to celebrate their religion. This is secularism of Great India.
    Reply
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      vs
      May 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm
      Which western catholic country who call themselves so called 'secular' give holiday on Diwali (Hindi Festival) or ED (Muslim festival) or any buddhist festival holiday or Any Jew festival holiday or any Sikh festival holiday or any Jain festival holiday. India recognises all these festivals including Christianity and provide holidays for all religion people to celebrate their religion. This is secularism of Great India.
      Reply
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        V M
        May 6, 2017 at 2:38 am
        Euros still in colonial mode of dictating. They murder million people in Iraq and 400K in Syria. Then cleverly talk about human rights. Do they need to be reminded of their criminal deeds of past 2 centuries in India and else where? They advised con-gress rulers with aim of indirect control to keep India in misery and poverty created by colonials. To be Free India needs to Free itself of poverty and misery created by colonials. Remember, there are sufficient anti-nationals, who bene ed from colonial deeds. They will become less dominating in coming 20 years of Free India. Till such time India needs to progress patiently, with full vigour. Euros will change gradually to understand that they are not dictators of this world. Remember Ravan thought he was superior and undefeatable.
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          Alok Asthana
          May 5, 2017 at 8:34 pm
          Human rights of Indian citizens, including those of hindus, are under intense attack by the government. Things are getting bad at a very rapid rate.
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            goldenfig
            May 5, 2017 at 7:28 pm
            Indian response is statesmanlike and balanced. Well done. But the UNHCR must take a deep look in the mirror and see the track record of IAEA and WHO. They agree that they will not study the consequences of nuclear contamination of the planet(1959). Whither the rights of all life? What a raw organisation the UN is. See ECRR 2010 for the grissly m murdering details of the nuclear age by the members of the security council.
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              goldenfig
              May 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm
              Indian express replace m by M ok? Why this hacking --I have my rights!
              Reply
              1. G
                goldenfig
                May 5, 2017 at 7:36 pm
                Again you have hacked stupid. MAD- do you know MAD-mutually ured ured ured ured destruction. Now dont convert ured to ured.
                1. G
                  goldenfig
                  May 5, 2017 at 7:38 pm
                  INdian express- you are a numbskull with no respect for human rights.
              2. S
                Sg
                May 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm
                Why cant India pay back the Western countries in the same coin? Why cant we raise the issue of sho0ting blacks like d0gs in the USA by white c0ps? What punishments were given to the white French army pers0nnel who f0rced black gir1s to mate with d0gs in Centra Africa? What measures are taken against British white go0ns who ulted b0rkha cladded muslim w0men in L0ndon? How long will India tolerate the brow beating of Western bust0rds?
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                  Paddy Singh
                  May 5, 2017 at 1:40 pm
                  First I when a corrupt and toothless UN comes up trying to behave like a just grown up adult trying to issue dikats, no one takes it seriously India and African are hugely conservative and have their own views on LGBT. They cannot be forced to accept views of Western countries. Human rights of Blacks in the US, Palestinians in Israel, plight of refugees in Australia have all been condemned by the UN by the toothless organisation has the world done anything about it? If Texas were to try and break away from the US the authorities would not use rubber pellets but weapons far more lethal. And after what the UK and US have done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, can they possibly be believed on what they have to say on a rogue state like N Korea? I think the UN should keep out of the affairs of every country. Remember the UN head has to have the approval of the Yanks which have among the worst human rights records. They are still not members of the ICC.
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                    Ashish Biswas
                    May 5, 2017 at 1:16 pm
                    All these years in India the majority rights went for a toss. The minority and the foreign NGOs were playing havoc with the established cultural iden y in the name of secularism. This government has taken a step in the right direction. The NGO feel that they have invested so much and they are not getting their money worth namely converting the poor. All must support the government moves.
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