THE UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday criticised India for slapping charges of sedition against journalists and activists for reporting or commenting on the farmers’ protests, as she said that such attempts to curb freedom of expression on social media are “disturbing departures from essential human rights principles”.
Bachelet, who has been vocal about human rights issues in India in the past as well, also said that the raids against human rights defenders in October and November exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society, and resulting impact on the rights of the people of Kashmir.
Hours later, India on Friday responded and said that she lacked in “objectivity and impartiality”.
At the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, Bachelet — a former Chilean President — said that in India, continued protests by farmers highlight the importance of ensuring laws and policies are based on meaningful consultations with those concerned. “I trust that ongoing dialogue efforts by both sides will lead to an equitable solution to this crisis that respects the rights of all. Charges of sedition against journalists and activists for reporting or commenting on the protests, and attempts to curb freedom of expression on social media, are disturbing departures from essential human rights principles.”
On J&K, she said, “We continue to monitor the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, where restrictions on communications, and clampdowns on civil society activists, remain of concern. Despite recent restoration of 4G access for mobile phones, the communications blockade has seriously hampered civic participation, as well as business, livelihoods, education, and access to health-care and medical information. Raids against human rights defenders in October and November exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society, and resulting impact on the rights of the people of Kashmir to impart and receive information, and to engage in free, open debate on Government policies affecting them.”
India’s Permanent Representative to the UNHRC in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey responded and said that the farm laws will benefit small farmers and offer more choices to those farmers who opt for them. The government has shown utmost respect for protests by farmers and has remained engaged in dialogue with them to address their concerns, he said. He also highlighted the District Development Council elections have restored grassroots democracy.
“Given these developments, we were perplexed to note some of the comments… she appeared as oblivious of the enormous efforts made by my Government to address the challenges…The unprovoked violence on our Republic Day in the name of farmers’ rights, apparently, left her unmoved. Her indifference to terrorism is, of course, not new. Objectivity and impartiality have to be the hallmarks of any Human Rights assessment. We are sorry to see that the High Commissioner’s oral update is lacking in both,” the Indian envoy said.
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