An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard while a Kashmiri woman walks by in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. Photo: iStock/Bilal Ahmad
An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard while a Kashmiri woman walks by in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. Photo: iStock/Bilal Ahmad

India’s record on human rights has recently come under close scrutiny by humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On June 14, the OHCHR released its first-ever report on Kashmir, highlighting cases of extreme human-rights violations. The report was harshly criticized by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs despite substantial evidence of violence against the people of Kashmir.

India said the report was biased and disrespectful of its sovereignty. But the UN report was an unprejudiced attempt to save human lives. If the OHCHR chose to focus on specific events in Kashmir, then the more frequent ones had a higher probability of being selected. This would imply that the report is not biased but shows that violations originating from India in Kashmir have become more frequent.

India’s response to the report is unacceptable when human life is at stake. Instead, it should welcome UN’s suggested solutions. It is unwise for New Delhi to stand by while its security forces shoot Kashmiri citizens with pellet guns and spread violence during religious events such as Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. 

Report casts a negative light on India

Human Rights Watch, a non-profit organization renowned for impartial reporting of human-rights violations across the globe, released its annual World Report last January.

The report’s India section said: “Vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government — often carried out by groups claiming to support the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — became an increasing threat in India in 2017. The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence. Dissent was labeled anti-national, and activists, journalists, and academics were targeted for their views, chiding free expression.”

The despicable ideology of considering oneself superior to another leads ultimately to suffering for innocent humans regardless of their origin

The despicable ideology of considering oneself superior to another leads ultimately to suffering for innocent humans regardless of their origin. It appears that this ideology has taken root in India in the form of discrimination against minorities.

The HRW report also said: “Mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling BJP against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef. Instead of taking prompt legal action against the attackers, police filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter. As of November, there had been 38 such attacks, and 10 people killed during the year.”

Perversely this shows that cows are preferred over human life. A person’s life is taken for eating cow meat to survive by people who have no right to take a life. It is hard to accept that meat eating is something that a person should be murdered over. Justice must be meted out to the relatives of these individuals regardless of the ideals they believe in or the castes they were born in.

The US Central Intelligence Agency recently recognized two Hindu groups as religious militants belonging to the nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The CIA’s Factbook mentions RSS leaders as individuals who initiate and encourage human-rights violations.”

Sedition for a sporting celebration?

Yet Indian authorities seem to have diverted resources instead toward sports matches. The report notes that in one instance, “Police in Madhya Pradesh state … arrested 15 Muslims on sedition charges for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match, despite Supreme Court directions that sedition allegations must involve actual violence or incitement to violence.”

Countries around the world are invested in promoting gender equality and empowering women, but gender discrimination and violation of women’s rights continue in some countries.

HRW’s World Report 2018 also states that in India, “Multiple high-profile cases of rape across the country during the year once again exposed the failures of the criminal justice system. Nearly five years after the government amended laws and put in place new guidelines and policies aimed at justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence, girls and women continue to face barriers to reporting such crimes, including humiliation at police stations and hospitals.”

Such traumatic experiences require urgent attention and the victims need to be provided with health care, social protection and therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Resources must be used to improve criminal justice, safety, security, social protection and law enforcement in order to protect human life.

The entire world must help humanitarian organizations impress upon India the importance of human rights. The world must help India understand that being spiteful and dismissing criticism is not a solution. Instead, it must focus on human-rights violations.

India can achieve this but it requires a push in the right direction from other countries to improve human rights on the subcontinent.

Zamir Awan

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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