Countries slam India for religious violence, caste and gender discrimination at UNHRC five-year review - IAMC

Countries slam India for religious violence, caste and gender discrimination at UNHRC five-year review

India has been told to take a tougher stand on growing sexual violence and religious discrimination and ratify the torture convention, as countries raked over its human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

India was facing its Universal Periodic Review on Thursday, which all 193 UN countries must undergo every five years.

“We recommend that India reduce the broad application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and similar laws against human rights activists, journalists, and religious minorities,” said Michele Taylor, the US ambassador to the council.

“Despite legal protections, discrimination and violence based on gender and religious affiliation persist. The application of anti-terror legislation has led to prolonged detentions of human rights defenders and activists,” she added.

Canada urged India to probe all acts of sexual violence, and protect freedom of religion by investigating religious violence “including against Muslims”.

Nepal, Britain, China, Bhutan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Switzerland urged India to take measures to fight human trafficking, violence against marginalized groups including women and children and ensure open access to social networks and not impose any measures that would slow down or block internet connections.

India’s Solicitor General defends authoritarian laws, lies to UN member states

India’s Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, the head of India’s delegation to the United Nations office in Geneva, openly defended and even praised some of India’s most authoritarian human rights crackdowns on the floor of the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of India. 

Mehta backed the stripping of Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status by the Modi regime in 2018, falsely claiming that India’s brutal military control over the region has allowed Kashmiris to “reach their full potential” through “people-friendly laws” and “restoration of democracy.”

Alarmingly, Mehta claimed that civil society must operate “in accordance with the law,” and further attempted to justify discriminatory anti-conversion laws and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by falsely stating that neither posed a threat to minorities. 

Mehta also claimed that religious minorities and castes in India enjoy “equal rights” and that high priority is given to protecting the safety and security of women, despite the fact that Hindu supremacist violence against all minorities is rising to the point of a genocide risk. 

Mehta’s vehement defense of India’s discriminatory legislations, draconian laws, and crackdown on journalists, and activists indicates that the Modi regime will likely ignore the recommendations made by the member states and continue India’s descent into fascism.

Modi government says Dalit converts to Christianity, Islam cannot have special legal status

The Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government that vehemently opposes the special status and laws to protect Dalits — who are lowest caste Hindus, a historically marginalized group in India — has said that the special constitutional status given to Hindu Dalits cannot be extended to Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam.

The response came on a batch of petitions before the Supreme Court seeking a direction to extend the benefit of reserving posts in government and other sectors to Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam.

Many Dalits convert to non-Hindu religions like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism in order to escape social stigma and untouchability. Their conversion to Christianity and Islam is vehemently opposed by Hindu supremacists.

70-year-old Prisoner of Conscience shifted to house arrest over ailing health

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Prisoner of Conscience and prominent civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha to be shifted to house arrest for one month citing his health condition.

The 70-year-old is suffering from skin allergy and dental issues and needs a colonoscopy to rule out suspected cancer.

Noting his age and multiple medical problems, the court allowed his house arrest, adding that charges have not been framed in his trial and that it will not happen in the foreseeable future.

Navlakha was arrested in 2018 in connection with false charges of delivering an “inflammatory speech” at a mass rally by Dalits in Maharashtra’s Pune district in December  2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day.

He is a prominent civil rights activist and journalist and a vocal critic of army and state atrocities in Kashmir. He is a member of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights and has been an editorial consultant for the Economic and Political Weekly, a prominent intellectual news magazine, for decades.

The arrests of numerous high-profile activists and lawyers under false charges, in this case, have been condemned internationally by, among others, European Union parliamentarians and Nobel laureates. 

The case had come to be known after the venue of the event, a village named Bhima-Koregaon. Father Stan Swamy, a renowned Jesuit priest known for his decades long activism, died in prison last year after being arrested on false charges in this case.

Forensic experts in the US have examined the laptops of two of the accused currently in prison and established that false evidence was planted on them using malware most likely owned by the government.

Muslim woman baselessly accused of being a foreigner given bail after 16 months 

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday granted bail to a mother of three kids, who was accused without evidence of being a Pakistani national by investigating agencies.

“The accused can’t be kept in judicial custody by mere suspicion,” the bench said, adding that she had become “a scapegoat in the hand of police and she should not be detained merely on suspicion or doubt.”

Khatija Mehrin, 33, was in judicial custody for 16 months. She has been lodged in prison with her two-and-half-year-old child. During her imprisonment, her husband Mohiddin Rukuddin died in April 2022.

The court said no prima facie case was made against her.

Khatija Mehrin was arrested during the police raids in Bhatkal town in Karnataka. The police arrested her on suspicion that she is a Pakistan national who has stayed since 2014 and seized all her government documents.