The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has raised India’s current human rights situation and expressed deep concerns over it at the Human Rights Council. While presenting his annual report and oral global update of human rights concerns at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council on 7 March, Zeid said he was increasingly disturbed by “discrimination and violence” directed at Dalits and religious minorities such as Muslims.
“In India, I am increasingly disturbed by discrimination and violence directed at minorities, including Dalits and other scheduled castes, and religious minorities such as Muslims. In some cases this injustice appears actively endorsed by local or religious officials”, he said. He observed that there is lack of freedom of expression and the NGO’s activities are curtailed by the Government.
“I am concerned that criticism of government policies is frequently met by claims that it constitutes sedition or a threat to national security. I am deeply concerned by efforts to limit critical voices through the cancellation or suspension of registration of thousands of NGOs, including groups advocating for human rights and even public health groups,” he commented.
Zeid also raised the issue of Kashmir in his address. He accused India of refusing unconditional access on both sides of the Line of Control. “With respect to Kashmir, on both sides of the Line of Control, regrettably unconditional access continues to be refused to my Office, and I will report on this issue at greater length in June”, he said.
India had strongly protested UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s comments on the Kashmir situation in his annual report and an oral update on human rights developments at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council but the fact remains that India’s denial to grant UN access to Jammu and Kashmir is a deliberate attempt to hide its war crimes committed against Kashmiris. However, it goes without saying that the rising extremism in India is posing serious existential threat to minorities living in Indian and in particular to marginalized Muslim community that has been enduring the brunt of extremist elements since BJP took the reins of power in New Delhi.
It is indeed heartening to see that the international community has finally broken its silence on Kashmir. Since 2016, it is for the 3rd time in a row that the UN’s top human rights official criticized India at the opening of the UNHRC session in Geneva. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has yet again voiced his concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir. The people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir who have witnessed widespread death and destruction over the past several years have been consistently demanding an international probe into the incidents of violence, massacres, unnamed mass graves, forced disappearances and rampant violations of human rights by Indian forces in the region. The world body’s increasing focus on human rights situation in IoK will certainly help to improve rights situation in the region besides holding India accountable for its crimes committed against Kashmiris. However, the onus of responsibility to expose India atrocities at international level lies with Kashmiri lobby groups as well as the human rights activists who have been painstakingly working for the cause for last several years. It is time that the rights groups working on Kashmir should redouble their efforts to apprise world community of the deadly dangers of the long-drawn conflict and its impact on the human condition in Kashmir.