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India: The UN Human Rights Council must act for minority and indigenous rights

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This statement was delivered by Glenn Payot in the name of Minority Rights Group, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Frontline Defenders and the International Commission of Jurists at the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday 27 September 2022, item 4 – General Debate.

Mister President,

Minority Rights Group, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Frontline Defenders and the International Commission of Jurists deplore the continued deterioration of the situation in India facing religious minorities, Dalits, and Adivasis, as well as human rights defenders, despite repeated calls to prevent and remedy rights violations and secure accountability.

Religious minorities, in particular Muslims, have suffered violent attacks and dehumanizing language. In many states, laws and regulations have been passed that place discriminatory barriers on Muslims. Muslim livelihoods, food habits, education, clothing, and worship have come under attack, with perpetrators seldom prosecuted. At the same time, Muslims who protest abuses can be jailed, fined, their houses demolished.

Emboldened by anti-conversion laws, vigilante groups have increasingly attacked churches and accused Christians of forced conversion, including in July when authorities arrested six Dalit Christian women in Uttar Pradesh. Dalit women more broadly face a spike in sexual violence for which justice remains elusive.

Rohingya in India, officially designated ‘illegal migrants’ in 2017, have been subject to Islamophobic vilification and violence incited by Hindu nationalist leaders. They lack access to services and protection guarantees, and increasingly face arbitrary detention and threats of deportation.

In recent months, there have been renewed attacks on the exercise of freedom of expression, including arrests of human rights defenders and journalists under counterterrorism laws and the misuse of state agencies to intimidate and harass media and civil society organisations, including in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. Though some detainees have been granted bail, others languish in prison, absent access to a prompt and fair trial and urgently needing medical care.

Mister President,

We have previously drawn the Council’s attention to the hostile environment for minorities, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders in India. Yet no tangible measures have been taken by the government. Domestic remedies appear increasingly ineffective, inadequate, or inaccessible.

We are concerned that without concerted international attention, the situation for marginalized communities will deteriorate further. We therefore re-iterate our call for this Council to address the situation of minorities, indigenous peoples, and human rights defenders in India.

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Photo: Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations, Geneva (Switzerland), 5 August 2015. Credit: Ludovic Courtès. Published on Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licence.

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