Erosion in minority rights: India criticised

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights’ organisation has released a report on the rights’ situation in India that could prove embarassing for the BJP government at the centre. Dealing among other things with the increasing threats to the life an security of religious and ethnic minorities, the group has put out a set of recommendations that could be used to rally opinion at national and international for a.In the recommendations made by HRR are :

“The government of India should demonstrate its commitment to protecting the rights of minorities by implementing the following recommendations at the earliest possible date. In compliance with the Indian constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it should ensure that all citizens may equally enjoy freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, propagate, and adopt religion. In particular, it should commit to taking steps to prevent further violence and prosecute both state and private actors responsible for attacks on religious minorities.

Ø Recommendations to the Government of India provide adequate police protection to Christians and other minority communities in violence-affected areas and increase the number of police stations and outposts in each district.Require that police register all cases of communal attacks, regardless of the religious background of the complainant, and enforce this regulation through frequent reviews of registers by a magistrate or other competent judicial authority and the establishment of a civilian review board mandated to investigate complaints. Police who violate the regulation should be dismissed.Investigate and prosecute state officials complicit in attacks onminorities. Police who are found to be complicit should be dismissed.End impunity for past campaigns of violence against minorities. That is, prosecute and punish all those found responsible for murder, rape, assault, and destruction of property during the post–Ayodhya violence of December 1992 and January 1993. Police responsible for excessive use of force should be prosecuted; those who having the power and duty to stop the violence but did not intervene should be punished accordingly. Victims and family members should be paid compensation.Implement the recommendations made by the National Commission for Minorities in its reports on attacks on Christians in various states.Make public the recommendations of the Wadhwa

Commission and prosecute those found responsible for the 1999 attacks in Orissa.Ensure speedy review and publication of findings by commissions of inquiry appointed by the state to investigate abuses against minorities.Strengthen the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Minorities, and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to operate branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate Prosecution of cases.

Ø Prohibit surveys by district administrations to assess the activities and whereabouts of minority community members and leaders.Launch a nationwide public awareness campaign regarding the dangers of communal violence. This campaign should explain in simple terms what actions are legally prohibited, what recourse is available to minorities, and what the procedures are for filing a First Information Report (FIR: the first report, recorded by the police, of a crime). It should also include a program of public service announcements in all states aimed at sensitizing the population against any form of religious extremism and creating awareness of minority rights.Implement the recommendations made by the U.N. special rapporteur on the question of religious intolerance in his report on his December 1996 visit to India. In particular, the following recommendations should be implemented:

1. Increase awareness of the existence and dangers of extremism because, despite the fact that it is confined to a minority, its influence on the masses through political parties, places of worship, schools and even seats of power, could well destroy community and religious harmony in India.

2. The Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, should be scrupulously implemented and that in addition it should be speedily supplemented by a new act debarring political parties from the post-election use of religion for political ends.

3. Places of worship should be used exclusively for religious, and not political, purposes.

4. Education can play a vital role in preventing intolerance, discrimination, hate and violence (including violence motivated by extremism) by creating and disseminating a culture of tolerance among the masses and the most disadvantaged segments of the population. It can make a decisive contribution to the assimilation of values based on human rights by the use of school curricula and textbooks reflecting principles of tolerance and non-discrimination.

Recommendations to the International CommunityIndia’s donors and trading partners should pressure the Indian government to implement the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission on the 1992–1993 Bombay riots, and the recommendations of the National Commission for Minorities on attacks against Christians.

Archived from Communalism Combat, January 2000. Year 7  No, 55,  Human Rights 3



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