India’s human track record was under the spotlight on November 10 during the Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Violence against religious minorities in India has been rising, especially against Muslims, and Christians and the UN asks India to protect them. UN member states have called on India to protect Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities from increasing hate speech, discrimination, and violence. A dozen states urged the Indian government to take action in upholding the rights of religious minorities: to ensure that anti-conversion laws do not infringe upon the right to freedom of religion and belief
The UN member states asked Indian authorities to investigate cases of religious violence and discrimination on religious grounds and to condemn violence and hate speech against religious minorities.
During the review, UN member states also repeatedly mentioned the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), with member states recommending that the Indian government either repeals or amends the FCRA or apply its regulations in a non-discriminatory fashion respectful of human rights law.
While caste-based discrimination also featured in the feedback from states, as a coalition, we regret that no one explicitly addressed the discrimination against Muslim and Christian Dalits in the ‘Scheduled Caste’ Constitutional Order 1950.
UN Member States Tell India to Protect Religious MinoritiesUN member states have called on India to protect Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities from increasing hate speech, discrimination, and violence.
Muslims have been subjected to increasing mob lynching, cow vigilante attacks, public beatings, illegal home demolitions, discriminatory citizenship laws, and growing calls for anti-Muslim boycotts and even genocide.
Christian congregations and churches have been attacked by Hindu mobs who have weaponized authoritarian anti-conversion laws against the minority group. The United Christian Forum recorded more than 300 attacks on Christians in the first seven months of 2022 versus 486 violent incidents in 2021.
Last month a UN expert called for an Independent Investigation Mechanism to be established in light of increasing hate speech, violence targeting minorities, and growing impunity.
They questioned the decision by the Indian Supreme Court to ask the government to act against so-called “forced religious conversion.” The ruling comes in response to a petition submitted to the Court alleging “fraudulent religious conversion” to be a “nationwide problem” without facts or data to support these allegations. The lack of such data, and the Supreme Court’s use of terms such as “allurement” without defining what it means, raise concerns that the government of India will further undermine the right to freedom of religion in the fight against so-called “forced religious conversion.”
The UN coalition urges the government of India to accept all the recommendations received during the UPR session. During the Human Rights Council session in March 2023, the government of India will communicate to the Council which recommendations it accepts and which recommendations it only notes (and therefore does not accept). Accepted recommendations should be implemented within a 5-year window before the next UPR review of India.
The Coalition for Minority Rights in India comprises the World Evangelical Alliance, Open Doors International, the Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, Justice For All, and the International Commission for Dalit Rights. The organizations have an interest in an inclusive, pluralistic, and multi-faith India. They have expressed alarm at the deterioration of the situation of minorities, the rule of law, and the overall health of India’s democracy.
Earlier, the Archbishop Of Bangalore Diocese Dr Peter Machado along with the National Solidarity Forum, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India said that the present PIL has been filed against the “sinister phenomena of violence” and “targeted hate speech” against the Christian community of the country by vigilante groups and members of Hindutva right-wing organizations. It submits that such violence has been rising owing to the failure of the State machinery to protect its own citizens.
The petition argues that there is a failure by the Central and State Governments and other State machinery in taking immediate and necessary actions against groups that have caused widespread violence and hate speech against the Christian community including attacks at their places of worship and other institutions run by them.
There have been 700 instances of violence against Christians between 2021-2022. Senior Advocate, Mr Colin Gonsalves appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted that though a clean chit has been given by the Centre to the police officials in their affidavit, it is in stark contrast to the data provided in the plea and response filed by the petitioner.
Due to the violence, on the call given by the Masihi Maha Sabha (MMS), Christians from various denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of North India (CNI), the Salvation Army, and the Methodist Church, united under the banner of the MMS, holding a candlelight prayer service at their respective churches to pray for peace and harmony following the attack on a church here earlier.
“The Christian community has been involved in peace-building efforts, Till recently, we enjoyed the patronage of people of all faiths. However, it is painful for us to find ourselves being targeted for persecution on the completely baseless charge of conversion of people by force and allurements” — Dr PK Samantaroy, President of MMS