By Dawinderpal Singh
India’s Human Rights record came under attack in the House of Lords on Thursday as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stood accused of allowing extremist nationalist groups to thrive in the country.
The Lords convened in Westminster to discuss growing violence against minority religious groups in India and instances of the government denying NGOs, such as GreenPeace India, funding from foreign sources and restricting their members’ ability to travel.
Topics such as the injustice faced by Sikh protesters in relation to the genocide they suffered in 1984 and more recently in October 2015 when two Sikh peaceful protesters were murdered by police and many more injured, were brought to the attention of the convening Lords.
The points were brought up in the House of Lords in a debate over the extent to which freedom of religion is being upheld in India, in relation to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The debate, which was instigated by Lord Indarjit Singh, also highlighted the annual rise in communal violence under the current regime . The Earl of Courtown also spoke of violence and mistreatment of Christian groups, while Lord Hussain described how an Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir has granted officers a “licence to kill” Muslim civilians.
The Lords also discussed the rise of “Hindu Extremist groups”, mentioning the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organisation as one such group, as further recent instances of religious intolerance in India were recounted.
The murder of a Muslim man by villagers in Uttar Pradesh in October 2015 for eating beef, and the subsequent handling of the case by authorities, was given as as another recent example in which India has failed to ensure freedom of religion. The government was also accused of denying visas for an independent international watchdog that monitors freedom of religion, to enter into the country.
Lord Singh explained that Prime Minister Modi was elected ostensibly due to economic policies but after his election, he has shown an increase in support of the Hindu extremist agenda of those who helped propel him to his position.
“Narendra Modi’s election was sadly seen as a green light by some Hindu Extremists to make India more Hindu and to put India’s large Muslim minority and Christians and Sikhs firmly in their place,” said Lord Singh.
“Reports from Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and other human rights groups all tell the same story of forced conversions of the Muslim and Christian communities, brutal rape and killing and the destruction or seizure of property. This has been paralleled by a general crackdown on the right to free speech.”