Indian-American Muslims welcome Teesta Setalvad’s testimony in UN against human rights violations in India

By TCN News

Indian American Muslim Council, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has welcomed Teesta Setalvad’s hard-hitting testimony at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 15, 2017.

One of India’s most recognised activists and a strident voice against hate and sectarianism, Setalvad spoke on behalf of The Advocates for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association and the Quill Foundation. Her testimony was part of a larger effort by IAMC and its partner organisations that includes a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council for India’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) scheduled for May 4, 2017.  IAMC has also made a separate joint submission with Setalvad’s organisation “Citizens for Justice and Peace,” for the same UPR.

Her brief testimony was before a full session of the UN Human Rights Council, with all the UN member countries in attendance, convened to review the report of the UN Rapporteur on Minority Rights. Setalvad noted that since the UN Special Rapporteur’s 2013 General Assembly report, the following developments had taken place in India.

Speeches by political leaders and members of Parliament had exacerbated the violence in Muzaffarnagar that claimed over 60 lives and left thousands homeless. The targeting of religious minorities accused of “improper” conversions from Hinduism.

In the wake of state laws banning the sale of beef, mob attacks on people alleged to have beef in their possession have becoming a recurring event.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions noted that encounter killings “have become virtually a part of unofficial State policy” in India.

The above acts are often committed with impunity stemming in part from close alignment between the government and non-state actors. Law enforcement agencies fabricate terrorism cases where Muslims are often targets.

Setalvad then went on to mention that “progress in minority rights protection is under threat, including by hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric and incitement to hatred against minorities.” She then voiced the partner organisations’ position, joining the Special Rapporteur “in calling on UN Member States and the Human Rights Council to recognise that States bear the primary duty to protect the security of religious minorities with positive and preventive actions, through active engagement with religious minorities.”

“Teesta Setalvad’s testimony and the joint submissions of the partner organisations mark a turning point in international spotlight on the human rights situation in India”, said Ajit Sahi, noted journalist and Advocacy Director for the Indian American Muslim Council. Sahi, along with Jawad Khan, President of IAMC and Jennifer Presthold V.P. of AHR were also present at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organisation of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation.