By Twocircles.net Staff Reporter
Teesta Setalvad has never been known to mince her words when it comes to speaking the truth, and March 15 was no different. Setalvad was at the United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva and was allotted a total of fewer than three minutes to testify in front of member countries about the worrying trends in India.
Speaking on behalf of The Advocates for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association and the Quill Foundation, Setalvad pointed out that since the 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.”
Setalvad’s comments are no doubt, likely to make the Central government led by the BJP even angrier. Given her record of speaking against Narendra Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, she has always been targeted by the Gujarat government and now, the Central government.
Between October and December 2016, the government refused to renew or cancelled the FCRA licenses of dozens of NGOs without providing valid reasons. Among them were Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust, run by Setalvad and Javed Anand. In light of the attack on her profession and integrity, Setalvad’s testimony is of remarkable importance since it was delivered in front of all the UN members.
It is also important to point out that all the points raised by Setalvad in her speech are substantiated with facts.
Take the case of innocent Muslims arrested on the most heinous terror charges and spending decades in jail. In the past two months itself, the acquittal of innocents arrested in Sarojini Nagar blasts, the Ahmedabad tiffin blasts are ample evidence to strengthen these claims. At Twocircles.net, we have documented several other such cases, all of which can be read on our Special page called Terror Tales.
In fact, in October 2016 former Chairperson of the Law Commission of India Justice AP Shah had commented on a series of cases where innocents had been framed and said it is difficult for a minority to get justice in our country. Setalvad’s testimony merely adds to this and is not a wild accusation by any stretch of the imagination.
Similarly, over the past few years, the country has seen a massive spike in attacks over marginalised communities like Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims over accusations of ‘cow slaughter’. While the story of Mohammed Akhlaq is well known, it is just one of the many such cases. Similar cases have been reported from Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Jammu and Kashmir. The hate speeches made by BJP leaders during the Muzaffarnagar riots have been, in fact, used by the BJP to polarise various parts of the state. Amnesty International in a recently released report had also pointed out how the BJP leaders added fuel to the fire that led to the murder of over 60 people.
Setalvad’s brave comments will no doubt, put pressure on the Indian government to come clean on its claims of being the world’s largest democracy. 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. It will be interesting to see what the Indian government’s response to these allegations will be. India’s response will also be interesting given the fact that in the past, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture had accused India of being “unresponsive” to his requests to visit the country.
“In the case of India, we have been asking to go to India last 25 years and repeating our requests. We get no answer whatsoever,” Juan E Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, had said in a statement to the Human Rights Council in 2015.