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UN Rapporteur points out deficiencies in defending human rights in India

By TCN Special Correspondent,

Ahmedabad: While appreciating the Government of India in taking measures in promoting and defending human rights, United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya has pointed out “widespread deficiencies’’ in their full implementation at central and state levels.

Sekaggya, who visited five states, including the terror-infested Jammu and Kashmir, has expressed the need for the national and states human rights commissions to do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders throughout the country.

In a statement issued after completion of her visit in New Delhi, she observed that human rights defenders many times became victims of a collusion between the state enforcement agencies and private agents.

She particularly mentioned about human rights defenders opposing the developmental projects destroying land and natural resources, becoming the targets of state agents and private actors.
She said that she also came across cases of Right to Information (RTI) activists having been increasingly targeted for exposing human rights violations and poor governance. She expressed concern over what she called “arbitrary” application of security laws at the national and state levels, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and North-Eastern states, directly affecting the human rights defenders.

The UN official expressed her dismay over branding and stigmatization of human rights defenders as “naxalites (Maoists)’’, “terrorists’’, “militants’’, “insurgents’’, “anti-nationals’’ and “members of undergrounds outfits’’.

Commenting on the human rights commissions, she said that human rights defenders voiced their “disappointment and mistrust in the current functioning of these institutions.’’

The visiting UN official, quoting human rights defenders, said that the cases of human rights defenders were either hardly taken up by the human rights commissions or after a significant period of delay.

Sekaggya also expressed concern at amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA), asking NGOs to re-apply every five years for review of their status by the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive foreign funding. She expressed apprehension that such a provision might be used to censor non-governmental organizations critical of government’s policies.