UN rights chief warns against harassment of Muslims in India

UN rights chief warns against harassment of Muslims in India

GENEVA, March 8 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The United Nations human rights chief has warned India that its “divisive policies” could undermine economic growth, saying that narrow political agendas were marginalising vulnerable people in an already unequal society.

“We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular, Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis,” Michelle Bachelet said in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Bachelet’s warning came a day after Amnesty International’s India chapter said it had recorded a “disturbing” number of hate crimes, including assault, rape and murder, against marginalised groups in 2018.

Relying on cases reported in mainstream English and Hindi media, the group on Tuesday said it had documented a total of 218 incidents of alleged hate crimes last year. Some 142 of them were against lower-caste Dalits, while 50 were against Muslims.

Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty India, told Al Jazeera that there was “a culture of impunity for hate crimes” in India.

The country’s law, with some exceptions, does not recognise hate crimes as a specific offence, Patel said, urging political leaders to be more vocal in denouncing such violence and calling on the police to “take steps to unmask any potentially discriminatory motive in a crime”.

“Legal reforms that enable recording of hate crimes and strengthen accountability must be a priority for any government that comes to power following the upcoming general elections,” he added.

Kavita Krishnan, an activist based in New Delhi, said “the UN human rights chief should be concerned about this irrespective whether it affects economic growth or not”.

“Everything cannot be measured in terms of economic growth. India’s moral stature is stunted by these organised attacks on minorities which is justified in the name of protecting cows or in the name of protecting Hindu women,” she said.

The report comes weeks ahead of the general elections due in April and May. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused of not doing enough to address the rising attacks against minorities.

In December, Factchecker.in, a data journalism outfit, said “the year 2018 saw the most hate crimes motivated by religious bias in India in a decade”.

The group said 30 people were killed in 93 such attacks last year, the highest number of deaths since it began tracking hate crimes in 2009. More than 300 people were wounded, the group said.

Most of the attacks took place in states ruled by the BJP. Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, topped the list with 27 cases. Bihar, with 10 cases, came second. The figures by Factchecher.in show a spike in alleged hate crimes after Modi took power in 2014.

State governments ruled by the BJP have cracked down on the slaughter of cows, an animal many Hindus consider sacred, with vigilante groups beating and even killing poor Muslim and Dalit men over allegations of slaughtering cows and eating beef.

Modi has repeatedly said the state governments should punish vigilantes who commit violence in the name of cow protection, but his critics say the government has not done enough to prosecute the people accused of killings. — NNN-AGENCIES:


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