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European leaders urged to reconsider approach to India’s human right abuses

27th May 2022
European leaders urged to reconsider approach to India’s human right abuses

Elham Asaad Buaras

A prominent human rights organization has slammed European leaders for overlooking India’s human rights violations in pursuit of trade deals and to counter Russia and China.

Writing for the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten ahead of a European tour by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden earlier this month, Human Rights Watch’s Nordic Director, Måns Molander, urged leaders of those countries to reconsider their “quiet diplomacy” strategy that “has had no evident impact and has also led to the growing sentiment that Europe is willing to overlook the plight of affected communities in India because it needs India as an ally against China and Russia.”

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has also been slammed for referring to India as a “vibrant democracy,” that shares common values and interests with the EU during a visit to New Delhi on April 25.

Von der Leyen delivered her flattering speech while residents in the mainly Muslim neighbourhood of Jahangirpuri, about 16 miles from the conference site, were still reeling from unlawful demolitions of their shops by the city’s civic body run by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“These Clichés, repeated by rote by European leaders seeking closer trade and political ties with India, do not reflect the reality of growing abuses and discriminatory policies under its rule,” wrote Molander.

Human Right Watch has argued that although in the last few years, the United Nations-appointed independent human rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns over India’s regression in human rights, its Western partners, including the EU and its member states, have failed to echo those concerns, ignoring requests by human rights groups and the European Parliament.

A rare exception came in April, when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly made reference to “concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials.” On April 25, the congressionally mandated US Commission on International Religious Freedom stated that “religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened” in the last year and for the third year in a row.

The commission recommended that the State Department designate India a “country of particular concern” for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

On April 20, the authorities deployed bulldozers to demolish Muslim-owned property in response to communal clashes four days earlier. The clashes were sparked by a religious procession of armed Hindu men shouting anti-Muslim slogans in front of the local mosque. Even though the authorities claimed the structures were illegal, the destruction seemed to be aimed at punishing Muslims who allegedly threw stones at the Hindu procession.
The demolition of primarily Muslim properties has been a recurring sight in India in April as religious tensions escalated in BJP-run states.

Using counterterrorism and sedition laws Indian authorities have also clamped down hard on civil society, prosecuting human rights activists, journalists, academics, students, protesters, and political opponents. The Modi government has stopped foreign funding for thousands of civic groups working on human rights and the rights of vulnerable communities.

Photo: President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, pictured during a meeting with India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in New Delhi on April 25, has been criticized for not addressing India’s persistent human rights violations. (Credit: MEA photo gallery/Flickr. Commons)

 

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