UN chief Antonio Guterres criticizes India for its human rights record.
Critics claim it has declined under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Much more needs to be done to advance gender equality and women’s rights.
During a visit to India on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres criticized the country for its human rights record, which opponents claim has declined under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Campaigners claim that since Modi took office in 2014, hate speech and persecution of religious minorities, particularly India’s 200 million-strong Muslim minority, have increased in the 1.4 billion-person country with a Hindu majority.
Activists claim that this is especially true in Indian-administrated Kashmir, where the Modi administration has imposed direct rule over the unrest-prone territory with a majority of Muslims since 2019.
Government critics and journalists, particularly female journalists, have been under increasing pressure; some have experienced ferocious campaigns of online abuse, including threats of rape and death.
In a speech in Mumbai, Guterres stated that “India has a responsibility to shape global human rights, and to protect and promote the rights of all individuals, including members of minority communities.”
Guterres commended India’s accomplishments 75 years after it gained independence from the British but sharply added that “diversity is a richness… is not a guarantee.”
It needs to be daily strengthened, developed, and replenished, he stated.
Guterres added that these principles need to be protected by “condemning hate speech unequivocally,” citing independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, both of whom have turned into hate icons for some in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
India must accomplish this “by protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights activists, students and academics. And by ensuring the continued independence of India’s judiciary,” he remarked.
He said that “much more needs to be done to advance gender equality and women’s rights” and that India’s voice “India’s voice on the global stage can only gain in authority and credibility from a strong commitment to inclusivity and respect for human rights at home.”
Guterres urged Indians to be watchful and boost their financial contributions to inclusive, pluralistic, diverse communities and society.
UN human rights experts demanded in February a stop to “sectarian and sexist” online attacks against a specific Muslim woman journalist who was a fierce opponent of Modi.
According to media rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), under the prime, “pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line,” placing India at a dismal 142 on the World Press Freedom Index.
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