NEWS & VIEWS
ON Friday, India’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal at the UN General Assembly session on Report of the Human Rights Council stated that though Human Rights Council continues to expand with growing number of resolutions and decisions, greater frequency of meetings and special sessions, the effectiveness of its work is not always clear. While a very comprehensive normative framework of human rights treaties and Covenants has evolved, the work of the Human Rights Council and its associated procedures and mandates is, regrettably, getting more contentious and difficult. In June this year, India had rejected then Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s report on Kashmir in which he had called for an independent international probe into the human rights situation in Kashmir.
The historic verdict by 3-member Bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan on Aasiya Bibi’s case has been lauded by all those who believe in the rule of law. The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Aasiya Bibi accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death setting aside an earlier judgment passed by a lower court. Supreme Court gave references to Islamic injunctions and reasons including the one that there was no incontrovertible evidence against her. It was unfortunate that several parts of the country witnessed severe disruption and incidents of violence that caused billions of rupees loss to the government and citizens. The government is resolved to prosecute those who incited the people against judges, army and other institutions, and those who were involved in looting and torching of vehicles and public property, as the people from all strata of society demanded action against them.
It is common knowledge that India has hundreds of Malalas and Aasia Bibis every day; but the worst part is that they don’t live, they are killed. In Pakistan, minorities are equal citizens of the state, as envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam, and have been leading their lives according to their faiths. Despite differences over interpretation and nuances, all sects of Muslims also respected each other’s views. However, since 1980s, when the US started supporting Afghan jihad, many militant and fanatic religious groups emerged. More than 60000 Muslims and 6000 members of law enforcing agencies have been martyred by the militants who wanted to impose their version of Islam, which is at variance with the great majority of the people. Some misguided elements also attacked people belonging to minorities, but the loss of life was a very small fraction of the Muslims martyred since the War or Terror started.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of crimes against people of lower castes was more than 47,000 in 2016. There is a perception that the reason behind the violence is the high level of politicisation of caste-based politics as well as extensive abuse of political power. NCRB statistics for 2012 to 2016 showed that approximately 40% of female reported rape victims were minors and 95% knew the rapist. Crimes against women under the act are underreported in official Tamil Nadu statistics, accounting for only 5% to 8% of total crimes against members of lower castes. Last year, India was named the most dangerous country in the world for women in a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey whereby India scored worse than war-torn countries such as Afghanistan or Syria or monarchies where women have only a few rights. Lately, Saudi Arabia has indeed opened the society and given more rights to women.
Anyhow, Indian record of human rights is egregious and despicable. After release of its 2009 country report on India, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had placed India on its “Watch List” for the government’s largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities. USCIRF said India earned the Watch List designation due to the disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities — specifically Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 – and the largely inadequate response from the Indian government to protect the rights of religious minorities. “It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “USCIRF’s India Chapter was released to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.”
On June 03, 1984, the Indian Army had launched an offensive with code name Operation Blue Star on Darbar Sahib also known as the Golden Temple, which was epicentre of the armed movement for Sikh autonomy in the Indian State of the Punjab. The issues that were at the root of the Sikh rebellion were never addressed and despite nominating a Sikh as Prime Minister or giving a couple of other assignments in the Army, Sikh’s demands remained unfulfilled. The Army action had coincided with a Sikh annual festival when thousands of pilgrims, young and old and women and children were inside the temple. Many of them were killed or injured in the conflict. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale may have died 30 years ago, but some Sikhs still remember him with reverence. Demolition of Babri Masjid is also fresh in the minds of Muslims the world over.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.