New Delhi: In a strong statement, a senior United Nations official has expressed concern that the adoption of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 has led to rising number of hate speech and discrimination against minority communities.
In a press note issued through the UN, the special advisor on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, said that while the objective of the act to provide protection to minorities is commendable, “it is concerning that this protection is not extended to all groups, including Muslims.”
“This is contrary to India’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular on non-discrimination,” he stated.
Dieng joins a chorus of voices from United Nations, starting from the secretary general Antonio Guterres to the UN human rights chief, who have been critical about the CAA. UN high commissioner for human rights Michele Bachelet had also moved an intervention application in the Supreme Court in the hearings against CAA.
The Act was passed by the Indian parliament in December 2019 and provides for fast-track citizenship for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. However, it excludes Muslims from the list of people who can apply for this provision.
The passage of the Act triggered a series of protest, with critics claiming that the CAA would be used in conjunction with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens to render Muslims stateless.
Referring to these protests, the May 18 statement noted that the UN special advisor expressed concern over reports that demonstrations “had reportedly resulted in the injury and death of civilians, attacks on religious sites, as well as an increase in expressions of hate against India’s Muslim community”.
On hate speech, he specifically mentions by name a ruling party parliamentarian as especially worrisome. “…statements such as those expressed by Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy, that all people are not equal, and that Muslims are not in an ‘equal category’ as others are extremely alarming. Hate speech and the dehumanisation of others goes against international human rights norms and values”.
The UN special advisor also referred to India’s “long standing and well recognised history of promoting inclusive and peaceful societies, with respect for equality and principles of non-discrimination”.
He also welcomed the statements by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the COVID-19 pandemic does not see race or religion and therefore, the response to it should be led by unity and brotherhood.
Modi’s statement had been made in the background of several BJP leaders and members of right-wing groups raking up the issue of a Tablighi Jamaat cluster and spreading fake news and videos about members of the Muslim community deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus.
The UN official said that the Indian government should continue to “abide by this guidance” to ensure that national laws and policies follow international standards and counter the rise of hate speech.
“In these extraordinary times brought about by the COVID-19 crisis it is more important than ever that we stand united as one humanity, demonstrating unity and solidarity rather than division and hate,” noted Dieng.
The UN special advisor added that he would continue to follow developments and expressed his readiness to support initiatives to counter and address hate speech.