'Selective Approach to Human Rights Through Political Lens Is Harmful': Narendra Modi

The prime minister's remarks assume significance as they come close on the heels of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which eight people, including four farmers, were killed, resulting in nationwide outrage.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hit out against the allegedly “selective” approach to human rights by people those who view them through “political lens”, adding that in the process it undermines the cause of both democracy and human rights as well.

“Some people see human rights violations in some incidents but not in others. Human rights are violated when viewed via political spectacles. Selective behaviour is harmful to democracy,” Modi said speaking at an event to mark the 28th founding day of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Continuing further, he said, “Some try to dent the country’s image in the name of human rights… Looking at human rights with an eye on political gains and loss harms these rights as well as democracy.”

His remarks assume significance as they come close on the heels of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which eight people, including four farmers, were killed. The Modi and Uttar Pradesh governments have come under severe attack from several quarters, including rights organisations, who described the killing of peacefully protesting farmers as a violation of their rights.

To counter this criticism, the government and the BJP have pointed to the death of two BJP workers who were also killed during the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. The narrative that the supporters of the government have employed so far has been to portray that for opposition and activists only the death of farmers mattered, but not BJP workers. This, they say, is because of the “selective” application of human rights.

Modi’s latest remarks on human rights can be seen as amplification of the same view which the supporters of the government have been trying to employ since the Lakhimpur Kheri violence took place. In fact, this has also been the standard narrative that the Modi government and its supporters have taken refuge under when the issue of human rights’ violations in the country was raised.

Though Modi did not name any person or organisation in his speech, the ruling BJP has been critical of a section of human rights groups, including those with a global presence, for highlighting cases of human rights violations and in a one-sided manner to “target the government”.

In the wake of the detention of activists, lawyers and several others in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, several global rights’ organisations, including the UN Human Rights office, appealed to the Modi government against the detention of human rights defenders in the country, and urged authorities concerned to release them at the earliest.

Several international bodies have consistently ranked India under Modi at the bottom in terms of human rights record and democracy. They have expressed concern over deteriorating democracy in India. The 2020 ‘Democracy Report’ by the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute had observed that India is on the verge of losing its status as a democracy due to the severely shrinking of space for the media, civil society and the opposition under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

On the other hand, India’s status was downgraded from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free‘ by the US government-funded NGO Freedom House due to “a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters”.

Meanwhile, Modi cited a number of measures taken by his government to deliver basic needs like toilets, cooking gas, electricity and homes to the poor and said it gave rise to their aspirations and made them aware of their rights.

He added that by making a law against ‘Triple Talaq’, his government had bestowed new rights on Muslim women.

Modi also spoke of the measures like 26-week maternity leave and more stringent law for rape to highlight his dispensation’s empowerment of women.

The NHRC was set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, on October 12, 1993, for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The commission takes cognisance of human rights violations, conducts enquiries and recommends compensation to victims from public authorities besides other remedial and legal measures against the erring public servants.

(With PTI inputs)