India’s Republic Day Overshadowed by Human Rights Violations: European Parliament Member

Alviina Alametsa, a substitute member of the European Union’s delegation for relations with India, said that during a meeting with human rights activists, she was shocked at how many of them work under "very restricted circumstances".

New Delhi: On the eve of India’s 74th Republic Day celebrations, a substitute member of the European Union’s delegation for relations with India, said the occasion is “overshadowed by human rights violations”. 

The comment by Alviina Alametsa, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), comes close on the heels of a BBC documentary with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the locus of rising divisiveness in India and incidents of attacks on minorities. The Modi government’s decision to block the documentary on social media has catapulted it to world news.

The Finnish Green League politician, part of the EU’s lawmaking body, was taking part in a virtual parliamentary briefing titled ‘Taking stock of constitutional rights protection in India’ on the eve of January 26, when the Indian Constitution came into effect 73 years ago. The webinar was hosted by the London Story, a think tank led by members of the Indian diaspora that seeks to ensure human rights and democratic values are at the core of the relationship between the EU and India.

Alametsa, who recently visited India for the first time to meet lawyers, journalists, government representatives, scholars and rights defenders, categorically stated at the event, “The celebrations of Republic Day are overshadowed by urgent human rights violations that I also witnessed when travelling in India.”

Stating that both EU and India “would have to work on these issues in our areas and acknowledge them”, she said, “In India, the imprisonment of activists, attacks against minorities and repression of media are loud indicators of the erosion of human rights and freedoms. Police abuse and killings are not just extremely unfortunate instances but are part of action to control the critical voices.”

“To be a true democracy, India can’t fall in to totalitarian rule. The people in India need protection of their constitutional rights from their government, justice system and the whole society.” 

Stating that defending human rights should be at the core of the EU-India partnership, and India’s international partners must hold it accountable for it, she went on to say that even in European countries, there are instances of rights violations of minorities and therefore both EU and India must work together in the field.

Sharing the experience of her India visit, she said, “When I met these human rights defenders, I was shocked at how many of them work under very restricted circumstances, in an unpredictable and risky environment. Their offices have been shut down; their funds frozen. I met respectable, hardworking non-governmental organisations that now have to work totally underground. Many international organisations have been forced to leave the country. Many activists have been detained without due process and others silenced.”

“My wish for this Republic Day is that India will live up to the vision on which it was built, and strive to fully realize all the rights that are enshrined in its Constitution,” said the politician.

The London Story’s January 23 event to engage with European decision-makers was also attended by Indian lawyers Anand Grover, Prashant Bhushan and Shahrukh Alam.