India protests UN human rights chief’s comments on Kashmir
“With respect to Kashmir, on both sides of the LoC, regrettably unconditional access continues to be refused to my office,” UNHCR chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has said
India on Thursday strongly protested UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's comments on the Kashmir situation in his annual report and an oral update on human rights developments at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council here.
Stating that Hussein's update does not reflect the situation in India adequately, Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN offices and other international organisations in Geneva Raj Kumar Chander said: "There is also a reference to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. There is none to cross-border terrorism. Terrorism is the most fundamental violation of human rights and we overlook its egregiousness at our own peril."
Kumar said that "selective and tendentious statements on human rights issues only serve to undermine the credibility of this approach".
In his address on Wednesday, Hussein said: "With respect to Kashmir, on both sides of the Line of Control, regrettably unconditional access continues to be refused to my office, and I will report on this issue at greater length in June."
The UNHRC chief also said that he was "increasingly disturbed by discrimination and violence directed at minorities, including Dalits and other Scheduled Castes, and religious minorities such as Muslims in India.
"In some cases, this injustice appears actively endorsed by local or religious officials," Hussein said.
"I am concerned that criticism of government policies is frequently met by claims that it constitutes sedition or a threat to national security. I am deeply concerned by efforts to limit critical voices through the cancellation or suspension of registration of thousands of NGOs, including groups advocating human rights and even public health groups."
In his response on Thursday, Ambassador Chander said that "the Indian Constitution prohibited the state from discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth".
"Along with being the world's largest democracy, Indian polity also weaves in immense diversity with respect for tolerance and mutual understanding," he said.
"An independent judiciary, free and vibrant media and a vocal civil society are all active in this regard within the legal framework of the State. National and state level commissions are monitoring compliance with human rights."
Chander said that the Indian government "has been pursuing welfare of all its citizens with schematic interventions in a systemic approach".
"The motto of 'Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’, that is, 'all together and development for all', is a commitment to our people," he said.
"Therefore, any assessment of India should factor in its unique national circumstances and be based on the objective realities that point to a comprehensive effort to substantially raise the level of standard of living of all its citizens."