NHRC chairperson’s comments affirm how Modi govt has denuded constitutional institutions of their essence
For NHRC chairperson Justice Arun Mishra, even UN human rights body is an external force that levels false allegations. In this situation, can it be expected to uphold basic human rights of citizens?
The Modi government has been undermining all the institutions under the Constitution and denuding them of their essence. This was on display in the event to observe the 28th foundation day of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The anniversary meeting was attended by both prime minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. The prime minister, in his speech, gave his own slanted version of how human rights should be viewed. He said, “Some people have started interpreting human rights for their own angle as per their selfish interests” and “The biggest infringement of human rights takes place when they are seen from the prism of politics and political profit and loss”.
It is, indeed, this selective approach to human rights that marks the Modi regime. Human rights are seen from the prism of majoritarian politics. It is this blinkered approach that makes the ruling set-up complicit with, or, blind to the violations of human rights of the minorities, particularly of Muslims, and of Dalits and Adivasis.
The test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of various minorities – religious, linguistic or ethnic. But under the Hindutva regime, it is only the rights of the majority that matters.
There can be no other explanation for why mob lynchings, physical assaults, deprival of livelihoods and denial of elementary rights go on unchecked and unquestioned. In BJP-ruled states such as Madhya Pradesh, the home minister himself justifies such attacks on minorities. The latest instance is the arrest of four Muslim students and youth for participating in a garba event organised by a college in Indore.
So, when Modi talks about the “biggest infringement of human rights” taking place when they are seen from the “prism of politics and political profit and loss”, this charge fully applies to the BJP government and the centre and the states. It is narrow Hindutva politics that seeks to gain from communal polarisation at the expense of the rights of ordinary Muslims.
That the present head of the NHRC is in complete alignment with the ruling establishment was made clear by the speech of the chairperson, Justice Arun Kumar Mishra, who credited the “untiring efforts” of home minister Amit Shah for “fostering a peaceful situation in Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east” and which has “ushered in a new age”.
If there has been the maximum violation of human rights in terms of both scale and intensity in the recent period, it has been in Jammu & Kashmir, particularly after Amit Shah initiated the scrapping of Article 370, breaking up of the state and the clampdown. The situation in J&K drew the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who, at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council on September 13 said in a speech that “Restrictions on public assembly and frequent communication blackouts continue in Jammu & Kashmir, while hundreds of people remain in detention for exercising their right to the freedom of expression and journalists face ever-growing pressure”.
She also noted the “worrying” usage of the UAPA in India and said that Jammu & Kashmir had “among the highest number of cases in the country”.
These views were, of course, refuted by the spokesperson of the Indian government. But it is evident that the chairperson of the NHRC also endorses the government’s stand as in his speech Justice Mishra said: “It has become common for external forces to level fake allegations against India of human rights violations and these should be opposed”. For Justice Mishra, the United Nations human rights body is also an external force that levels false allegations.
With such a man at the helm, what can be expected of the NHRC to uphold the basic human rights of Indian citizens? The reality is that under the Hindutva authoritarian regime, there is a systematic and large-scale violation of all the basic rights of citizens and the NHRC too has become a victim of this regime.
Views are personal