India slams Michelle Bachelet's remark on farmers' protest

Bachelet earlier criticised the Modi government in New Delhi over human rights violations during farmers' protest
Last Updated 28 February 2021, 02:55 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government hit out at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet after she cited the protest by the farmers in India to drive home the point that all stakeholders should be consulted before the introduction of new laws and policies.

“The unprovoked violence on our Republic Day in the name of farmers’ rights, apparently, left her (Bachelet) unmoved,” Indra Mani Pandey, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said. He was making a statement on behalf of the Government of India at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) late on Friday.

Bachelet earlier criticised the Modi government in New Delhi, stating that the charges of sedition against journalists and activists for reporting or commenting on the protests by farmers were “disturbing departures from essential human rights principles”.

She made the comment while presenting her statement at the UNHRC.

“In India, continued protests by hundreds of thousands of farmers highlight the importance of ensuring laws and policies are based on meaningful consultations with those concerned,” she said, adding, “I trust that ongoing dialogue efforts by both sides (the government and the agitating farmers) will lead to an equitable solution to this crisis that respects the rights of all.”

Pandey countered the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, referring to the violent incidents, which took place during the protests by the farmers in the national capital on Republic Day on January 26 last.

“The Government of India has set a goal of doubling the income of farmers by 2024. The purpose of enacting three Farm Acts is to enable farmers to realise better price for their produce and enhance their income,” said New Delhi’s envoy to the UN offices in Geneva. “It (the set of new laws) will particularly benefit small farmers and offer more choices to those farmers who opt for them. The Government has shown the utmost respect for protests by farmers and has remained engaged in dialogue with them to address their concerns.”

Bachelet on Friday also said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continued to monitor the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where restrictions imposed by the Government of India on communications, and clampdowns on civil society activists, remained a matter of concern.

Pandey defended the Modi government’s August 5, 2019 move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories. He called it a “historic decision”, which was welcomed by the people of India, including people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It has given impetus to socio-economic development, end decades of discrimination and combat cross border terrorism, which has been the key hindrance in full enjoyment of human rights by the people. We have restored grass-root democracy, through District Development Council (DDC) elections, and provided good governance through the ‘Back to Village’ initiative,” he told the UNHRC. “There has been a significant decline in terrorist attacks and progressive national laws have been extended to Jammu and Kashmir to enable the people there to enjoy the same rights as the people in rest of India.”

He said that the Government of India was perplexed to note some of the comments by the High Commissioner (for Human Rights). “She appeared as oblivious of the enormous efforts made by my Government to address the challenges, as indeed of many of the factors driving these challenges.”

“Her indifference to terrorism is, of course, not new. Objectivity and impartiality have to be the hallmarks of any Human Rights assessment. We are sorry to see that the High Commissioner’s oral update is lacking in both,” he added.

(Published 27 February 2021, 15:36 IST)

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