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Unwarranted: India's strong response to UN Human Rights High Commissioner's comment on electoral process

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk had highlighted the 'increasing restrictions on civic space – with human rights defenders, journalists and perceived critics targeted – as well as by hate speech and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims' in India.
Last Updated 04 March 2024, 15:14 IST

United Nations/Geneva: India on Monday said that the “concerns' raised by the UN's top human rights official over its electoral process are “unwarranted” and do not reflect the reality of the world's largest democracy, as New Delhi highlighted that many across the globe seek to learn from its electoral experience and aspire to emulate it.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Arindam Bagchi said Delhi has noted comments by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk about the country’s forthcoming general elections.

In his global update to the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Turk voiced concern by 'increasing restrictions on the civic space – with human rights defenders, journalists and perceived critics targeted – as well as by hate speech and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims.”

“However, his concerns in this regard are unwarranted and do not reflect the reality of the largest democracy in the world,” Bagchi said.

Bagchi underlined that in any democracy, “argumentation is natural. It is imperative that those in positions of authority do not allow their judgment to be clouded by propaganda."

The Indian envoy added that India's electoral process has been characterised by a high degree of people's participation and full faith in the electoral mandate by all. “In fact, we are privileged that many across the world seek to learn from our experience and aspire to emulate it,” he said.

“We have no doubt that as in numerous occasions in the past, the Indian people will freely exercise their vote to choose a government that they believe can best give voice and flight to their aspirations,” Bagchi said.

In his global update, Turk said that in India, with an electorate of 960 million people, the coming election will be unique in scale. 'I appreciate the country's secular and democratic traditions and its great diversity,” he said.

India will head to the polls for the 2024 general elections, expected to be held between April and May.

Turk, however, voiced concern about 'increasing restrictions' on the civic space as well as by hate speech and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims.

He emphasised that it is particularly important in a pre-electoral context to ensure an open space that respects the meaningful participation of everyone.

He also welcomed the Indian Supreme Court’s decision last month on campaign finance schemes, upholding the right to information and transparency.

The Supreme Court had ruled that electoral bonds violate citizens' right to access information held by the government and thus struck down the seven-year-old scheme.

Bagchi further said that plurality, diversity, inclusivity and openness are at the core of India’s democratic polity and its constitutional values.

“These are backed by fiercely independent institutions, including a robust judiciary, that aims to protect the rights of all.” He said that India, as home to 1/6 of humanity, has led from the front with an enduring dedication to the promotion and protection of human rights for all. 'In this endeavour, our approach has been guided by our civilisation ethos that views the world as one family.”

He noted that more recently, this commitment was manifest in India’s response to the pandemic by assisting its friends and partners across the world, India’s disaster relief efforts and support during crises in various countries, the development initiatives across the world and India’s G20 presidency last year, “where we voiced particularly the concerns of the Global South.

“Today when the world is riddled with conflicts and war, India has been a voice of reason consistently calling for dialogue and diplomacy. It is only when peace is given a chance that the most vulnerable can hope for a better future, where their basic needs are met, and their human rights are protected,” he added.

Bagchi said that it is in this spirit that India welcomes the “renewed focus on issues affecting us all, such as reform of the multilateral governance structures, including international financial architecture, enhancing technical assistance and capacity building, sustainable development and the need for peace.”

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(Published 04 March 2024, 15:14 IST)

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