Need for Introspection and Reform

Fr. Gaurav Nair Fr. Gaurav Nair
20 May 2024

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has made a significant decision to defer India's accreditation for the second consecutive time this week. This decision, which results from a thorough review of India's human rights record and the NHRC's operations, underscores substantial concerns about the country's commitment to human rights. The government and its agencies maintain that there has been no final decision. However, it is a testament to the fact that India's human rights record is not clean and that the government's interference inside the NHRC is beyond superficial. This deferral is not just a procedural hiccup but a profound reflection on the state of human rights institutions in India and their alignment with global standards.

The deferral raises several critical issues. Primarily, it highlights the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) lack of independence. Any national human rights institution must operate autonomously and without government influence to be effective. The GANHRI's decision suggests that the NHRC's current structure and functioning may not meet this essential criterion.

GANHRI's decision points to broader systemic problems within India's approach to human rights. The NHRC has been criticised for its slow response to human rights violations and inability to hold the government accountable. Reports of human rights abuses, particularly against marginalised and minority communities, demand a proactive and independent human rights body. The GANHRI's decision should prompt introspection on whether the NHRC has the necessary tools and mandate to address these challenges effectively.

The government's minions have been harping that India needs no external validation, but international accreditation validates credibility and effectiveness and is a testament to a country's commitment to human rights. A deferral, especially a repeated one, can erode international confidence in India's human rights mechanisms and tarnish its global image as a democracy committed to upholding the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The continued deferral implies that the country's image of being a "Vishwaguru" is only the BJP's delusion.

India must urgently and decisively address the concerns raised by GANHRI, including the NHRC's operational independence, improving its response mechanisms, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to human rights through actions, not just rhetoric. Reforming the NHRC to align with the Paris Principles is not just a suggestion but a necessity.

Fundamentally, there must be a broader politico-cultural shift towards inclusivity and recognising human rights as an integral part of governance. The use of divisive tactics, suppression of dissent and dialogue employing state machinery and wielding draconian laws against its perceived enemies cannot be concealed by seating governmental puppets within the NHRC. There must be political will and a commitment from all levels of government to respect and protect human rights.

It is a call to action for the government to strengthen its human rights institutions and demonstrate a robust commitment to democracy and human dignity. Only through such steps can India hope to regain its standing and ensure that the fundamental rights of its citizens are protected and respected. Failure to address these concerns could significantly impact India's international relations and trade.

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