*New Delhi: *There is growing alarm that the United Nations is focusing international attention on “human rights violations” in India , with unprecedented censure by UN special rapporteurs on an industrial-environmental dispute in Thoothukudi, indictment by UN experts on journalist Rana Ayyub’s freedom of speech and expression, and most recently, the demand for an “independent international investigation” into events in Jammu & Kashmir .
As a Human Rights Council meeting opens in Geneva Monday, India will be nervously watching if the international community further drags New Delhi into its crosshairs.
In the last few weeks, New Delhi has thrice been rapped on its diplomatic knuckles by the UN. As the global international order led by the US and China realigns itself, there is growing concern that the UN is using the turbulence to push its own interventionist agenda.
The scathing indictment by UN special rapporteurs on the police firing on protesters against Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi is a case in point. Never, at least in India , has the UN commented on an industrial dispute. But on 31 May, as many as eight UN special rapporteurs condemned the “apparent excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force” by the Tamil Nadu police, in which 12 people were killed.
Barely a week before on 24 May, five UN special rapporteurs asked the government to protect Rana Ayyub’s freedom of speech and expression and asked why she was being subject to extraordinary vilification and a campaign of hate, rape and death threats.
UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid bin Ra’ad’S detailed, blow-by-blow compilation last week of alleged human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir , is another sign of the times. The report even went to the extent of demanding that reparations be given to the victims of the conflict.
Never has a UN human rights organisation, not even at the height of the insurgency in Kashmir in the early 1990s, called upon India to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”.
At the time, debates on Kashmir and growing religious intolerance after the demolition of the Babri Masjid had taken place only when Pakistan had insisted that its resolution be taken up at the UN Human Rights committee.
A furious Delhi has since slammed the report, but there is growing concern that the UN is pushing an agenda, using the “human rights” argument.
Now in Geneva, New Delhi is wondering if the international community will take up the demand that he made in his own report for an “independent international investigation” into allegations of human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir .
For the first time in more than 25 years, New Delhi fears that the dreaded ‘K’ word, Kashmir , is back front and centre. Except that this time around it is accompanied by criticism in other parts of India as well – on industrial disputes and on freedom of speech.
For the first time in decades, as India returns to the crosshairs of international attention, it is having to desperately scramble to keep up with old friends and make sense of newer antagonisms.
The relationship between India and the US is less cosy than it was in recent years, with New Delhi and Washington still finding their feet in the wake of President Donald Trump’s determination to shake up the international order.
He has already demanded India “do more”, especially in Afghanistan, even as he creates new openings with Pakistan after the killing by a US drone of dreaded terrorist Mullah Fazlullah.
Fazlullah, who belonged to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was found in southern Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, New Delhi is wondering how to deal with the Prince Zeid headache. Officials note that he has been consistent in his attack of the Modi government.
Last April he wrote a letter to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj demanding that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) be expanded to “cover all relevant cases involving the paramilitary forces and the army, including in Jammu & Kashmir state,” as well as empowering it to “inquire into alleged human rights violations and abuses by the armed forces of India”.
Then in September last year, at the inaugural of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, Zeid al Ra’ad had said: “The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming.”