By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: Urging the European Union (EU) and India to quickly restart dialogue on human rights, EU member Bert-Jan Ruissen said “Freedom of religion is clearly being limited in India, to a worrying level”.
For too many years pressing issues like freedom of belief and religion have not been discussed. That was concluded by participants in the online conference “Situation of Human Rights in India” held this week, hosted by Members of the European Parliament (EP) Bert-Jan Ruissen (NL) and Cristian Terhes (RO) under the umbrella of the EP Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance.
In his briefing, Ruissen said “The EU as a community of values and economic superpower is uniquely placed to stand up worldwide for human rights, of which freedom of belief is one of the most important.”
He pressed the EU to step up Its efforts in this direction. “Human rights should be mentioned as a top priority in meetings with India, not as ‘any other business’. I recommend the European Parliament to adopt an urgency resolution on the matter”.
Cristian Terhes stressed the positive impact on countries that respect fundamental freedoms: “India is the second country in the world by population, with tremendous potential. As history proved, any country that respected human rights and religious freedom became stronger and more prosperous. Strengthening the respect for human rights and religious freedom within its borders, India could bring more prosperity for its citizens and make its voice stronger and better heard in the world.”
Four speakers addressed the online conference: Rahil Patel, Associate at Oxford House Research, Anna Hill, EU advocacy officer of NGO Open Doors International, Alessandro Pecorari, Europe Liaison Officer for Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD, social activist and a human rights defender from India
Rahil Patel stated: “The matter of India is urgent. Democratic values are backsliding with speed and the EU can be a great economic partner that can initiate tough conversations. But first, before we engage and try to change India, we need to understand how it sees the world. The Hindu worldview through a democratic lens is complex.”
“A rise in Hindu nationalist ideology has led to hate speech, discrimination and violence against minorities including Muslims and Christians. The number of reported annual incidents against Christians has increased more than five times between 2014 and 2019”, said Anna Hill “Anti-conversion laws have a negative effect on minority rights.”
“We need to resume the postponed EU-India Human Rights Dialogue from 12th January, so that they can discuss examples of best practice in law enforcement reform”, added Alessandro Pecorari, “The EU should urge India in every interaction to investigate and address allegations of complicity in the police hierarchy in emboldening non-state actors and for failure to register, investigate and prosecute cases.
Shabnam Hashmi stated: ‘There is an unprecedented attack on democracy in India. All dissent is being curbed and human rights defenders maligned, cases filed against them and many are jailed. Voices defending human rights & minority rights are silenced. The violence, hate speeches, attacks on journalists, HRDs, women, artists , intellectuals & minorities especially Muslims and Christians have spiralled after the Modi regime came to power. The EU must discuss the status of Human rights in India in any future talks with India as top priority.’