Human Rights Day
New Delhi; 10th Dec. 2022: Every year, 10 December is observed as Human Rights Day. The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 and proclaimed the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. For 2022, UDHR has declared its theme as “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”. India has a history of supporting the cause of human rights and freedom. However, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind feels that in recent times, our track record in terms of protection of the human rights of its religious minorities, human rights activists, and journalists has deteriorated significantly.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is held every four years as a mechanism to examine the human rights records of member states. Any member state can ask questions and make recommendations to the state under review. The latest review took place last month in which many friends and trusted countries such as the US, Canada and Germany urged India to improve its human rights record and protect minority rights and freedom of speech. There were calls to curb hate speech and hold accountable public officials who advocate religious hatred. Others hoped that India would review the design and implementation of the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) to avoid statelessness, deprivation or denial of nationality, arbitrary detentions or expulsions. Others urged India to ratify the UN Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
Our international ratings on certain key indices related to human rights have declined significantly. India ranks 150 out of 180 countries in the 20th World Press Freedom Index 2022. The index is released every year by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In the 2022 World Justice Project (WJP) – “Rule of Law Index”, India was ranked 77 out of 140 countries. Our scores are particularly low in factors like fundamental rights, security, law and order and civil and criminal justice.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind believes that the government should take these reports and advice from our friends and partner countries very seriously. The government should sit with leading members of civil society and human rights activists and listen to their grievances. All efforts through legislation and executive action should be initiated to make India a champion of human rights both at home and abroad. This should be endorsed by the international community and be in consonance with our internal assessments. By doing so, we will uphold our constitutional values as well as strengthen civil liberties and democracy.
Judiciary on religious conversion
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind welcomes the verdict of a two-judge bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that recently ruled that the authorities could not force citizens to declare their intention to convert their faith. The high court declared it “ex-facie unconstitutional” to force citizens to notify the government about their desire or willingness to convert their religion. The verdict is in tune with Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which allows “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate religion.” Presently a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar is also hearing a petition on “forced and fraudulent conversions”. The SC bench has correctly observed that “Propagate, charity, everything welcome, but within the framework of the Constitution. The intention should be very clear. That is the first thing that needs to be considered.”
Jamaat feels that petitions that allege mass conversions in which people are converted under duress seem to be politically motivated as these petitions are not backed by hard data. People changing the faith in which they were born have not reached numbers that may be termed alarming. Moreover, the existing provisions in our legal system are sufficient to take care of any such malpractices. There is no need to promulgate another new “anti-conversion” law by the states. What is paramount is to protect the constitutional guarantee of freedom to practice and propagate religion. There can be no compromise over the rights given to us by our Constitution just because of some exaggerated fears not backed by authentic data.
Discontinuation of Pre-matric scholarship
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) expresses grave concern over the decision of the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs to discontinue the Pre-Metric Scholarship for students of Classes 1 to 8 from the minority community. The government’s position is that it is implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 which makes it obligatory for the Government to provide free and compulsory elementary education (classes I to VIII) to every child. The government is also justifying the move by saying that it wants to bring parity among students from SC, ST, and OBC communities who were getting pre-matric scholarships for Class IX and X only. So now, the minority students will also get scholarships for Class IX and X only from the 2022-23 academic session.
Jamaat feels that the government is depriving the students belonging to the minority community of their legitimate rights in the name of RTE and the objective of providing a level-playing field to all. It will hamper the students of minorities in the crucial years of their early education. This will increase their dropout rate and further damage their prospects of securing a bright academic career. Several surveys have demonstrated that minorities, especially Muslims, lag in both primary and higher education. This pre-matric scholarship supported the poor, underprivileged, and marginalised students (both girls and boys) to access educational opportunities. The future of all such students now hangs in balance. Jamaat urges the government to restore the pre-matric scholarships once again for students of Class 1 to 8. The nation cannot progress by depriving the younger generation of education opportunities and encouragement to excel academically.