From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Violations of human rights.
The human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the dilution of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have brought renewed international focus on India’s human rights practice.
Evolution of the modern Human Rights
- Classical approach: Countries made agreements on the premise that a sovereign state had the exclusive right to take any action it thought fit to deal with its nationals.
- No recognition of individuals’ rights: Classic international law governed the conduct between states and did not recognise the rights of individuals.
- The classical notion was challenged in the 19th century.
- Modern Human Rights: Slavery Convention adopted by the League of Nations prohibiting the slave trade heralded the first human rights treaty.
- It was based on the principle of dignity of a human being.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, was the first comprehensive international human rights document.
- The weakening of Unrestricted sovereignty: The evolution of international human rights law is also about the gradual weakening of the concept of unrestricted sovereignty.
India and Human Rights
- Unwarranted international scrutiny: The Indian government’s response to its human rights practice has always been that international scrutiny is unwarranted.
- Why India claims so?: Since the country is the largest democracy in the world with an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society no international scrutiny is required.
- Indian has always assured the international community that the judiciary (the SC) would provide adequate remedies to victims of human rights violations.
- These claims sound less credible after the recent developments in J&K and the passage of the CAA.
- Human rights and Discriminatory nature of CAA: Non–discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights.
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that CAA is fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.
Role of Civil Society and Media
- Media’s questionable role: Responding to international concerns the Indian government also refers to the role of free media and civil society in protecting human rights.
- However, the media’s role in J and K and after CAA is questionable.
- Weakened Civil Society: The government has imposed various curbs on it since 2014.
- It has become difficult for it to receive foreign contribution.
- Use of FRCA: Since 2014, the government has canceled the registration of about 14,000 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
- It is possible for the Indian government, due to its diplomatic clout, to avoid robust intervention by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms.
- But it would be difficult to avoid scrutiny by the international community. So, the government must take steps to allay international concerns and avoid situations where it is seen as a violator of human rights.