India quizzed on religious freedom at UN meet

Ireland wanted to know what India has done to protect human rights activists.

By Ajay Kumar Singh

India Thursday faced some tough questioning from international community on religious freedom at a UN meeting in Geneva.

As India faced the second cycle of Universal Periodic Review at UN, Ireland wanted to know what the country has done to protect human rights activists.

The United Kingdom queried about the steps India has taken to address concerns of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion in the country.

Italy, Germany and the Netherlands focused on anti-conversion laws in states of India. Italy urged India to abolish these laws and ensure justice to victims of religious violence and discrimination.

Germany said these laws have “vague” and “discriminatory” provisions that could be misused by civil servants who it said should be accountable and answerable.

The Netherlands went a step further and urged India to pass a bill to prevent communal violence and attacks on targeted groups.

Austria, the Vatican and the United States expressed concern over attacks on religious minorities, dalit and tribal communities.

Austria wants India to ensure people’s right to choose one’s religion and the Holy See representative called for taking recourse judicial process to prevent communal violence and bring justice to victims.

Leader of Indian delegate, Attorney General Ghoolam Vahanvati said in his opening remarks reminded the international community that the Indian Constitution allows people to choose one’s religion.

He said the problem arises when someone transgresses the limits while propagating one’s religion.

“Some states have taken exception to this. Let me assure you that if any particular legislation exceeds constitutional limits, this can be challenged and the person has every right to approach the courts,” he added.

The Indian leader’s response disappointed Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer attending the UN meet.

“There were quite strong statements raised, but unfortunately the India’s response was causal and shallow. India has to come out of its denial mode,” she told

Lawrencia Kwark, secretary general of Pax Romana, regretted India’s failure to respond properly to the international community’s concerns.

India “only takes refuge in being called as the largest democracy in the world and does not introspect what would benefit its citizens,” she added.