INDIA: Prospect is in inaction 

The national debate regarding India’s position about the proposed resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council concerning Sri Lanka is limited to a Tamil view of the issue. The views exchanged in both houses of the country’s parliament and in the media reflect this. This parochial view about the resolution exposes the widespread lack of understanding about Sri Lanka, and the concept ‘state responsibility’ as understood in mature jurisdictions that respect the rule of law.

Understandably, the Government of India would not want to engage on the essence of the issue, since India lacks moral legitimacy to suggest Sri Lanka, or for that matter any other state in the world, to investigate and prosecute crimes thereby ending state-sponsored violence. In that, India’s position, that it would not support any country-specific interventions concerning human rights in an international body like the UNHRC is not based on any particular non-partisan setting. It is a position the country has reiterated, actually stemming from its inability to respond to any state-sponsored human rights violation reported in the world fearing that a similar reference could also be made against India.

The country’s position that it claims is one based on its respect to the concept of state sovereignty is nothing but pretence. It is a recurring international diplomacy deposit that it expects to encash, as support, should there be such an international criticism against India in any future. In that the country is more known as a slimy lobbyist in international forums, a true identity that it keeps under several of its masks, most importantly, that of the ‘world’s largest democracy’.

Sri Lanka today is not run by an administration that is willing or able to undertake impartial investigations into crimes, irrespective of its nature. The island nation does not have a single independent institution, whether it is the police, prosecution, the judiciary or its parliament. The national institutions of democracy and the rule of law have long become nothing more than a farce.

Perhaps the only institution that is independent is the office of the president, but at the longevity of the term ‘independence’ as defined from time to time by the president and his crony group that is composed of a variety of characters, including street thugs and criminals; his brothers and members of the family and other corrupt politicians. Sadly Sri Lankans do not even have an active opposition. India expects such a country to investigate and prosecute crimes voluntarily, so that rights violations would end, and past violations made accountable.

The list of countries that have extended support to Sri Lanka in blindly opposing the resolution reflects not only the nature of the resolution — that encourages a member state in the UNHRC to undertake independent investigation, prosecution and adjudication of crimes, in particular those relating to human rights abuses — but also suggests the nature of what is referred to as ‘legitimate governments that promote the rule of law’ in those states, for instance Pakistan, Chad, Somalia, Russia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Bahrain, Philippines, Malaysia and China. Concerning a resolution like this, India would at the end take no sides. Having no opinion is also an opinion.

At the core of the resolution is a state’s responsibility and willingness to provide effective remedies to human rights abuses and establishing genuine protection architecture for human rights. This includes generating an atmosphere of confidence where victims of human rights abuses could complain about the incident; the capacity of a state’s investigative apparatus to undertake prompt and impartial investigations; the ability of a state’s prosecution and the judiciary to decide upon such cases independently. It equally involves the extent to which freedom of expression and opinion is respected and promoted by the states. It implies an unbiased and unconditional commitment to democracy and democratic norms by the states, individually and collectively. None of the states that have supported Sri Lanka have such rights friendly framework within their jurisdictions.

In reality conditions in India are not different from the states that have opposed to debating about human rights abuses in countries at the UNHRC. The willingness and ability of India to provide effective remedies to human rights violations is as low as many other countries with hugely tainted human rights records, an image they are in no mood to correct. More than 50,000 children below the age of five dying every year from malnutrition does not place India at a high pedestal concerning human rights.

This is not because India is a poor state that depends on international aid for the daily running of its administrative machinery. It is the result of manifold causes, most importantly, criminal (administrative) neglect, unchecked landlordism, deep-rooted corruption in administration and caste based discrimination that exists in India. Brute human rights abuses committed by state agencies in places like Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir, is not just an international propaganda, but a reality that Indians having equal right to exist in peace living in these two states have to put up with for the past 64 years.

Widespread use of police torture and the absolute refusal of the governments in India to reform its policing system from its present state of organised and uniformed barbarity and inability to perform as an institution that fits a modern democracy is a negation of the people’s mandate and the delegitimisation of a government to call itself democratic. The culture of impunity is widespread in the country.

Scientific criminal investigation is an exception available to those who can afford to purchase justice in India with religious, political and financial power, that today procedures like undertaking an autopsy is in such a despicable state that it is hard to find words to explain it. Those who have doubts could view a documentary made by West Bengal based human rights organisation MASUM here. The state of affairs of post-mortem examination is fully justified, given the omnipresence of caste-based discrimination in the country and how it desensitises a community’s capability to react.

All the above issues have never been and will never be in the recent future an issue of concern to any political parties in India, since they all benefit, unconditionally from the organised lawlessness that Indians are ill fated to accept as their version of democracy. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the entity of the Sangh Pariwar that is systematically pushing the country into religious fundamentalism along with other religious outfits in India speaking for the rights of Sri Lankans in the Indian parliament is nothing but opportunistic politics of cheap value.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its affiliates criticising the ruling United Progressive Alliance has no moral high ground in the country given the abuses that it has committed, most importantly when it held power in West Bengal, literally pushing that state and its administrative architecture to stone ages. Neither does the Indian National Congress, the largest component of the United Progressive Alliance has a face in this affair. Okram Ibobi and his murderous regime of Manipur is an example. The human rights standard of India is relatively better, only in comparison to its worst counterparts in the continent.

Neither are the above an issue for the country’s so-called mainstream media since they have by now opted to impose self-censorship and for at least a decade carved their pie out of the ensuing environment of corruption and nepotism. Some have even accepted accolades of becoming the media advisors from oppressive regimes, like the one in Sri Lanka for instance. This is trashing of independence and accepting the invitation to become a lobbyist for a questionable regime. Independence and media are two terms that do not go together well for the most of the self-proclaimed national media in India.

India supporting the proposed UNHRC resolution concerning Sri Lanka would not end human rights abuses in that country. That requires Sri Lanka to end the culture of impunity. The UNHRC cannot do it for Sri Lanka. What that matters to India in the context is to take time to introspect and not to waste time debating based on ill-informed sectarian views.

What that matters to Indians are the following: (i) will there be an end to corruption in India?; (ii) when will police torture and encounter killings in India end?; (iii) whan can Indians also claim that they have a functioning justice dispensation framework that does not tolerate impunity?; (iv) when will the country’s future, India’s children, have a better chance to survive without malnutrition and hunger?; (v) what should the Dalits in India do further to push their government to decide that it will have a policy of no tolerance to all forms of discrimination?

Perhaps to answer these questions the country’s parliament would require no debate. Most of those who routinely occupy seats in the country’s legislative houses would agree not take any affirmative position on these issues. For them prospect is in inaction.


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