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regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 April 2024

UN Human Rights chief, Volker Turk worry over restrictions on civic space in India

The High Commissioner also stressed the need to ensure an open field during the upcoming general elections for meaningful participation of every citizen of the country

Our Correspondent New Delhi Published 05.03.24, 04:27 AM
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk File image

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, on Monday expressed concern over the increasing restrictions on civic space in India and stressed the need to ensure an open field during the upcoming general elections for the meaningful participation of every citizen of the country.

India, in response, said his concerns are unwarranted and do not reflect the reality of the largest democracy in the world.

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“In any democracy, argumentation is natural. It is imperative that those in positions of authority do not allow their judgment to be clouded by propaganda,’’ India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Arindam Bagchi, said.

Presenting his global update to the UN Human Rights Council, Turk in his brief on India said: “With an electorate of 960 million people, the coming election will be unique in scale. I appreciate the country’s secular and democratic traditions and its great diversity. I am, however, concerned by increasing restrictions on the civic space — with human rights defenders, journalists and perceived critics targeted — as well as by hate speech and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims.

“It is particularly important in a pre-electoral context to ensure an open space that respects the meaningful participation of everyone. I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision last month on campaign finance schemes, upholding the right to information and transparency.”

Bagchi, in response, also underscored the fact that India’s electoral process is characterised by a high degree of people’s participation and many across the world seek to learn from the Indian experience in a bid to emulate it.

“We have no doubt that as in numerous occasions in the past, the Indian people will freely exercise their vote to choose a government that they believe can best give voice and flight to their aspirations.”

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