The decision of UNCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to seek intervention in the Supreme Court case regarding Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has invited strong protest from India. The petition by UN High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet Jeria has sought to intervene as Amicus Curiae in the cases regarding CAA in the light of riots resulting from the anti-CAA protests. Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has strongly objected to the move on the grounds that an outside agency interfering with an internal legislation or amendment of India is unusual. The spokesman of MEA Raveesh Kumar emphasised that no outside party has a locus standi to interfere in the internal affairs of India.
The UNCHR, the common platform of the international community, sought the intervention citing the illegality of attempting the citizenship legislation in a discriminate manner, when India is a signatory to international treaties against discrimination. At the same time, the Indian objection is on the basis of the constitutionality of the sovereign country's parliament. Whatever be the judgement of the Supreme Court on the 140 cases filed with it related to CAA, the UNCHR petition has caused the controversial citizenship law to dim India's image before the world.
Ever since independence, it has been India's consistent position that outside interference will not be permitted on internal issues including Kashmir. However, since the BJP government came to power, it has been a regular sight that it sought external assistance in implementing its own agenda, and interfered in the affairs of external parties. After the repeal of provisions of Article 370 for the special status of Kashmir and conversion of the state into a union territory followed by repressive denial of human rights under military boots, and when protests raged against them across the country and outside, the Modi government invited representatives of western countries, who sympathised with the far-right policies of the ruling party, and allowed them to pass comments.
India is a country that had held America in check during the non-aligned era and even the later unipolar era with US-domination, whenever America tried to intervere in the Kashmir issue. But since Donald Trump became President, despite his open expression of willingness to mediate in the matter of Kashmir many times, India was not able to counter it in sufficiently strong terms. For this very reason, in the background of a law that seeks to sideline a section of the population and push them to the scare of extermination, when the UN agency comes to offer assistance, the country is in a state of being morally helpless.
As a country, India is signatory to several international treaties and bodies under the aegies of the UN, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) , The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The underlying principle of all such treaties and conventions is the elimination of discrimination and equality of rights. However, the main problem with the CAA is that by granting citizenship to refugees other than Muslims from three countries, the government legitimises denial of rights and discrimination on the basis of religion. It is in this context that the UN High commission justifies its move to intervene against the deviation of India, which has until now been uholding a model position for the world in the matter of freedom and equality of opportunity.
All countries that have signed upto international agreements have an obligation to ensure equal protection and human rights for citizens and others in a country, without regard to differences of race, tribe, caste, religion, nationality or immigration. The ICCPR, ICESCR and CRC agreements signed by India binds signatory to eliminate from private and publich spheres all types of discrimination in the name of various reasons including religion. The UN body has made it clear that its intervention is to bring India's position in the cases regarding the citizenship law passed on the basis of religion, in line with the international treaties.
India cannot summarily dismiss such a move terming it unprecedented and extraordinary. The Modi government step of making religion the basis for citizenship, and letting that be the instrument for racial discriminatin and Delhi-model pogrom, is at odds with not only the domestic constitutional principles, but also the international agreements it has bound itself to. And that is what has paved the way for the UN agency's unusual intervention. And now what remains to be seen is whether the BJP-ruled India will succumb to these international interests of humanity or will keep moving along its fastist path, trampling those principles.