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What the External Affairs Minister said and hesitated to say

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar’s statement has sparked a controversy. During his visit to the United States, he took part in an event at the Hudson Institute. When questioned about the discrimination faced by minorities in India, Jaishankar replied that there was no such discrimination. “What is the test really of fair and good governance or of the balance of a society? It would be whether in terms of the amenities, the benefits, the access, the rights, do you discriminate or not and in every society in the world, at some point, there’s been some discrimination on some basis. It is true that social welfare schemes are available to every citizen in India. I defy you to show me discrimination”, the Minister said. When asked about the systematic discrimination towards minorities, the response that everyone is receiving rations and health benefits, as well as educational benefits, only adds to the anxiety of those who are sceptical. Only if one acknowledges that there is a problem, can one begin to think about a solution. Jaishankar has attempted to change the subject earlier as well, to assert that there hasn't been any problem at all. In 2021, India was downgraded by two foreign agencies on the Global Democracy Index. US-based non-profit Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a "partially free democracy". V-Dem Institute said that India had become an ‘electoral autocracy’. Jaishankar had said then that it was ‘hypocrisy’. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was questioned about the discrimination faced by the minorities in the country during his trip to the US, he rambled about democracy and also dodged the subject. It might be to safeguard India's reputation abroad that such tactics are being used. However, the hesitation to reply with facts is itself an answer. It merely establishes the inability to provide a proper response to the allegations by laying out the facts.

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It was not long ago that a member of Jaishankar’s party insulted his colleague from another party in Parliament on the basis of religion. It was the former ministers who laughed hearing the insult. In Manipur, the problem is the blatant discrimination based on religion; it has even been pointed out by the court. It was when the government remained silent while religious hatred was being spread, that the Supreme Court was compelled to instruct the police to register a case against those engaging in hate speech, even in the absence of complaints. Attacks on places of worship of the minority communities, hate speech through the media outlets and social media platforms, mob lynchings, calls to boycott businesses, the laxity of the administration in taking action against the culprits, the encouragement the culprits receive from the government, the hate speeches by those at the top of the hierarchy that is capable of destabilising the society, laws such as Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which manifest blatant discrimination…when dodging a question in the face of endless list of facts, saying that everyone receives rations and medical care, it does not appear to be an answer to the allegations but comes across as a justification. The government, which discriminates on the basis of religion in the case of school uniforms, claims that there is no discrimination in the field of education. How should the girls, who had to give up education because of being denied the freedom of clothing, understand it? When it is a matter of pride for the ruling party that the country’s largest minority is not represented in the Assembly and Parliament, who would believe the argument that there is no discrimination? Would it be possible to say that there is no communal hatred and calls for ethnic cleansing in India? The budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been reduced to 38 per cent.

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The UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities Issues said that there is a “massive, systematic and dangerous” violation of minority rights in India. According to the United Christian Forum, there were 525 attacks against Christians in India in the first eight months of 2023. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urges President Biden about the “national, state and local levels promoted and enforced religiously discriminatory policies” that seriously undermine the religious freedom of minorities. A Washington-based organisation ‘Hindutva Watch’ says that about 64 per cent of the hate campaigns are conspiracy theories that falsely accuse Muslims. Countless organisations such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, Pew Research Centre, international human rights organisations and researchers studying genocide, have repeatedly warned of anti-minority policies in India. Jaishankar can say that all this is anti-India propaganda. It is not that the Ministers are unaware of the truth, that the experience of the people of the country says something else. The problem is knowing that the discrimination stems from the ideology of the bigwigs that run the country. The failure to reject that ideology is what forced Jaishankar to make false claims.

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TAGS:External Affairs Minister S JaishankarIndia News
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