NEW YORK: A committee of the UN General Assembly Friday unanimously passed a resolution calling for the promotion and protection of human rights of persons belonging to minorities, with Pakistan drawing the international community’s attention to the plight of Muslims in Indian state of Assam and occupied Kashmir.
The resolution, titled “Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities”, was adopted without a vote in 193-member Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.
By its terms, the Assembly would request the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues to report annually to it, including with recommendations for strategies to better implement the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
It would urge States to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to these minorities, including by encouraging conditions for the promotion of their identity, the provision of education and the facilitation of their participation in all aspects of political, economic, social, religious and cultural life — without discrimination — and to apply a gender perspective while doing so.
The draft would also call on States to ensure the protection of children who belong to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and who are at risk of becoming or have become stateless.
Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, Pakistani delegate Qasim Aziz pointed out that the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues had deplored the treatment of “millions of Muslims in Assam who face the threat of being deemed ‘foreigners’ and treated as non-citizens, and could therefore become stateless”.
Aziz, a second secretary at the Pakistan mission to the UN, said he feared that this process could fuel the xenophobic climate, religious intolerance and discrimination, leading other states in India using similar approaches to deny or remove citizenship for Muslims and other minorities, as indicated in the UN Special Rapporteur’s report.
Referring to the current crisis in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, he noted that the abrogation of Article 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution was clearly aimed at changing the demographics and composition of disputed state, to turn the indigenous Muslim majority population into a minority.
“Many fear that the current human rights and humanitarian crisis in occupied Jammu and Kashmir could potentially lead to forced displacement of its Muslim population and render them stateless.”
The Pakistani delegate also warned the committee that a process of wiping out the Islamic heritage in India was currently underway in pursuance of the ruling BJP party’s “Hindutva” ideology through destruction of Muslim shrines, monuments and transformation of India’s Muslims into oppressed, second class citizens, and non-citizens.
The Indian Muslims, he said, faced an existential threat today. The recent verdict on the destroyed Babri mosque in Ayodyha was a true illustration of this mindset.
In this context, the Pakistani delegate echoed the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations and called on the UN Secretary-General, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, to consider, as a matter of urgency, immediate discussions with the Indian government aimed at protecting the human rights of the concerned minorities and avoiding what could easily become a threat to regional peace and security.