19 July 2024

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Australia urged to stand up for human rights in India

Conflict in Manipur, India, has led to the deaths of more than 100 people, and the destruction of several places of worship. Picture: Open Doors.

Jenan Taylor

26 July 2023

Human rights advocates say the Australian government should join those in the international community who have called for an end to religious and inter-ethnic violence in north-east India.

It follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s belated condemnation of an incident in Manipur state in which people from the Hindu-majority Mei Tei community sexually assaulted women from the predominantly Christian Kuki tribe in May.

The incident is tied to escalating conflict between the two communities over land rights which has caused the death of more than 100 people, the displacement of 50,000 more, and the torching of upwards of 250 places of worship, according to Amnesty International.

In early July the European Parliament adopted a resolution that called on Indian authorities to make the utmost effort to stop the violence and protect religious minorities, among other measures.

India’s ministry for external affairs said in a statement the European Parliament’s interference in India’s internal affairs was “unacceptable” and reflected “a colonial mindset”.

Read more: Christians face rising hate as India’s anti-conversion laws unleash violence

But Human Rights Watch Australia director Daniela Gavshon said like the European Union, and in recent days the United States, Australia should also be speaking up.

“The Albanese government should unequivocally stand up for human rights in India. While ordinarily Modi might not respond well to being criticised for his government’s human rights record, he has finally recognised the hideous violence that has been taking place in Manipur,” Ms Gavshon said.

She said it was a crucial opportunity for the Australian government to acknowledge Modi’s own words, and it should call on the Indian government to urgently protect people facing violence.

Ms Gavshon said Australia should also stress the importance of India doing a thorough and credible investigation into the violence.

St Dunstan’s Camberwell priest the Reverend Jobby John said it was essential the Australian government step in to condemn the brutality in Manipur.

Mr John said he was in close contact with friends in the area and believed that religious freedoms had declined there and in other parts of the country in recent years.

“It’s affecting tens of thousands of people, particularly in the states where minority religious communities live,” he said.

Read more: In India, violence against religious minorities is on the rise. Why won’t Australia speak up?

Mr John believed political pressure from other countries would help curtail the violence in India’s north-east, and that international attention would pressure the Indian government to take action.

But he said prayer was also vital and Anglicans should pray for the cessation of attacks against minority religious populations.

Senator Wong and the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade have been approached for comment.

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