A riveting video has been making its way through social media, featuring an Indian student fearlessly exposing the malicious anti-India rhetoric being promoted right under the nose of the United Nations Human Rights Council headquarters (UNHRC) and the United Nations (UN) building in Switzerland’s Geneva. The purported video, widely shared on social media, shows massive posters that read ‘Women in India are treated as slaves’, ‘Child marriages: serious violations of child rights by India’, ‘Indian Christians facing State-sponsored terrorism’, ‘Terror attack on minorities’, ‘Indian Dalits: children of lesser God’. On Sunday, India summoned the Swiss ambassador to New Delhi and protested the issue of malicious anti-India posters in front of the UN building.
The posters are placed in an area right in front of the Palais des Nations (UN, Geneva) main entrance, known as the “Broken Chair” plaza. Installed in the plaza in 1997, the Broken Chair is a monumental sculpture created by the Swiss artist Daniel Berset, which symbolises opposition to landmines and embodies the proud cry of the civilian populations harmed by all forms of armed violence. The plaza has become a popular spot for protests, demonstrations, and other public events related to human rights, social justice, and environmental issues.
Bringing facts to the fore
The nefarious posters endeavour to construct a narrative antithetical to India’s interests. Yet, upon closer examination of the evidence, it becomes apparent that spurious propaganda has been effectively thwarted at the outset. Firstly, with regard to the claim that women in India are treated as enslaved people, data indicates otherwise. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) report, which sampled a population of 7.24 lakh women and 1 lakh men in the age group of 15-49, found that the female literacy rate climbed to 72 per cent. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, which derives insights from LinkedIn data, sheds further light on the changing dynamics of gender in India. A revolutionary trend has emerged: between 2016 and 2021, the number of women establishing companies has grown by an astonishing 2.68 times, dwarfing the growth rate of male founders, who experienced a growth of only 1.79 times. The NFHS-5 and NFHS-4 studies have further shown that nearly 88.7 per cent of currently married Indian women actively participate in crucial household decisions related to healthcare, major purchases, and visits to family or relatives. In terms of politics, India has been witnessing a paradigm shift in the representation of women, with a surge in their numbers over the years. The Lok Sabha elections of 1957 saw 45 women candidates, but the scenario has transformed entirely, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections boasting a staggering 716 women candidates. Another area where women are making their presence felt in sports, with the women’s cricket team captivating the imagination of Indian fans in recent years. This year, the under-19 women’s cricket team achieved a resounding victory at the world cup, bringing immense pride to the country. Athletes like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Vinesh Phogat, and others have become beacons of hope and inspiration for millions of girls nationwide, who look up to them as role models to emulate.
Secondly, regarding the issue of child marriages, India has made significant strides in reducing the scourge of child marriages in the country. The National Family Health Survey-5 data reveals that the number of child marriages in India dropped from 47.4 per cent in 2005-06 to 26.8 per cent in 2015-16, representing a decline of 21 per cent during the decade. In the past five years, the numbers have dropped by 3.5 per cent, reaching a new low of 23.3 per cent in 2020-21. The credit for this can be attributed to a host of factors such as the increased literacy of mothers, improved access to education for girls, migration from rural areas to urban centres, and stringent laws like the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which seek to safeguard the rights of children. Moreover, the proactive Government investments in adolescent girls, heightened rates of girls’ education, and effective public messaging on the illegality and detrimental effects of child marriage have played a crucial role in bringing about this positive shift in society.
Thirdly, the allegation of state-sponsored terrorism against minorities in India is categorically debunked by the facts. The present Government’s concern for minorities is evident in transforming the ministry of minority affairs from a part-time portfolio to a full-time ministry upon coming to power in 2014. Following this, the BJP-led NDA Government initiated comprehensive plans to uplift minorities. The “Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme for Minority Welfare” is a significant initiative to ensure a proportionate share of priority sector lending is directed toward minority communities and Government-sponsored schemes are extended to underprivileged minority communities. The programme is being implemented by concerned Central Ministries and Departments through State Governments/Union Territories and includes the placement of development projects in minority concentration districts. Additionally, given that education alone is insufficient in the 21st century, which is the contemporary era of technology, the Government has initiated numerous schemes to enhance the employability of boys and girls from various minority communities through skill development programs. Programs like Nai Manzil, Gharib Nawaz Employment Training Programme, Upgrading the Skill and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD), and Seekho aur Kamao (Learn & Earn) have garnered attention as some of the most promising initiatives launched by the Centre.
Fourthly, regarding the status of Dalits, their social and financial inclusion has been at the heart of the current Union dispensation. The Government is making strenuous efforts to bring the marginalised section into the mainstream through schemes like the MUDRA yojana, which has provided a sustainable platform to the downtrodden sections for entrepreneurship. Fifty-one per cent of loan accounts under this scheme were sanctioned for backward classes in FY2021-22. The historical corrections like the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A from Jammu & Kashmir to restore full citizenship rights for Dalits is a serious attempt to bring them to par with the rest of the citizenry.
Smell of hypocrisy
The blatant ignorance of the UN, UNHRC and the municipal authorities in Geneva of the malicious anti-India campaign going to where all the important offices concerning human rights are located has come when India is making its presence felt across the globe. It is pertinent to expose the hypocrites’ masquerade of virtue, given that on April 1 2022, the UNHRC adopted a new resolution on disinformation, highlighting the importance of combating the spread of misinformation. Sadly, the runaway propagation of such falsity also hints towards the preferences of the residents of Geneva who subscribe to such malice.
It is concerning when people in Geneva do not object to false propaganda, as this can spread inaccurate information and beliefs. There could be various reasons why people in Geneva might not oppose, such as a lack of awareness or understanding of the issue, fear of retribution for speaking out, or general apathy towards the truth.
Whatever the reason, the consequences of not challenging misinformation can be significant, ranging from harmful social and political outcomes to a breakdown in trust and cooperation among people and institutions.
Contrary to their main aim of protecting and promoting human rights worldwide, the UN and the UNHRC have been giving a carte blanche to individuals and groups who spread misinformation and false campaigns against India. Instead of providing space for peaceful protests and constructive dialogues on human rights issues, these world-level organisations have been allowing their platforms to be used by those with an agenda of spreading falsehoods and propaganda. This undermines the credibility of these institutions and hampers efforts to address genuine human rights concerns.
(The writers are 3rd year and final year students pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, respectively)