Modi’s France Visit: HRW Expects Macron to Raise the Issue of Rights Abuses in India


BJP officials have frequently made hate-filled allegations against Muslims, Christians and other vulnerable communities, provoking violence by BJP supporters, who are then shielded from accountability by the police, says Philippe Bolopion, Chief of Staff at Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed deep concerns over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France to be  President Emmanuel Macron’s guest of honour at the Bastille Day parade on Friday.

“It is deeply concerning that France should celebrate the ideas of liberty and equality with a leader whom many criticise for undermining democracy in India,” Philippe Bolopion, Chief of Staff at Human Rights Watch, wrote in an article published on Wednesday in L’Obs, a weekly French news magazine.

“France is seeking stronger strategic, trade, and defence ties with India. Ahead of the visit, a joint statement by the two countries said they have “a shared vision of peace and security, especially in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific region, and defend the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter.” India is an important geopolitical actor, but that, and France’s own significant shortcomings in addressing race-based discrimination, should not deter Macron from publicly expressing concerns about India’s growing human rights crisis,” Bolopion wrote.

The article enumerated certain recent incidents wherein Hindutva miscreants launched an intimidation campaign against Muslims in Uttarakhand. “In May, Hindu ultranationalist groups in India’s northern Uttarakhand state began an intimidation campaign against Muslims in Uttarakhand, demanding they close their businesses and leave town. These groups, affiliated to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in power at both the state and national levels, posted eviction notices outside Muslim-owned shops. During one of the demonstrations, crowds turned violent and vandalised Muslim shops. At least a dozen Muslim families reportedly fled the town in fear.

“Instead of making efforts to calm growing communal tensions or protect Muslims from violence, the state’s BJP chief minister further fueled the conspiracy theories,” it said. 

This latest incident, the article said, is emblematic of the systematic targeting of religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, since 2014, after the Modi government came to power, including through discriminatory laws and policies. BJP officials have frequently made hate-filled allegations against Muslims, Christians and other vulnerable communities, provoking violence by BJP supporters, who are then shielded from accountability by the police.

The HRW Chief of Staff said that the “government officials have instead summarily punished those peacefully protesting such abuses, along with their families and the larger Muslim community, a form of collective punishment, including by unlawfully demolishing their properties. Hindu ultranationalist groups have also attacked Christians in their homes during private prayer meetings and police have prosecuted them under false charges of forced conversion. Christians from indigenous communities have been attacked and ostracised, and their homes burned down.”

The article also talked about the government’s attempts to muzzle the media and other civil society groups. It said the BJP government has also been tightening its grip on civil society groups, using draconian laws to arrest and intimidate activists, journalists, opposition leaders, academics, peaceful protesters, and critics of government policies. 

“This is shrinking the space for free speech, with independent journalists forced to self-censor. Through its abusive foreign funding law, Modi’s government has shut down funding for thousands of nongovernmental groups, particularly those that work on human rights or the rights of vulnerable communities,” the article said.

President Macron has not spoken out about the deteriorating human rights situation in India, Bolopion wrote. “The French government should not repeat the same mistakes it made with the Chinese government by pursuing deeper trade engagement while largely sidelining human rights concerns,” the article said. 

It criticised the French government for its response to growing xenophobia, racist violence and discrimination.

The HRW expected Macron to encourage Modi to correct course to ensure all Indians are able to live with dignity and without fear, regardless of their caste, ethnicity, religion, gender, or political beliefs. “And he should make clear that all Indians should be free to express their views online and beyond. Failing to do so would be an offense to the spirit of the French national holiday, and let down the many Indians who are striving bravely for their human rights,” the article concluded.


Photo: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on November 16, 2022.


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