While admitting that poverty has fallen in India, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michele Bachelet cautioned that divisive policies will undermine India's economic growth. Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, she said that there had been “significant poverty reduction in overall terms”, but added her criticism that “inequality remains a serious issue.”
She alleged that “it appears that narrow political agendas are driving the further marginalisation of vulnerable people” and added, “I fear that these divisive policies will not only harm many individuals, but also undermine the success of India's economic growth story”.
“We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis”, she said.
Turning to recent development on the subcontinent, Bachelet said that India and Pakistan should invite her “office to monitor the situation on the ground in Kashmir”, but did not bring up her predecessor Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein's demand for an international commission to investigate alleged human rights violations in the disputed state. She said that she remained concerned about the continuing tension in Kashmir where shelling across the Line of Control is causing loss of life and displacement.
“I encourage both India and Pakistan to invite my office to monitor the situation on the ground, and to assist both States to address the human rights issues that must be part of any solution to the conflict”, she said.
Bachelet is a former president of Chile and was appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights last year by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Her speech, which surveyed the global situation, stressed the impact of inequality around the world, including in developed countries.
“Inequalities affect all countries”, she said. “Even in prosperous states, people feel excluded from the benefits of development and deprived of economic and social rights – leading to alienation, unrest, and sometimes violence. In recent months, we have seen people across the world take to the streets to protest inequalities and deteriorating economic and social conditions”.
Although she singled out India and China for the inequalities affecting minorities, she remained silent on Western countries like the United States or Britain where inequalities hit minorities hardest.