‘Constant effort to tarnish India’s image’: In Modi government’s response to Global Hunger Index report, an old grievance

Calling the report “out of touch with reality”, the Department of External Affairs (MEA) said it chooses “to deliberately ignore government efforts to ensure food security” during the pandemic. He claimed the Center ran the “largest food security program in the world”.

Similar criticism from international organizations, including government entities and NGOs, has also prompted swift and caustic responses from the Modi government.

In July, the The MEA criticized the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for its report that places India, along with China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and 11 other nations, on a list of “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom.

The USCIRF, a U.S. federal government commission appointed by the president and bipartisan leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, singled out India as “country of particular concern for having practiced and toleratedcontinuing and gross violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)”.

Speaking to USCIRF, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said “these comments reflect a serious lack of understanding of India and its constitutional framework, plurality and democratic ethos. .. Such actions only heighten concerns about the organization’s credibility and objectivity.” .

The previous month, June 29, the MEA hits back at UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for its criticism of the arrests of activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad and ex-DGP RB Sreekumar after a Supreme Court order upheld a clean report from a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others during the 2002 Gujarat riots. “We are very concerned about the arrest and detention of #WHRD @TeestaSetalvad and two former police officers and call for their immediate release. They must not be persecuted for their activism and solidarity with the victims of the #GujaratRiots of 2002” , said the United Nations human rights body.

Joining the issue with OHCHR, Bagchi said his remarks “constitute an interference in India’s independent judiciary”, adding that “Indian authorities act against violations of law in accordance with established judicial processes. Qualify such persecution legal actions for activism is misleading and unacceptable.”

A New York Times article from April 18, titled “India blocks WHO efforts to release global Covid death toll,” drew a strong reaction from India. The article stated that India opposed the publication of data from the WHO (World Health Organization) study on Covid-19 fatalities, as the latter estimated 4.7 million deaths. , directly or indirectly attributable to Covid, in 2020-21, compared to the country’s official. Covid death toll of just 481,486. In a statement, the Union Health Ministry questioned the WHO methodology, saying: “Despite India’s objection to the process, the methodology and as a result of this modeling exercise, WHO released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concern.”

Last year, on December 2, the EAJ responded to the OHCHR criticism of the arrest of human rights activist Khurram Parvez on charges of alleged terrorism, saying the UN human rights body’s statement – against the “repression of civil society actors”, the use of “radical counter-terrorism measures” and the killings of civilians – did “baseless and baseless allegations against the law enforcement and security forces of India” and that the “arrest and…detention” of Parvez was “fully in accordance with the provisions of law”.

During an India Today conclave on March 14, 2021, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was asked about India’s downgrade by two of the major democracy rating agencies – the US-based Freedom House, which classified India as “partially free”, versus “free” earlier, and a Swedish organization, Varieties of Democracy, which classified India as an “electoral autocracy”.

Jaishankar responded by questioning the criteria used by the organizations. “It’s hypocrisy. We have a set of self-appointed guardians of the world who find it very difficult to accept that someone in India is not looking for their approval and does not want to play the game they want to play. So they invent their rules, their parameters, make their judgments and make it feel like some kind of global exercise,” he said.

During the year-long farmer protests against the now repealed three farm laws, the government led by Narendra Modi has drawn widespread criticism from various international quarters.

In February 2021, singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg voiced their support for the protesting farmers. While Rihanna shared an article about internet shutdowns during the farm protests, Thunberg shared a toolkit for those supporting farmers, prompting a police investigation. Subsequently, former adult film star Mia Khalifa also gave her support to the farmers.

Reacting to these criticisms, the MEA said at the time: “The Parliament of India, after extensive debate and discussion, has passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector”, which has “enlarged market access and provided greater flexibility to farmers”. He claimed that only “a very small portion of farmers in some parts of India” had “some reservations about these reforms and that “respecting the sentiments of the protesters, the Indian government has entered into a series of talks with their representatives… Yet It is unfortunate to see interest groups trying to apply their agenda to these protests and derail them. This was evident on January 26, India’s Republic Day.

Echoing the ministry, several BJP leaders also heavily criticized Rihanna and Thunberg. “We are all fighting together. We are united against all attempts to slander India through propaganda and false narratives,” BJP Chairman JP Nadda tweeted. BJP Sambit Patra alleged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was responsible for the row, accusing “He (Rahul) is going abroad to hatch a plot with anti-Indian elements on how to defame the India and embroil the country in controversies”.

A few months later, on July 21, 2021, when a consortium of news outlets and human rights organizations, including the NGO Amnesty International, announced that the government had deployed Pegasus spyware to spy on the phones and devices of rival leaders, journalists and others, BJP Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma demanded Amnesty be banned, alleging she was part of a “long history of conspiracies against India’s democratic fabric and its leaders”.

In January 2019, a report by the US State Department, which expressed concern about the plight of minorities in India, upset the government, which said the former had no “locus standi” to “decide on the state of our constitutionally protected citizens”. rights”.

In July 2019, the UN human rights body’s report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which was an updated version of its 2018 report on the same issue, also drew criticism of the MEA, which called it “false” and violating “India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. MEA spokesman at the time, Raveesh Kumar, said the report was “just a continuation of the earlier false and reasoned narrative” about J&K’s situation.