A UN special rapporteur has called for accountability in the heavy-handed response to protesting farmers in India.
He added that the Indian government should now progress any reform with full respect for human rights across economic, social and cultural factors.
UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhi, along with other UN experts, had previously warned the Indian government that its planned reforms could damage to right to food. They had also warned against the govenrment’s severe restrictions on fundamental freedom during the protests.
Michael Fakhri has now welcomed India’s decision to repeal the three contentious farm laws that sparked a year of nationwide protests, leading to the deaths of 600 people.
But, he said, “To truly turn the page on this painful chapter, it is incumbent on the authorities to heed calls for accountability concerning the casualties reported during the protests, and guarantee measures to prevent any repetition of such events.
“Freedom of expression is a valuable tool to influence policy change”
“What was at stake with these laws was the stability of India’s entire food system.
“Let’s hope that subsequent actions on reforming Indian agriculture are informed by the country’s human rights commitments and taken through meaningful consultations with farmers, communities and unions.”
Michael Fakhri said the protests show that freedom of expression “is a valuable tool for empowering people to influence policy change through mobilisation and peaceful protest.
“We should reflect on what meaningful public consultations ideally entail, and how a more participatory approach could lead to more popular decisions.”
Michael Fakhri also highlighted the “important role” India’s Supreme Court played earlier this year, when it ordered the government to provide more time and space to hear farmers’ grievances.
The call was also endorsed by Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, and Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.