The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein today flayed any attempts by India to deport Rohingyas to Myanmar where the ethnic minority community is facing.
Speaking at the opening of a Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Zeid also referred to cow vigilantism as well as the killing of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh, observing that she "tirelessly addressed the corrosive effect of sectarianism and hatred".
India has reacted sharply to the criticism, claiming "individual incidents are being extrapolated to suggest a broader societal situation. India is proud of its independent judiciary, freedom of press, vibrant civil society and respect for rule of law and human rights."
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Myanmar last week, India's Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on 5 September said Rohingyas were illegal immigrants and stand to be deported. He said nobody should preach New Delhi on the matter as India absorbed the maximum number of refugees in the world.
Some 40,000 Rohingyas have settled in India, and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation, the UN estimates as violence against the ethnic minority spikes in the western region of Rakhine in response to growing insurgency.
Today, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the chief of the UNHCR, said, "I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country."
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju had reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention it "can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion".
"However, by virtue of customary law, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement, India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations," the UN human rights chief said.
He also referred to the series of attacks on cattle traders and others by self-declared cow vigilantes, saying, "The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming.
''People who speak out for fundamental human rights are also threatened," he said while bringing up the murder of Gauri Lankesh, who published a Kannada newspaper often critical of right-wing ideology.