Hawzah News Agency (Dehli, India) – The United Nations human rights chief has warned India that its "divisive policies" could undermine economic growth, saying that narrow political agendas were marginalising vulnerable people in an already unequal society."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," Michelle Bachelet said in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday. A spokesman for India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed Bachelet's comments as "baseless".
Bachelet's warning came a day after Amnesty International's India chapter said it had recorded a "disturbing" number of hate crimes, including assault, rape and murder, against marginalised groups in 2018.
Relying on cases reported in mainstream English and Hindi media, the group on Tuesday said it had documented a total of 218 incidents of alleged hate crimes last year. Some 142 were against lower-caste Dalits, while 50 were against Muslims.
'Culture of impunity'
Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty India, told there "was a culture of impunity for hate crimes" in India.
The country's law, with some exceptions, does not recognize hate crimes as specific offences, he said, urging political leaders to be more vocal in denouncing such violence and calling on the police to "take steps to unmask any potentially discriminatory motive in a crime".
"Legal reforms that enable recording of hate crimes and strengthen accountability must be a priority for any government that comes to power following the upcoming general elections," he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is battling for a second term in an election due by May.
In December, Factchecker.in, a data-journalism outfit, in December said the "year 2018 saw the most hate crimes motivated by religious bias in India in a decade".
The group said 30 people were killed in 93 such attacks last year, the highest number of deaths since it began tracking hate crimes in 2009. More than 300 people were wounded, the group said.Most of the attacks took place in states ruled by the BJP. Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 27 cases. Bihar, with 10 cases, came second. The figures by Factchecher.in show a spike in alleged hate crimes after BJP took power in 2014.