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'I Defy You To Show Me Discrimination': S Jaishankar Defends Modi Government On Minority Rights Issues In India

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday defended the Narendra Modi government when questioned on discrimination faced by minorities in India, arguing that equal access to benefits and services was enough evidence to address these concerns.

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External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar
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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday defended the Narendra Modi government when questioned on discrimination faced by minorities in India, arguing that equal access to benefits and services was enough evidence to address these concerns.

Dismissing concerns around discrimination on grounds of religion, Jaishankar said, "What is the test really of fair and good governance or of the balance of a society? It would be whether in terms of the amenities, the benefits, the access, the rights, you discriminate or not, and in every society in the world, at some point, there's been some discrimination on some basis." However, he said the biggest change taking place in India currently is the creation of a social welfare system. 

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He was responding to a question asked by the moderator, academic and TheWall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead about his response to critics of the Modi Government’s attitude towards religious minorities in the country. “I defy you to show me discrimination,” the Minister said in terms of access across domains. "In fact, the more digital we have become, the more faceless the governance has become. Actually, it's become fairer," he added.

Vote banks in India, abroad

The External Affairs Minister also suggested that the a culture of 'vote banks' in India and abroad had a role in motivating such criticism of the government. "But as I said this is a globalised world. There will be people, you will have people gripe about it and much of the griping is political. Let me be very frank with you because we have also had a culture of vote banks and there are sections who had in their own eyes a certain privilege...and it's a phenomenon," S Jaishankar said during an interaction at the Hudson Institute in the US.

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Just 10 days ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes raised concerns around the “deteriorating” rights situation in India, terming it as “massive, systematic and dangerous”. 

In his opening remarks at a hearing on policy options for advancing religious freedom in India, organised by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC on September 20, 2023, De Varennes said, “India risks becoming one of the world’s main generators of instability, atrocities and violence, because of the massive scale and gravity of the violations and abuses targeting mainly religious and other minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others. It is not just individual or local, it is systematic and a reflection of religious nationalism.”

He also invoked the ongoing violence in Manipur several times, including the horrific video of two tribal women being paraded naked by a mob. He cited Manipur as being “symptomatic of large-scale scapegoating and dehumanising of Muslims and religious ‘others’ that could lead to a slide towards horrific atrocities.”

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