In order to provide a timely assessment of India’s fulfilment of international obligations on religious freedom this article explores the nature and ‘issue-salience’ of different human rights ‘pathologies’. It uses critical frame analysis of the corpus of civil society organisations’ (CSOs) submissions to the third cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The findings reveal CSOs’ concerns over the weakening of rule of law institutions and restrictions on civil society during the period under study. This has impacted upon the ability of human rights defenders to protect religious freedom. The civil society discourse also highlights a broad range of failings; including communal violence, police malpractice/ judicial shortcomings, discrimination, oppression and incitement. In contrast, the Government’s UPR submission fails to acknowledge these issues. In conceptual terms, this disconnect suggests performativity and legitimation are a feature of the post-2014 NDA administration’s framing of human rights. It appears to embrace civil society engagement and the promotion of religious freedom in a way that advances political legitimacy, whereas civil society accounts suggest otherwise and point to ‘legitimation’ – or a disjuncture between rhetoric and reality.
Published: August 2019