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MPs raise persecution of humanists in India

India’s first Prime Miniser Jawaharlal Nehru, a committed humanist, was quoted by UK Government minister Nigel Adams during the debate. Design credit Alexander Taylor Design for Humanists UK.

MPs raised the plight of humanists in India in a debate in the House of Commons yesterday. Many humanists have been seriously persecuted in India. Several have been murdered in recent years for blasphemy, and people can be imprisoned for the same supposed crime. Humanists UK has welcomed their interventions.

Freedom of religion or belief has only deteriorated under the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. What is more, the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which received lots of publicity for not giving Muslims the same path to citizenship as those of various other religions, similarly excludes humanists/non-religious people.

In the debate, Labour MP Naz Shah referred in her comments to persecution of Sikhs and Christians, before adding, ‘Other marginalised groups such as Dalits, those of lower caste or even non-religious groups such as humanists have often been at the forefront of hate and discrimination in India.’

Her colleague Stephen Timms MP echoed that, saying ‘Government inaction has meant that mob lynching against Muslims and Dalits and violence against Christians and humanists are increasing… Every community needs to feel protected; it is not enough to protect only the majority, and the authorities in India need to act against those who perpetrate violence towards Muslims, Christians, Dalits, humanists and other religious minorities.’

Responding for the Government, Nigel Adams MP said ‘The UK is committed to defending freedom of religion or belief for all. It is one of our human rights priorities. Nobody should be excluded because of their religion or belief. Discrimination, as we all know, does terrible damage to societies.’ He then quoted India’s first Prime Minister, the humanist Jawaharlal Nehru, as saying ‘Whatever our religion or creed, we are all one people’ – before adding himself, ‘This is the foundation stone of India.’

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘We welcome these MPs’ comments on the need for freedom of religion or belief to be upheld in India for all, including the non-religious. India is one of a number of countries that have sadly seen freedom of belief deteriorating in recent years. We urge the UK Government to do whatever it can to uphold this vital right.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the recent debate.

Read more about the persecution of humanists in India.

Read more about our work on international campaigns.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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