BENGALURU: The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) first started the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2008. As per UN guidelines, each of the 193 member states are reviewed for their human rights record once in four years by their peer nations, i.e. other countries. India has had two reviews previously – in April 2008 and May 2012.

On May 4, 2017 India, defended by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi will be facing its third periodic review in Geneva; the first since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government came to power in 2014.

The Indian delegation will present the report prepared by India, following which they will answer questions raised by their peer nations, members of civil society and a three member panel of the UPR Working Group. Under this mechanism of the UNHRC, organisations and other stakeholders can submit alternative country reports, alongside the official government report. This year, two alternative country reports are expected to be submitted.

India’s previous two encounters at the UPR have been contentious, and the list of issues to be reviewed seems to only have grown longer. India is known to take tough stances during the review of other countries; however, member countries in the past have criticized India for not doing enough within the country.

The review will also include an overview of India’s human rights record on discrimination, stigma faced by Dalits and other caste issues – which have been a cause of concern for the UPR Working Group, since India’s first review. The Indian delegation will also have to explain the steps taken for implementation of the recommendations made after the review in 2012.

In a three and a half hour hearing, it is expected that India will be answering questions on freedom of speech in the country, attacks on minorities, use of force in Jammu and Kashmir, AFPSA and limits of work of human rights defenders.

India will also be asked about its approaches and efforts to combat extreme poverty; malnutrition; violence against women; ‘honour killings’; social inequity; LGBTQI rights; delay in judicial proceedings; labour rights; children’s rights and safety, and child labour. The Council may also want to know what steps have been taken to ensure access to food, safe water and sanitation for all.

Ahead of the review, Human Rights Watch has called on the international community to condemn India’s clamp down on NGO’s and human right defender. Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, HRW told Business Standard that "the UN review comes at a time when freedom, long- cherished in India is seriously being challenged and critics are increasingly under attack."

It will be interesting to see what the respond and approach of the Modi Government is going to be, at a time when human rights violations are on the rise in the country, Kashmir is burning and the recent shame of the racists attack against African nationals in the national capital region.