Humanists UK at the UN: Indian rationalist at risk

21 March, 2024

Pictured: Narendra Nayak, TEDxPSPU, ‘The importance of scientific Temper’, 2019. Credit: Flickr Jinal Patel, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Humanists UK has voiced its concerns about the safety of prominent Indian rationalist, Narendra Nayak, as the rise of Hindu nationalism in India continues unabated. In an intervention delivered to the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK highlighted how Hindu nationalism facilitates intercommunal violence and increased persecution of non-religious and religious minorities.

Freedom of religion or belief in India

India has a long tradition of rationalism as a belief system dating back to the 6th century BCE. Its Constitution is famously secular, protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Nonetheless, a de facto ‘blasphemy’ provision in the Indian Penal Code allows up to three years imprisonment for the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings, and insults or attempts to insult religion or religious beliefs.

Since his election in 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted a Hindu nationalist agenda. Several state or federal laws introduced by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deliberately encourage patriotism — specifically a Hindu national identity — that discriminate against religion or belief minorities. There has been a notable and ongoing increase in intercommunal and interreligious  violence in India since 2015.

The intervention was delivered via video by Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson. He said:

‘Between 2013 and 2015, three prominent humanist rationalists were assassinated, reportedly for peacefully challenging Hindu nationalism and harmful religious practices. In 2016, it was discovered that Narendra Nayak was also a target for assassination, as a result of his advocacy upholding secularism in India. He was subsequently placed under police protection. In 2021, Mr Nayak became the victim of a viral smear campaign in which violence was incited against him.  Yet on 30 March last year, the Karnataka State authorities removed his security detail despite there being no decrease in the threat to his life.

‘We call for the immediate reinstatement of Narendra Nayak’s security detail in order to guarantee his safety. He has been targeted for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion or belief. Further, we urge member States to address the increasing persecution of non-religious and religious minorities who are victims of the rise of Hindu nationalism in India.‘


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick at or phone 07534 248 596.

Read the full intervention.

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