US commission for linking ties with India to religious freedom - with thanks to Balbir Singh Sooch

imageReligious minorities, Dalits face discrimination in India: A report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that alleged escalation of hate crimes against minorities in the country-India, But India rubbishes US report on religious freedom:


1. WASHINGTON: An influential US commission that advises the president and Congress has strongly criticised persecution of minorities, including Muslims and Christians, in India and recommended to the US government to link trade, aid and diplomatic interaction with India with religious freedom and human rights.


2. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government commission, noted that religious tolerance has deteriorated in India since 2014, noting torture of Muslims cattle traders by the Indian Army and armed Hindu groups.



3. “Current Indian Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the Border Security Force to stop cow transport as a top priority. As a result, the Indian Army is allegedly involved in various cases of torturing and lynching cattle traders,” the report noted.



4. Commenting on the report, USCIRF Chair Thomas J Reese, SJ said although the Indian constitution provides legal equality for its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits religion-based discrimination, the reality is far different.



5. “In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces serious challenges in a number of its states. During the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in some areas of India. To reverse this negative trajectory, the Indian and state governments must align their laws with both the country’s constitutional commitments and international human rights standards.”



6. The report titled Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India, examines India’s constitution and national and state laws that violate religious freedom of both minority communities and Hindu Dalits. The report said cow slaughter in India has remained a perpetual source of tensions between Hindu and Muslim and Dalit communities. The ban on cow slaughter is often termed as “food fascism” by the religious minorities’ activists. Beef is a critical source of nutrition for various minority communities, including Dalits, Christians, and Muslims.



7. “The cow protection laws are often mixed with anti-Muslim sentiment. One of the most recent and clear examples of Muslim persecution through the politics of cow protection is the killing of Muhammad Akhlaq by Hindu mobs in September 2015. Akhlaq, age 50, was dragged from his home in the village of Bisara — 45 miles from the capital of Delhi — and beaten to death by an angry Hindu mob due to rumours that his family had been eating beef and storing the meat in their home. Vishal Rana, son of a local BJP leader, and his cousin Shivam are accused of leading the mob to Akhlaq’s house and assaulting the family,” the report said.



8. It notes that radical right-wing Hindu groups have started their own gangs, known as Gau Raksha Dal (cow protection front), across India. These groups are mostly armed with firearms, batons and swords. They patrol major cities and highways, attacking people transporting cattle or possessing, consuming or selling beef. Once the victim is caught, they strip him naked, make repeated abuses against his professed faith, beat and torture him, and upload a video of the assault to YouTube or Facebook.



9. The report asked the US government to identify Hindutva groups that raise funds from US citizens and support hate campaigns in India.“Such groups should be banned from operating in the United States if they are found to spread hatred against religious minorities in India.”



10. It said the United States embassy and consulates in India should continue to examine conditions of religious freedom for all faiths and beliefs and meet with individuals and organisations that promote religious freedom and related human rights as well as targeted religious communities. It also asked the government to urge the Indian central government to push Indian states that have adopted anti-conversion laws to repeal or amend them to conform to international norms.



11. The report urged the Indian government to operationalise the term “minority” in its federal laws and comply with the United Nations declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities.



12. It also asked the Indian government to stop harassment of non-governmental organisations, religious freedom activists and human rights defenders under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of 2010. from US citizens and support hate campaigns in India. “Such groups should be banned from operating in the United States if they are found to spread hatred against religious minorities in India.”



13. It said the United States embassy and consulates in India should continue to examine conditions of religious freedom for all faiths and beliefs and meet with individuals and organisations that promote religious freedom and related human rights as well as targeted religious communities. It also asked the government to urge the Indian central government to push Indian states that have adopted anti-conversion laws to repeal or amend them to conform to international norms.



14. The report urged Indian government to operationalise the term “minority” in its federal laws and comply with the United Nations declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities.



15. It also asked Indian government to stop harassment of non-governmental organisations, religious freedom activists and human rights defenders under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of 2010.



16. It also called on Delhi to establish a test of reasonableness surrounding the Indian state prohibitions on cow slaughter. If the Indian government is keen to maintain this legislation based on religious sentiments, then it should also introduce legislation to recognise as hate crimes the desecration and mockery of sacred texts of any religion, places of worship or prophets of any religion.



17. The report said some fancy Indian laws like the Freedom of Religion Acts are used against minorities and in favour of Hindu majority. “Ironically, the Freedom of Religion Acts are not enforced when the religious minorities are converted to Hinduism, which instead is interpreted as ‘reconversion’.”



18. It said Muslims and Christians in various parts of India have long protested against these acts. Christians argue the meanings of the terms used in the acts have been exposed to misinterpretation, which leads to serious fears within their community. The terminology of Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) is widely used by fundamentalist Hindu groups to refer to “reconversion” to Hinduism.



19. The report said while the Indian government continues to use the FCRA to limit foreign funding for some NGOs, Hindutva supporter organisations have never come under the scrutiny of the FCRA. With the new amendment to the FCRA, these foreign-based radical Hindu organisations will be able to send funds to India, without restriction, to support hate campaigns.



20. However, the report demonstrates that there are constitutional provisions and state and national laws in India that do not comply with international standards of freedom of religion or belief, including Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under Congress Party and BJP-led governments, religious minority communities and Dalits, both have faced discrimination and persecution due to a combination of overly broad or ill-defined laws, an inefficient criminal justice system and a lack of jurisprudential consistency. In particular, since 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults and forced conversion have escalated dramatically. 1 to 20 highlights courtesy by Dawn: Waseem Abbasi, published on February 10, 2017.



21. “As per the report, hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated. It stated that India faces serious challenges to its pluralistic traditions. It said India should adopt the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime, a report by an independent bipartisan American body has claimed”



22. “US President Barack Obama on Thursday said the "acts of intolerance" experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi” : IndiaToday: New Delhi, February 6, 2015 | UPDATED 09:58 IST as reported: 21 to 22 highlights courtesy by IndiaToday.


Personal practical observation by Balbir Singh Sooch-Sikh Vichar Manch:



23. Rarely seen upper caste Hindus for a long period in Jail, but I personally have not seen any upper caste Hindu in Jail. I personally did see and met Sikhs, Christens, Hindu Dalits, Muslims and other downtrodden from the minorities in Jail, though don’t know them. Apex court orders-Judgments very rarely implemented in India.

Posted on Feb 22, 17 | 9:06 am