The Human Rights Commission of the US Congress has expressed concerns over the growing violence against minorities in India at a hearing that coincided with the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to the United States.
A day before the Indian Prime Minister is to speak to the joint session at the Capitol Hill, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress held the hearing on incidents of discrimination, intimidation and harassment against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddist communities in the so-called world’s biggest democracy.
Joseph R Pitts, Co-Chairman of the Commission noted growing ties between the United States and India in different sectors but said these relations have failed to take note of the rising tide of human rights violations in India.
“Many of these developments, certainly positive, have overlooked a troubling array of human rights concerns that should give us a pause,” said the Congressman.
Congressman Pitts recalled that a hearing in 2014 noted an alarming trend and instances of communal violence targeting Muslims and Christians, adding that number of these instances have grown in recent years.
He said according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s recent report, religious tolerance and violence against religious freedom increased in India in 2015. Another report by the US State Department cited several incidents, including the enforcement of anti-conversion laws in India.
The Congressman said that in February this year, co-chairman of the Human Rights Commission signed by 32 lawmakers, including 8 US Senators wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi expressing concern over reports of violent incidents targeting religious minorities in India.
He regretted that the letter never received a formal reply and the government of India in a public statement on it characterizes the concerns as constituting an “aberration”.
Congressman Pitts noted that throughout the fall of 2015 numerous Indian well-known writers, artists and scientists have returned national awards to protest growing intolerance against religious minorities and freedom of expression. Some Indian business leaders and Indian-born economists also echoed these concerns, he added.
The Congressman stated that many international and domestic NGOs have expressed concerns over the human rights violations in India which are targeting marginalized communities.
He said, according to various sources licenses of nearly 9,000 NGOs were cancelled by the Indian authorities in 2015. Several high profile Western NGOs, including Green Peace and Ford Foundation, were denied access to funds. He said this state of affairs was of grave concerns.
Congressman Trent Franks, another member of the Commission, noted that Indian minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists have endured violence for decades and they continue to live in a climate where “known perpetrators commit violence with impunity”.
He recalled that in 2002 violence in the Indian State of Gujrat, when Prime Minister Modi was the Chief Minister of that state, anti-Muslim violence killed 2000 people, including women and children. More than 100,000 were forced from their homes.
In 2013, violence against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh left 40 dead, over a dozen women and girls were raped and 50,000 were forced to flee their homes, he added.