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December 13, 2017

Letter to Modi exposes double standard of US Legislators


Lalit Shastri

We have a situation in the US where a presidential nominee wants to banish the Muslims, where black men, without any provocation and children playing with toy guns are shot by the police, where gun rights take precedence over human rights.

Several Legislators, who are Members of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a US Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC), have chosen to turn a blind eye to the prevailing situation in the US.They neither bothered to oppose the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) nor speak against the ban on the communists= movement in their country. Instead they have turned their attention to India and selectively criticised it for “violation of human rights of the minorities.”
Tom Lantos Human rights CommissionEight senators and twenty-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including the Co-Chairs and thirteen other members of the Human Rights Commission, last Wednesday placed themselves on the high pedestal and shot a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveying their “grave concerns” about the increasing intolerance and violence experienced by members of religious minority communities in India. Of course they began their letter on a diplomatic note by recognising India’s long-standing commitment to inclusion and tolerance. They have also acknowledged and reiterated strong support to the partnership that exists between India and the US and in the same stroke they have also expressed concern about the increasing intolerance and violence that the members of the religious minorities “experience” in India.

A press statement by Tom Lantos Human rights Commission said: “The (US) legislators have urged Prime Minister Modi to turn words into deeds by taking steps to enforce the rule of law and protect communities from religiously-motivated harassment and violence.” The tone and substance of this surely smacks of Ultracrepidarianism and it seems they are in a habit of advising on a matter outside of their knowledge or  competence.

Inquiry by Newsroom24x7 reveald that Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, has remained absolutely silent on gross violation of palestinians’ human rights. The entire world knows how some fanatic zealots in Israel have been imposing discriminatory restrictions on palestinians and building unlawful settlements in the occupied West. The Israeli security forces appear to use excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers. As result there is no dearth of casualties in the West bank.

The US Congressional Caucus also has not written any letter to the Indian Prime Minister till date to ensure the protection of human rights of the religious minority Kashmiri pandits, who over a long period went through endless torture in Kashmir. Their homes and properties were set on fire and almost the entire population of Kashmiri Pandits, barring a few thousand, were driven out of Kashmir by the Pak supported terrorists, infitrators and those from the religious majority in Kashmir valley who want to secede from India. These Kashmiri Pandits have become refugees in their own contry.
The US legislators have conveyed particular concen about the “treatment of Christians Muslims and Sikhs in India. Obviously on their target are those belonging to the majority religious group in India.

On June 17, 2014, the letter by the US Congressmen to Modi says: “more than 50 village councils in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh adopted a resolution banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches” in their communities. The Christian minority community has been dramatically affected: the ban effectively has criminalised the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region one day after a mob, which included members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, seriously injured six Christians in the village of Sirciguda. Since the ban was implemented, Christians in the Bastar District reportedly have been subjected to physical assaults, denial of government services, extortion, threats of forced expulsion, denial of access to food and water, and pressure to convert to Hinduism”.

The pointer about Bastar by the US Congressmen does not present a full picture nor the latest position on this count. The Sirisguda gram sabha (village council) in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh State in Central India , had passed a resolution in June 2014 “to stop forced conversion by outside religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, holding of prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”

Supporting the ban, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) Bastar district president Suresh Yadav had said at that point of time that the ban was imposed under Section 129(G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act by local Gram Panchayats in Bastar to protect their heritage and culture, Religious conversions are creating tension in Bastar’s villages and if the villagers want to stop it using an Act, then we support such efforts, he had emphasised.

Perhaps the US Legislators and their informants are unaware that in August 2015, the Chhattisgarh High Court responded to a writ petition filed by Chhattisgarh Christian Forum which challenged the resolution adopted by panchayat bodies last year and dismissed Bastar Panchayat Ban, while Upholding Religious Freedom.

Raising another pointer, the US Congressmen have urged the Indian Prime Minister to take steps to control the activities of groups, such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and instruct Indian security forces to enforce the rule of law and protect religious minority communities from religiously-motivated harassment and violence. This is a totally one-sided advice. What about advice with regard to fanatic groups operating within the religious minorities.

The singling out of the RSS raises serious doubts about the motive behind the letter written to Prime Minister Modi by the US legislators.Question arisis, what about the fanatic and hardline minority religious organisations.

On January 3 this year a huge rally by Muslim protesters against an Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader over a derogatory remark allegedly made by him against Prophet Mohammed had turned violent in Malda district in West Bengal and this had led to arson and gunfire resulting in the death of two persons. One can draw an analogy between this violent incident as a result of reaction from those belonging to the religious minority and another episode linked with a blasphemous propaganda material brought in circulation by a leftist group associated with New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union. This contained extremely derogatory remarks about the much worshipped Hindu deity Goddess Durga. The fact that those from the religious majority maintained their calm even after this disclosure by India’s Minister for Human resource Development Smriti Irani in Parliament is the best example of tolerance and the maturity of the Indian people who cannot allow fringe elements to disrupt peace.

The US leguslator have raised “additional concerns about the lack of recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion,” adding this prevents members of the community from accessing social services and employment and educational preferences available to other religious communities. Sikh community members reportedly are harassed and pressured to reject religious practices and beliefs distinct to Sikhism. On October 14, security forces killed two Sikhs and injured scores of others in Punjab who were protesting peacefully against the desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book”

The US Representatives and Senators, when they talk of the rights of the Sikhs in India, it appears that they have lost their moorings. It is least likely that they are naive and do not know what they are talking. The curtain on the Khalistan movement which was backed by Pakistan came down a couple of decades ago. It appears certain splinter groups of this movement still left in the US and Canada have prompted the Human Rights caucus to raise this point. The Sikhs are in the forefront in every sector and sphere and they do not need the Americans to advise the Indian Prime Minister about their welfare.

“We also are concerned that the nearly country-wide beef ban is increasing tensions and encouraging vigilante violence against the Indian Muslim community. On Monday, November 2nd, a Hindu mob killed Mohammed Hasmat Ali, a married father of three, in Manipur, India, after he was accused of stealing a cow. Mr. Ali reportedly is the fourth Muslim murdered in just six weeks by Hindu mobs angered over allegations of cows being slaughtered or stolen. We understand that the September 28th murder of 52-year-old Mohammed Saif in Uttar Pradesh week of sparked a national outcry over rising intolerance toward religious minorities which culminated in hundreds of prominent academics, business leaders, and authors protesting,” the letter said.

The murders brought in focus by the US legislators are criminal acts that deserve to be condemned. People even get murdered in India like in other couuntries over trivial fights, for example over filling of water from public taps often turn into gang wars. Cow slaugther is a sensitive issue when it comes to the Hindus but every citizen in india cutting across religious lines is bound to agree that incidents of cow sluaghter should not lead to murder.

The US Leislators should know that Christianity is India’s third-largest religion. According to the latest census figures, there are approximately 27.8 million followers of Christianity, constituting 2.3 percent of India’s population. Christianity was introduced to India by St. Thomas, who landed at Muziris in Kerala in AD 52 to spread the gospel. By the 7th Cetury the Christian religion was firmly rooted in India. For more than two thousand years, the Christians have lived , prospered and risen in every sphere of activity or profession in India.

After the first Arab invasion around the middle of the 7th Century, the period between 12th and the 16th centuries witnessed a series of Muslim conquests. The Moghuls not only expanded and consolidated their empire but also took India as their homeland. Thereafter began a process of assimilation in the indian subcontinent which became a crucible and melting pot of different religions and cultures. This can be unimaginable for the occidental mindset, barring those who are well versed with the Advait (a Vedantic doctrine that identifies the individual self with the almighty, i.e. non dual) philosphy, word view of Hindu religion and Gautam Buddha’s philosophy and teachings revolving around non-violence and shunning of desire.

Hence, the US law makers would be better advised to look at issues closer home. India is a huge country and has its own set of problems. If the pressent letter is any indication, they might tomorrow write a letter to the Indian Prime Minister to control Jats in Haryana or Hardik Patel and his agitation for reservation of jobs for the Patel community in Gujarat. The US legislators, it seems are failing to recognise the fact that India is a soverign, secular democracy governed under a constitution. It has a giant workforce and a defence force that can protect its borders. The country also has a rubust judiciary to bring order and deal with the criminals, the wayward and those who break the law and defy the Constitution.

In this backdrop, one is constrained to say that it amounts to interfering in the internal affairs of India when the US Senators and Representatives go to the extent of advising the Indian Prime Minister to take steps to address the activities of groups like the RSS and also to “instruct the Indian security forces to enforce the rule of law and protect religious minority communities from religiously-motivated harassment and violence.”
The letter to Modi on religious violence has been signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MI), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mark Walker (R-NC), Doug Collins (R-GA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Ted Poe (R-TX), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and John Conyers, (D-MI).

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