Sunday, February 28, 2016

US legislators ask Modi to "address" RSS' activities, protect religious minority communities from violence

By Our Representative
In a development that is likely go a long to adversely affect Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image building exercise worldwide, eight senators and 26 members of the US House of Representatives have urged him to take urgent steps to “enforce” the rule of law and “protect communities” from what they called “religiously-motivated harassment and violence” in India.
In their letter to Modi, dated February 25, the US Congressmen say, their “strong support” for the partnership between India and the US encourages them to “relay” their “grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence members of India’s religious minority communities experience.” 
Released by the US Congress' Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the letter asked Modi to “take immediate steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of religious minorities are protected and that the perpetrators of violence are held to account.”
Giving examples of how this is happening, the letter said, on June 17, 2014, 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 letter said, adding, “The ban effectively has criminalized the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region.”
These families were attacked “a mob, which included members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, seriously injured six Christians in the village of Sirciguda”, the letter pointed out.
It added, “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.”
“We also are concerned that the nearly country-wide beef ban is increasing tensions and encouraging vigilante violence against the Indian Muslim community”, the letter says, adding, how on November 2 last year, “a Hindu mob killed Mohammed Hasmat Ali, a married father of three, in Manipur, India, after he was accused of stealing a cow.”
This, it said, was the “fourth Muslim murdered in just six weeks by Hindu mobs angered over allegations of cows being slaughtered or stolen.” It recalled, the September 28 murder of “52-year-old Mohammed Saif in Uttar Pradesh 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, there is an “additional concerns about the lack of recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion, which prevents members of the community from accessing social services and employment and educational preferences available to other religious communities.”
It added, “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 letter asked Modi to “publicly condemn” the ban on non-Hindu faiths in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh, and “the violent assaults and other forms of harassment against religious minorities throughout India”.
It went to demand from him to “take steps to address the activities of groups, such as the RSS, and instruct Indian security forces to enforce the rule of law and protect religious minority communities from religiously-motivated harassment and violence."
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For text of the letter and signatories click HERE 

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