Skip to main content

Top US panel wants danger to religious freedom be part of India-US dialogue; Sangh Parivar smells rat

Dr Katrina Lantos Swett at the hearing
By Our Representative
With opinion polls showing that Narendra Modi-led NDA is all set to register a clear majority in Lok Sabha polls, the United States’ powerful Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), a Congressional arm meant to “develop congressional strategies to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms”, has begun to take a serious note of the alleged danger to religious freedom in India. While the US has considered human rights as part of its US-China strategic dialogue, a hearing held at the TLHRC tried to assess whether it should now become part of the the US-India strategic dialogue framework, too.

Already, there is flutter in the Sangh Parivar circles over the hearing and its possible outcome. Anirban Ganguly director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi, has strongly protested against the hearing, calling the hearing as a “blatant attempt to interfere in the legitimate democratic process of another country.” In a recent commentary, he has accused the commission for “fomenting the impression that the Indian elections – one of the largest democratic exercise in the world – are being held in a polarised atmosphere where the religious minorities face discrimination.”
Among those who took part at the hearing included Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, Robin Phillips, executive director, The Advocates for Human Rights, and John Dayal, member, National Integration Council, Government of India. Ganguly especially object to the commission saying in the months leading up to 2014 polls, there has been “a rise in acts of violence targeting religious minorities and an increase in discriminatory rhetoric that has polarised national politics along religious and class lines.”
Robin Phillips particularly expressed concern that “Indian diaspora groups are worried about “religious freedom in India”, adding, “We share their concerns, including: communal violence; impunity for the instigators of such violence and those in government who may be complicit; anti-conversion laws; vague anti-terrorism laws that facilitate profiling and persecution of Muslims; police and armed forces practices such as encounter killings and torture targeting Muslims; and a culture of impunity for such practices.”
John Dayal at the hearing
Pointing out that “these practices violate international human rights standards”, Phillips cited the Pew Research Center to say that India is today a country with “very high social hostilities involving religion” and “high” government restrictions on religion. He added, “Indian diasporans around the world have been sounding the alarm as elections approach. In the first eight months of 2013, there were 451 incidents of communal violence, up from 410 in all of 2012.”
Citing the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Phillips said, the top UN official has cautioned that “political exploitation of communal distinctions” presents “a real risk that [large scale] communal violence might happen again”, adding, “Cases brought against officials alleged to be complicit in the 2002 Gujarat violence have been dismissed for lack of evidence after witnesses were intimidated and prosecutors and judges effectively stood in as defense counsel. UN human rights bodies have described the proceedings as ‘flawed from the outset,’ reflecting concerns of religious bias and high levels of corruption.”
Ganguly, in his commentary, particularly objected to the haring by Dayal, “The purported objective of the hearing, as described by the Commission, was to examine this [phenomenon of] polarisation in the context of the US-India relationship’, (but) in a brazenly partisan attitude which points to the fact that India and especially the BJP-ruled states remain the target of sizable external Christian missionary-connected or supported conglomerates, the Commission interfered in India’s internal domestic affairs and law making institutions expressed its concern that the ‘Freedom of Religion Act’ implemented ‘across five Indian States’ has actually ‘exacerbated discrimination’ and ‘intimidation’ of minorities.”
Saying that it is an issue of “major concern” that the commission listed Dayal, as one of the witnesses, who focused on “the human rights situation for religious minorities in India” and “provide recommendations for US foreign policy relation to India”, Ganguly underlines, “It is common knowledge that Dayal was also closely associated with the activities of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), especially in the body’s nefarious attempt at evolving a flawed and skewed Communal Violence Bill”. He adds, “Dayal has been misrepresenting Hindus and Hindu organisations on foreign soil.”

Comments

TRENDING

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…