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Ahead of Modi "takeover", top US body wants Obama govt to "engage" India on issues of religious freedom

By Our Representative
High profile annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), prepared by Dr Robert P. George with 10 others, wants While House to begin to “integrate concern for religious freedom into bilat­eral contacts with India, at both the federal and provincial level.” The report, prepared by the top US body, considered “independent federal advisor” which monitors religious freedom “abuses” abroad, has asked the Obama administration to “increase US embassy’s attention to issues of religious freedom and related human rights in India.”
Released just a fortnight ahead of Narendra Modi claiming to take over as India’s next Prime Minister, the report wants India to “boost” human rights and religious freedom standards, even as asking the Government of India to “press” states that have adopted anti-conversion laws to “repeal or amend them” to conform with “international human rights standards”.
The report refers to the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly’s approval of an amend­ment to the state’s 1968 anti-conversion law that would make the law more stringent, quite in line with the one prevailing in Gujarat. Though Madhya Pradesh’s gover­nor has not signed it into law, the amendment wants the converter and would-be convert to obtain state permission at least 30 days prior to a conversion ceremony, or face prison and fine.
The report suspects, things may change for worse as several other states have anti-conversion law -- Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajas­than and Odisha. “These laws have resulted in few arrests and no convictions, but have created a hostile atmosphere for religious minorities, particularly Christians”, the report states.
Dividing countries between Tier 1 and Tier 2 to identify “countries of particular concern (CRC)”, the report places India in Tier 2 – where the violations to religious freedom have been perpetrated or have been tolerated by governments. But, here, the violations are not as “systematic, ongoing and egregious” as in Tier 1 countries. Pakistan is in Tier 1 country in the company of Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
Robert P George, chairman, UNCIRF
Placed in Tier 2 in 2009, India has is in the company of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.
Wanting the US government to go more stringent on the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) in admitting “aliens” into the country, the report recalls the IRFA which denies visa to those “responsible for or directly carried out … par­ticularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
It underlines, “This provision has been invoked only once: in March 2005, it was used to exclude Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat state in India due to his complicity in riots in his state in 2002 that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 2,000 Muslims.”
“USCIRF had urged this denial of entry”, the report declares, adding, “USCIRF continues to urge the Departments of State and Homeland Security to develop a lookout list of aliens who are inadmissible to the United States on this basis, and USCIRF has provided information about several such individuals to the State Department.”
It insists, “USCIRF recommends that the visa ban for individu­als involved in particularly severe violations of religious freedom be used more expansively. USCIRF is only aware of the visa ban being used just once – against the State Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. USCIRF supported and called for this decision, but it is highly likely that other violators of religious freedom applied for a visa to the US over the past 15 years.”
Reflecting on communal strife in India, the report states, to “address the aftermath of the Gujarat violence of 2002 and the Odi­sha violence of 2007–2008, India established Fast-Track Courts, Special Investigative Teams, and independent commissions”. However, their “impact has been hindered by limited capacity to investigate and prosecute cases, an antiquated judiciary, inconsistent use, political corrup­tion, and religious bias.”
In this context, referring to how in 2013, a “lower court” in Gujarat found Modi not responsible for the death of Ehsan Jafri, Congress MP, who was burnt alive in 2002, the report states, “The case was brought by the leader’s widow, and she reportedly has appealed. Several other cases where Modi has been implicated for involvement or complicity in the 2002 violence continue.”
Even today, the report states, “A climate of impunity continues to exist in some Indian states, exacerbating the social and religious tensions among communities”. It gives details of the late August 2013 communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, where “between 40 and 60 people were killed” and “at least a dozen women and girls were raped, often by gangs” and “upwards of 50,000 were displaced to “relief camps.”
The report also regrets, “The Indian courts are still adjudicating cases stemming from large-scale Hindu-Christian communal violence in Odisha in 2007-08 and large-scale Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Gujarat in 2002. NGOs, religious leaders, and human rights activists allege religious bias and corruption in these investigations and adju­dications.”

Comments

Thanks for sharing about it, i was one who was least interested in politics but the day Modi has become PM of India i am always eager to know what he is doing and what is going on in world.

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