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Biden govt should stop talking about India as a secular democracy: US summit told

By Our Representative 

The demolition of the homes of Muslims in India was part of a continuing pattern of discrimination against Muslims and other minorities, and the US must ask the Indian government to end such action, United States Senator Ed Markey has said.
He added, the patter includes vandalism of “mosques and churches, and the implementation of laws that specifically discriminate against religious minorities.” He was speaking at the International Religious Freedom summit organized at Washington DC last week.
Insisting that the US “must encourage the Indian government to fulfill its commitment to its own citizens the right of all individuals to practice and propagate religious [beliefs] enshrined in India’s constitution”, he added, it was “incumbent on the Indian government to uphold the principles of pluralism and secularism which are embedded in the Indian constitution.”
The summit was organised by the India Working Group of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, claiming to the world’s largest civil society collective for religious freedom.
Also speaking at the summit, Nadine Maenza, the former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), pressed the Biden administration to immediately condemn the “crimes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against Indian religious minorities.”
Maenza, who recently finished her two year term as the chair of USCRIF stated that it was “disappointing” to see that the situation in India “has sharply worsened” since the release of USCIRF’s annual report documenting religious freedoms violations in 2021.
This report included a recommendation to the Biden administration to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for ongoing and egregious crimes against religious minorities for the third year in row.
“We made clear that these recommendations are urgent due to the undemocratic manner in which Modi, the BJP, and affiliated Hindu extremist groups have advocated, instituted, and enforced sectarian policies seeking to establish India as an overtly Hindu state, at grave danger to India’s religious minorities,” Maenza said.
Stating that it is long past time for the Biden administration to heed the recommendations made by USCIRF for three consecutive years, Maenza warned, “If urgent action is not taken, we could very well be staring down the barrel of yet another genocide.”
Islam Siddiqui, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator with the rank of ambassador at the Office of the US Trade Representatives under the Obama administration questioned Biden administration's reluctance to designate India as CPC. “Secretary Blinken should stop talking about [India as a] secular democracy… That was in the past. The Modi government’s actions clearly indicate that they do not uphold those values,” Siddiqui said.
It is incumbent on the Indian government to uphold principles of pluralism and secularism which are embedded in Indian constitution
Dr Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch while calling Hindutva a Nazi project described Modi and other similar world leaders as “racists dedicated to the triumph of their own race or religion [and] nationalists who would deny basic human rights to anyone not of their race or religion.”
“We’re seeing from… our history of working on genocide, how media is being used in India like it was used in Bosnia, how Facebook is being used in India like it was used during the Rohingya genocide, how there are detention camps much like the Uyghur detention camps in China,” said Hena Zubairi, Director of Justice For All, an advocacy group that works to combat global Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence.
“When Freedom House says that India is ‘Partly Free’... they are being polite and very subtle. India is not a democracy. India is formally known as a socialist, secular democratic republic. It is neither socialist now, nor secular; not democracy… Today India is ruled by the killers of Gandhi, and they come here wearing Gandhi’s mask,” added Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).
John Prabhudoss, Chairman of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA), a Washington DC-based advocacy organization, called on the US churches to defend the rights of minorities in India. “What the church in America needs to understand is that the Muslims, the Christians, [and] the Sikhs are all in the same boat as far as India is concerned. One of them sinks, everybody sinks,” Prabhudoss said.
Speaking on behalf of Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), an organization that advocates for civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, Policy Director Ria Chakrabarty said, “We not only denounce Hindutva; we also believe that it is not encompassed by the Hinduism that we believe in. One of the things we hope for other Hindu Americans to do is join us to stand against majoritarian violence and support the fight for justice in India.”

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