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Prioritize human rights in US foreign policy toward India: Congresspersons tell Biden

By Our Representive 

Coinciding with Prime Minister Modi's address at the joint meeting of Congress three US Congresspersons and a US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commissioner joined human rights experts and leaders of Indian-American advocacy groups have told a policy briefing in Washington DC that the Biden government must hold the "authoritarian rule" in India responsible for "human rights abuses".
Those who participated in the briefing included Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who gathered at the Capitol visitors center to urge President Biden to "prioritize human rights in US foreign policy toward India."
“Dissidents, journalists, and their families are targeted with violence and political persecution,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, who hosted the briefing. “Even advocates outside of India fear that their family members will be targeted if they speak out.”
“We are told we must now turn a blind eye to the repression because of foreign policy concerns, even though human rights are supposed to be at the center of our foreign policy,” she added. “But Prime Minister Modi is not even a reliable geopolitical ally."
"It's because we value our friendship with the Indian people that we have to speak the truth about human rights abuses in India,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, co-chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
“We hear regularly from representatives of ethnic and religious minorities in India who believe deeply in India's secular constitution, but fear that their rights are being systematically undermined,” he added.
Even advocates outside of India fear that their family members will be targeted if they speak out
“I'm talking about the Muslim population, but also about Sikhs, Christians and Dalits… We call on the Indian authorities to take steps to reverse these well documented and unfortunate trends and restore the full promise of the Indian constitution.”
“The first person to bring this discussion to me was actually a Hindu,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib. “It was an incredible, incredible discussion… We wish that people could see all of us coming together in this way. You all are continuing doing that by being here.”
Stephen F Schneck, Commissioner at the USCIRF detailing the "egregious violations" of human rights and religious freedoms, reiterated the commission’s recommendation to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern.
Speaking at the event Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), said, “I am a Hindu myself, and I can tell you one of the biggest changes that I see now is that the poison of hatred among the Hindus has gone very deep,” he said, referring to the Hindu nationalist ideology pushed by the Modi regime. “This is not some random autocrat you are dealing with. You are dealing with a very organized movement whose founders wrote extensively in support of Hitler.”
He added, “We need to understand they are not just a threat to India. They're not just a threat to Muslims; they're not just a threat to Christians. They are a threat to world peace. If America is serious about its national security objectives and its geopolitics, then [Biden] has to take a stand and understand that you are jeopardizing peace, you are jeopardizing stability by supporting Prime Minister Modi.”
Other panelists included Sarah Yager, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch; Nadine Farid Johnson, Washington Director of PEN America; and Sunita Viswanath, executive director of the Hindus for Human Rights.

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