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Difficult to reconcile massive persecution in India, democracy: US Congressional briefing

By Our Representative 

A US congresswoman and top officials from the United Nations (UN) and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have expressed “deep concerns” over the ongoing “horrific” violations of human rights and religious freedom in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. They called on the Biden administration to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Speaking at a special Congressional briefing under the banner “Democratic Backslide in India” at the Rayburn House Office Building, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib emphasized the severity of the situation and the urgent need for action.
“For the last four years, we've witnessed severe escalating attacks on religious minorities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party… And yet we know our own US State Department has yet to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern under US law,” said Congresswoman Tlaib.
“I’m proud to have stood with my colleagues in boycotting Prime Minister Modi's speech [during his US visit]. This House should never be used as a platform to spread bigotry and hate,” she added.
United Nations Special Rapporteur of Minority Rights Fernand de Varennes stated that there is an “obvious and disturbing trend in the increasing allegations,” relating to human rights abuses against minorities that are being submitted to the UN regarding India.
“We are talking of millions of minorities who are directly affected in some of these allegations,” said de Varennes. “When you have millions whose citizenship is denied, millions whose rights to political participation and representation are curtailed, hundreds of thousands whose livelihood and that of their children is threatened, it's hard to conclude that this is not part of intentional policies by authorities.”
USCIRF Commissioner David Curry cited similar concerns, stating that USCIRF has been calling on the US State Department to designate India as a CPC -- a label reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom - since 2020.
“During Prime Minister Modi’s state visit, we publicly urged the Biden Administration to raise religious freedom concerns,” he said. “Religious freedom was mentioned briefly during the visit but was certainly not a focal point… Modi denied that discrimination of religious minorities existed in India. We strongly disagree.”
Special Rapporteur de Varennes concluded by calling on the United States to step forward as a defender of global human rights, noting that the “massive persecution” in India is “is difficult to reconcile with democracy.”
“What we are now seeing is a perversion of what India can be, has been, and should be,” he said.
“[The Biden administration] is not only condoning the behavior of the Indian administration, but also encouraging it to continue behaving the way it has been,” said Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director at Indian American Muslim Council. “When Biden invited Narendra Modi to a state dinner, he used that to validate his atrocious rule in India.”
“We call ourselves the largest democracy in the world, but this is what democracy looks like in India,” said Ajaykumar V.B., Executive Director of the India-based research and advocacy group Equitivies Foundation. “If you [in the United States] invite people like Modi to Capitol Hill, you're having dinner with somebody who has blood on his hands.”
This special briefing was co-sponsored by 18 American civil rights organizations including Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Dalit Solidarity Forum, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, among others.

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