Increase in violence against Christians and Muslims cited as concern, while Congressional panel holds a briefing on 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.
Washington D.C: Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and to defending India’s secular tradition, has welcomed a letter to President Obama by eleven members of Congress, urging him to discuss “religions inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India,” during his meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Monday, September 28.
The letter draws the President’s attention to the fact that “there has been an increase in violence against Muslims and Christians in the first hundred days of Prime Minister Modi’s term,” and that such violence “echoes the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, which happened while Prime Minister Modi was chief minister of the region.”
In a separate development, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a briefing on the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres in Delhi, in which over 3,000 Sikhs were killed and thousands more injured. Titled “Thirty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 anti-Sikh Pogroms in India,” the hearing will be held onSeptember 30, 2014, and will discuss “India’s failure to prosecute the architects of the pogroms.”
The lawmakers’ letter to President Obama also comes on the heels of massive protests outside Madison Square Garden organized by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability, during Mr. Modi’s speech to Indian Americans. These developments reflect continued concerns in the US and across the world, about the state of human rights and religious freedom in India.
In addition to the 11 member letter by Congress released today, Congressman Mike Honda had earlier written to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to support the inclusion of human rights and religious freedom in the US-India Strategic Dialogues where Mr. Modi is to meet with the President today. Quoting the US Commission for International Religious Freedom 2014 Annual Report, Rep. Honda had noted the increase in religiously motivated violence in India. Acknowledging that some positive steps had been taken towards religious minorities, the letter noted that “periodic outbreaks of large-scale communal violence continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable religious minorities in India; especially impacting women and girls.”
“All of us who cherish India’s traditionally inclusive society, understand the level of concern about the threats to secularism and pluralism in India, ” said Dr. Raja Swamy, a CAG spokesperson. “The first 100 days of Mr. Modi’s tenure as PM have shown that such concern is justified and has gained added urgency, ” added Dr. Swamy.
Reflecting the growing intolerance, both in India as well as the diaspora, reports indicate veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was assaulted by a mob of Modi supporters outside Madison Square Garden on Sunday, September 28. The provocation was Mr. Sardesai’s willingness to pay attention to a protester who wished to express his views, and clarify reasons for protesting.
“India can be a strong democracy only when dissent is given its space, and the freedom of the press is respected,” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid, another CAG spokesperson.
CAG appeals to President Obama to respond to the concerns expressed by the eleven Congresspersons as well as Rep. Honda, and to accept their recommendation on his imminent meeting with PM Modi. Without international attention on the growing intolerance in India, millions of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and other minorities will continue to see a steady erosion of their religious freedom and civil liberties.
CAG is a broad-based coalition representing a diverse cross section of the religious and political spectrum of the Indian diaspora, including Hindu and other faith-based organizations. The coalition is committed to democracy, pluralism and to the preservation of the idea of India.