Jammu, June 27, 2021: Recently, we came across a report on India released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The so-called Report besides its own contents also consists of the individual views of the Commissioners of the Commission as well. What has made the Report controversial is the fact that it is alleged to have been produced under the influence and pressure of the IMAC-Indian Muslim American Council.
The report seems clearly a part of the Global Toolkit launched by the USCIRF in collusion with IMAC to dislodge the Mahant Yogi Adityanath Government in Uttar Pradesh. It is a classic example of anti-India and anti-government of India tirade. The question arises that in what capacity does United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and Indian American Muslim Council have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of India..! Has Indian Parliament or any other Commission or a constitutional body ever debated racism against Black Americans and Asian Americans practised in the US? It’s clearly a violation of Indian sovereignty and is also tantamount to inciting violence in the state of Uttar Pradesh just before the elections in 2022.
The report claims that “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault. Following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) re-election in May, the national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims. The national government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence”.
This is absolutely a ridiculous claim which has no basis at all. It is quite contrary to the ground realities not only in UP but all over India. The ruling party at the centre, BJP, has overwhelmingly made victory marches in all the corners of the country in both national elections and the state elections, People without any consideration of caste, creed, religion and region voted in favour of BJP off and on over the last seven years thus nullifying the tall claims of the USCIRF in this context.
The so-called report says that “significantly, the BJP-led government enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)—a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants (and refugees) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan already residing in India—and approved a National Population Register (NPR) as a first step toward a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC). The border state of Assam, under mandate of the Supreme Court, implemented a statewide NRC to identify illegal migrants within Assam. When the statewide NRC was released in August, 1.9 million residents—both Muslims and Hindus—were excluded. Those excluded live in fear of the consequences: three United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs warned that exclusion from the NRC could result in ‘statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention’. Indeed, Home Minister Amit Shah referred to migrants as “termites” to be eradicated. Troubled that Hindus were excluded from Assam’s NRC, he and other BJP officials advocated for the CAA as a corrective measure to protect Hindus. The CAA provides listed non-Muslim religious communities a path to restore their citizenship and avoid detention or deportation. In its wake, BJP leaders have continued to advocate for a nation-wide NRC; the citizenship of millions would be placed under question, but, with the CAA in place, Muslims alone would bear the indignities and consequences of potential statelessness”.
In this context, it needs to be clarified that every country is governed by its own national interests, so is the US. The national interests can’t be bartered upon emotional issues or the issues that have communal or criminal overtones. India, for that matter all countries, has a right to determine its national register of citizens in tune with the records, ancestry and naturalisation of citizenship process as established by the due process of law. No country is obliged to listen to any sort of dictation in this matter by the forces that have no stake in the interests of the nation.
The report further said that “throughout 2019, government action—including the CAA, continued enforcement of cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws, and the November Supreme Court ruling on the Babri Masjid site—created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities. In August, the government also revoked the autonomy of Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir and imposed restrictions that negatively impacted religious freedom. Mob lynchings of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued, with most attacks occurring within BJP-ruled states. Lynch mobs often took on overtly Hindu nationalist tones. In June, in Jharkand, a mob attacked a Muslim, Tabrez Ansari, forcing him to chant “Jai Shri Ram (Hail Lord Ram)” as they beat him to death. Police often arrest those attacked for cow slaughter or conversion activities rather than the perpetrators. Violence against Christians also increased, with at least 328 violent incidents, often under accusations of forced conversions. These attacks frequently targeted prayer services and led to the widespread shuttering or destruction of churches……In February 2020, three days of violence erupted in Delhi with mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods. There were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry’s authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence. At least 50 people were killed”.
This is a completely fake narrative that no Commission would ever use which has not visited the site and has no ground connection with the facts of the case. In order to be precise on matters related to the constitutional position, Cow-slaughter ban, Anti-conversion laws and Uniform Civil Code, these comprise the Directive Principles of the constitution of India and the State is supposed to bring in these laws slowly and steadily, or as per the declared policies of the government responsible at the Centre and in the states. The incidents mentioned are not substantiated by any evidence, to the contrary hundreds of instances can be produced with different overtones. The country which has 80% Hindu population supported by 5% others (Sikhs, Bhudhists, Jains, Parsis and some indigenous faiths of the land) is supposed to protect the sentimental assertions of the overwhelming majority community keeping in view the issues pertaining to the ban of Cow-slaughter and building of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Moreover, it is the Supreme Court of India that has delivered the judgement in favour of Ram Mandir and has instructed the administration to constitute a Trust for the purpose forthwith. India is a traditional, functional and successful democracy and knows its responsibilities and duties very well. Its performance over the last seven decades speaks volumes that need no explanation or justification. Neither India requires any sort of lessons from anyone in this regard. Article 370 was a transitory and temporary law that had to go today, tomorrow or any day.
The illogical Recommendations to the US government by the Commission are as follows:
“Designate India as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA);
Impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States;
Strengthen the U.S. Embassies’ and Consulates’ engagement with religious communities, local officials, and police, especially in regions impacted by religiously motivated violence; increase U.S. partnerships with Indian law enforcement to build capacity to protect religious minorities, houses of worship, and other holy sites, and confront religious-based hate crimes; and
Allocate funding to support civil society to create a monitoring and early warning system in partnership with police to challenge hate speech and incitement to violence. The U.S. Congress should: Continue to hold hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and U.S. policy toward India”.
All these so-called ‘recommendations’ to the US government by the USCIRF have no constitutional status or any legal validity for the government to accept or endorse these. In common man’s language, these are ‘childish wishlists’. During the period post-Pokhran blasts, the US and the world experienced sanctions against India; thus the US government and the State Administration know their limitations very well in this regard.
The most tarnishing content in the report for the USCIRF is the individual views of the Commissioners. Thanks dear Hon’ble Commissioners……These are as follows:
INDIVIDUAL VIEWS OF COMMISSIONER JOHNNIE MOORE
I am gravely concerned that political and inter-communal strife will be further exacerbated by religious tensions, yet I am also heartened that India remains the world’s largest democracy, governed by a pristine constitution, and I am also encouraged that this great nation is a tremendous friend and ally of the United States. It is also a nation that is the very definition of diverse. My hope, and my prayer, is that India’s still-young, and freewheeling, democracy will give way to an ever-brighter future through these challenges, for all of its citizens, whatever their religion or political affiliation. I am rooting for India’s institutions to draw upon her rich history in order to pull her through the present time. India also happens to be a country that I have loved for all of my adult life. It is a country I love because of its pluralism and because of the transformative impact it has had on my own life through my many visits (and visits to vibrantly religious places in Varanasi, Old Delhi, Amritsar, Dharamsala, Agra, Ajmer, Hyderabad, Kolkata, throughout Kerala, and many other places).
INDIVIDUAL VIEWS OF COMMISSIONER TENZIN DORJEE
I want to express my concerns about the CAA, as all persecuted religious minorities deserve the same treatment. I also dissent from the recommendation that India should be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC. India does not belong to the same category as authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea. India is the largest democratic nation in the world, where the CAA has been challenged openly by the opposition Congress Party and lawmakers, civil society, and various groups. By and large, the press freely reported both anti-and pro-CAA voices and chief ministers of states such as Kerala decided not to implement the CAA. The Supreme Court of India has been asked to adjudicate on its constitutionality. India is a free and open democratic society that allows for all possibilities; therefore, India is not a CPC country.
India is also an ancient, multi-faith civilization where for the most part multiple faith groups respectfully and peacefully have co-existed for centuries. I am not oblivious to the worst interreligious conflicts and the partition of India. However, as major news sources reported, even during the violence over the CAA, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus protected each other’s homes and places of worship from mob violence and held interfaith ceremonies. As Tibetan refugees, we enjoyed complete religious freedom in India that is non-existent in Tibet and China. Recently, I was on a personal pilgrimage to major Buddhist holy sites in India and saw Hindus, Muslims, and other faiths enjoying religious freedom at their places of worship, shops, and homes. India and the United States are vital strategic partners. As I exit USCIRF as a Commissioner, I highly recommend constructive engagement among India, the U.S. government, and USCIRF to advance mutual interests including religious freedom and human rights.
The government of India should urgently ask its Ambassador to convey the feelings of Indians in regard to this so-called report to the US Administration and also reject the report in toto. The office of the MEA should also call the Envoy of US in Delhi to have a detailed exchange of ideas on this report and ask the diplomat to contain its agencies in US from spreading fake narrative about India and its internal issues.
A copy of this Counter Report may be circulated by the government of India in all concerned quarters.
(The author of this Counter Report is a senior BJP and KP leader, Incharge: Department of Political Affairs and Feedback, BJP-J&K, Author & Columnist. Feedback: [email protected]).