Violence against minorities in India concerns US lawmaker

Washington, June 05, 2015 (PPI-OT): An American lawmaker and a panel of four experts decried violence against religious minorities in India and appealed to the US administration to include human rights violations as an issue for discussion in its talks with the new Indian government. At a Congressional hearing organised jointly by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and American Sikh Congressional Caucus, literature containing testimonies of experts and details of speeches distributed to the participants spoke of violence against religious minorities.

Opening the hearing, Congressman Patrick Meehan, Co-Chair of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, said that violence against religious minorities had increased in India in recent months, calling it an issue of serious concern. Meehan and the invited experts praised the US President, Barack Obama, for raising the issue of religious and human rights in India during his trip to the country early this year.

“Ever since the BJP has come at the helm of affairs, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, Hindutva forces are becoming more and more vocal with assertive notion of their strength,” said Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, a retired professor of history from Punjab University.

Joshva Raja, Research Supervisor, University of Amsterdam, said that Christians in India were targeted and attacked by Hindutva forces supported by the BJP government. He demanded that a national level committee should be set up to look into the grievances of Christian minorities. He urged the US government to impress upon the Indian government to lift a ban on Christian teachers and theologians from overseas to teach and engage with students in India.

Joshva Raja claimed that in one year of the Modi government, as many as 192 attacks on Christians and Christian institutions and churches have occurred, which is an increase of 75 percent over the previous year. In his testimony, Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, Director, Institute for Leadership and Community Development, UK, urged the US to review its foreign policy with regards to India, saying that it should not support New Delhi for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said that violence against religious minorities in India had increased in the last one year. John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, referred to the increased restrictions on NGOs in receiving funds from overseas.

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