Leading American and global human and civil rights activists came together on Monday to reinforce the demand to designate India as a “country of particular concern” to prevent and combat ongoing persecution of its religious minorities.
The discussion was organized by the Indian American Muslim Council in collaboration with Hindus for Human Rights, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Dalit Solidarity Forum, India Civil Watch International and International Christian Concern.
Anurima Bhargava, the vice-chair of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said that as an ally and as a friend of India, the United States “needs to take steps to make sure that India upholds the rights guaranteed to all of its citizens as enshrined in its own constitution.”
Bhargava, expressed the fear that the CAA in conjunction with the planned nationwide national register of citizens (NRC) and national population register (NPR), could result in “wide scale disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims which could lead them vulnerable to prolonged detention, deportation and violence.”
“We saw this process play out in Assam. Many Indian citizens had their citizenship questioned and challenged by local authorities who excluded them from the national register of citizens despite their families having lived in India for generations.”
“And for that reason,” she added, “we made the recommendation to the State Department of the United States that India should be designated as a ‘country of particular concern,’” based on the deterioration and concerns about new state policies of the Narendra Modi government on religious minorities.
Joanne Lin, National Director, Advocacy and Government Affairs, Amnesty International USA, spoke about Amnesty India being forced to shut down its operation in India in October 2020 after two years of relentless threats, intimidation, and harassment by the Indian government.
Lin reminded the audience that it was in the wake of two major human rights reports that Amnesty India’s bank accounts were frozen which forced Amnesty India to halt its human rights work and shut down its operations in India. The first report covered the February 2020 anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi and documented police complicity in the violence against Muslims. The second report addressed arbitrary detentions and internet restrictions that persist in Kashmir, one year after it was stripped of its special status. Both reports contained findings critical of Indian authorities that were confirmed by other independent observers.The Indian government’s crackdown on civil society violated the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly which are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law.
“Forcing Amnesty India to shut down its operations, is a devastating setback for Indian human rights defenders, civil society organizations, and most alarmingly, the millions of people in India who have been aided by Amnesty’s human rights work.” added Lin.
Lin reiterated that Amnesty USA urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to demand Indian authorities to unfreeze Amnesty India’s bank accounts.
Among others who raised their concern over the worsening religious persecution and civil rights violations in India, included Matias Perttula, Advocacy Director, International Christian Concern, Arjun Sethi, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, Salam Al Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Roja Singh, President, Dalit Solidarity Forum