United States Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Tuesday introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives criticising the alleged human rights violations in India and targeting of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis, along with other religious and cultural minorities.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Rashida Talib, Congressman Juan Vargas and Congressman Jim McGovern, urged the US Secretary of State to designate India as a “country of particular concern” because of its human rights record.
Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, expressed “grave concern about the worsening treatment of religious minorities in India”.
The resolution noted that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has also recommended to the Joe Biden government that it designate India as a “country of particular concern” for three consecutive years.
Citing the US panel’s 2022 annual report, the resolution said, “The [Indian] government continued to systemise its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.”
The resolution highlighted that the report said critical voices were repressed through harassment, investigation, detention, and prosecution under laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and India’s sedition law.
The report specifically mentioned the treatment meted out to 84-year-old Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
He died on July 5, nearly nine months after he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The 84-year-old suffered from multiple ailments including Parkinson’s disease and had contracted Covid-19 at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai.
India was among 15 countries flagged by the USCIRF for religious freedom concerns in April. The other countries are Afghanistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
In India, the panel said that conditions linked with religious freedom “significantly worsened” in 2021. During that year, the report said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies – including those promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda – that harmed Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities in the country.
The resolution also referred to a report of the State Department, which was published on June 2, stating that attacks on minorities in India, including killings, assaults and intimidation, took place throughout last year.
It cited instances of cow vigilantism, attacks on religious places and properties owned by Muslims and anti-conversion laws in several states of India.
While releasing the report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about the “rising attacks on people and places of worship” in India.
Rashad Hussain, who leads the US State Department’s efforts to monitor religious freedom around the world, added that some officials in India are “ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship” in the country.
The resolution took note of Blinken and Hussain’s remarks. It has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.