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US religious freedom report on India rejected as ‘Hinduphobia’

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest organised by people of India's low-caste Dalit community against what they say are increasing atrocities against the community in Ahmedabad, India on Sept. 27, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Amit Dave

MUMBAI (RNS) Political leaders here have rejected a critical report by a U.S. government religious freedom commission, while an American Hindu group called it “Hinduphobia.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan panel, released a special report earlier this month alleging the fate of religious minorities has deteriorated under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The report cited India’s anti-conversion laws, cow protection legislation and the treatment of Dalits, or so-called untouchables, as points of concern.

Cows are sacred in India, and cow slaughter is banned across most states. But vigilante cow protection groups have mushroomed, and many feel empowered to attack religious minorities such as Muslims who do not regard cows as sacred.

In addition, many Dalits and other low-caste Hindus admit they convert to Islam or Christianity primarily to escape crushing caste prejudice and oppression.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after laying the foundation for the memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in Mumbai, India, on Dec. 24, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Shailesh Andrade

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after laying the foundation for the memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in Mumbai, India, on Dec. 24, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Shailesh Andrade

Although India’s constitution guarantees religious equality, the report said “minorities face discrimination and persecution due to a combination of overly broad or ill-defined laws, an inefficient criminal justice system, and a lack of jurisprudential consistency.”

The report is only the latest in a series of slaps at the Hindu-majority nation, which has been on a USCIRF watch list of Tier-II countries since 2009.

The Indian external affairs ministry rejected the document, as it did earlier reports in 2015 and 2016 by the Washington-based commission, currently led by the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

“We have serious doubts on their credibility,” ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said of USCIRF.

In the U.S., the Hindu American Foundation accused the USCIRF of misunderstanding the “nature and intent” of cow protection laws, and of asserting “that caste-based discrimination is a Hindu religious teaching, rather than a pernicious social problem blighting all Indian religious communities today.”

“This report’s egregious display of Hinduphobia in linking caste-based discrimination to the Hindu religion is unprecedented, and must be condemned,” said says HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla.

HAF suggested that the author of the report, British academic Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, was unreliable because he has “consistently advocated for Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives” and for an independent Sikh state.

Last year, the Indian government denied members of USCIRF visas for a visit to assess religious freedoms in the country.

Surendra Jain of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a prominent right-wing group, insisted India has a record of tolerance and alleged USCIRF harbors ulterior motives.

“This is not an honest report but has a broader mission of conversion behind it,” he said.

Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India, said many Indians see American involvement as “unnecessarily interfering in its domestic affairs and patronizing” while religious freedom in India is often misunderstood in the U.S.

He said religious minorities “have levels of rights and legal protections in India that are not afforded to minorities in many other countries.”

(Bhavya Dore is a correspondent based in Mumbai)

 

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Bhavya Dore

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  • Author of this article, Bhavya Dore, did sent me a Q&A about USCIRF.
    Here are selected Questions & Answers:
    2. What do you make of the USCIRF reports released over the years?
    Answer#2.
    Evangelical groups believe that Christian majority is being persecuted in USA and Christian minority is being persecuted Internationally. Under pressure from evangelical groups, USA’s federal and state governments have enacted Religious Freedom laws. In the USA, Several states like Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, etc. have passed the so-called Religious Freedom law making discrimination legal……Many USCIRF commissioners, like Robert George, Mary Glendon, support and campaign for this discriminatory law…… All India reports presume that Hindus are guilty. For instance, US state department’s USIRF assumed that Pastor Jacob James,who is accused of sexually
    abusing 53 kids, is innocent and He is being ‘persecuted’ and ‘discriminated’ by the Hindutva people and the Indian State.(2) USCIRF analysts work hard to dig out obscure tit-bits, ignore widely accepted facts, and cook-up narrative. For instance, USCIRF 2014 report states “On July 7, nine explosives were detonated in the Bodh Gaya Buddhist religious complex located in the Indian state of Bihar…On August 14, the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Arup Brahmachari, a Hindu priest. Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari, saying they made an error. The NIA has not made any other arrests.” Facts like Arrest of Indian Mujahideen, Monk Arup is an anti-corruption crusader who does not self-identify as ‘Hindu priest’ do not matter.(3) Reports are filled with rumors which were proven wrong long before report comes out. For Instance, USCIRF released a report in 05/2015 stating that “In Sept 2014, Seventh day adventist were forcibly converted to Hinduism” but on sept 24 2014, Adventist church concluded that conversions from adventist to Hinduism were genuine.(4) Here are about 47 more examples of qausi-lies found in USCIRF India report.

    3. Are they unfair to India and the Hindu majority?
    Answer 3.

    Religious freedom is all about Christian right to live as per cannon with no regards to collateral damage to equality, free-speech, peace and harmony. It is a religious-political movement with no absolute stand on any matter.The stand depends on how it effects christian interest; Thus, Religious freedom advocates target Women’s right, Gays, LGBT and atheist in USA(but not Internationally). USCIRFis mum on Fiji getting rid of approx. 100,000 Hindus (i.e 14% of total
    population), Fijian police commissioner directing nation-wide christian crusade and Fiji’s Methodist church advocating creation of ‘Christian State’ but USCIRF helps Hindus in Pakistan because Hindu&Christian interest is same in Pakistan. In India, USIRF supports Mullah’s free-speech right to call Navratri ‘devil-worship’ but opposes Hindu free-speech. Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal is the largest sexual abuse scandal in the world. It spans 15+ countries, all continents, 4392 accused priests in US alone, 3000 lawsuits in US alone, and thousands of victims between the ages of 3 and 14.
    Several USCIRF commissioners have played a key role in managing Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal fallout yet USCIRF reports are mum.(5)

    This unprincipled stand is unfair to all including Hindus in India, 1000s of sexually abused kids, and Women/LGBT/atheist in USA.

    USCIRF fully respects Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and all religions except Hinduism. USCIRF reports mention “Koran” & “Bible” 66 times & 174 times respectively. All this mentions are very respectful &
    politically correct. Most of the time USCIRF is championing believer’s right to follow or propagate “Koran” & “Bible” with no regards to collateral damage. USCIRF’s official policy is to use politically-loaded terms such as “cult,” “fundamentalist,” “jihad,” or “Shariah” in defined and appropriate way
    (i.e Politically correct way); However, In practice, USCIRF report,covering 194 countries, has almost always(i.e, 88% times) hurled politically loaded abuses at Hindus.

    4. Do you believe USCIRF reports hold any credibility in India (or elsewhere)?
    Answer 4.

    USCIRF india reports are as credible as “Emperor’s new cloths” but everyone admires the clothes and demonize those who state “But the Emperor has no clothes.”

    5. Is there anything different about this time’s report compared to previous years or is it more or less the same?
    Answer 5.

    Yes. In 2016-2017 USCIRF….launched a direct attack on Hinduism and Bhagavad Gita. USCIRF states “According to Hindu scripture, individuals are born inherently unequal….”” but fact is that in Bhagavad Gita 9.29,Sri Krishna states “All beings are equal to Me. There is none especially hateful to Me, nor one who is especially dear to Me.” USCIRF has not attacked or questioned any other religion. There are several quotes in Bible and Koran which can be questioned but USCIRF has shown reverence towards those two holy books.

  • This article is a hitjob against Hindus. Picture at the top and first few sentences cleverly blame Hindus and boost USCIRF’s misleading propaganda. However, Facts disagree. The only 2015/16 Dalit massacre, which was completely censored by 96.3% Indian media, occurred in W Bengal. In May 2015, Five Hindu dalits, including 2 women, were killed by Muslims in Nadia, W Bengal. In a hard hitting article, Garga Chatterjee wrote that Nadia killing did not generate a furore because murderers were Muslim.Garga further stated that there is a conspiracy of silence. Everyone, including Media, Ruling party, Principal opposition party, is silent.

    India has highest cattle population and cattle smuggling is a huge law and order problem. In last 2 years alone cattle smugglers have killed several including police officer and 2 animal right activist. How do cowboys deal with cattle smugglers?

    Largest number of muslims attacking dalit incidents are documented in islamo-socialist ruled uttar pradesh. 8 Muslim-Dalit conflicts were recorded in UP. In 2015, UP government action forced 800 Hindu dalits to convert to Islam. Government also banned reconversion to Hinduism, arrested Hindu dalit missionary, made unlawful attempt to arrest a couple who wanted to embrace.

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