Besides the coalition partners of AJA, the panelists at the briefing included Ms. Jennifer Prestholdt (Deputy Director, The Advocates for Human Rights), veteran journalist Mr. Kannan Srinivasan, and Mr. Ajit Sahi (Advocacy Director, Indian American Muslim Council). Each speaker highlighted different aspects of the multi-faceted issue of the rapid decline in human rights and religious freedom in India, for Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities, especially over the course of the last three years.
The organizations endorsing the report were Indian American Muslim Council, Dalit American Council, Organization of Minorities from India, TwoCircles.net and South Asian Solidarity Initiative. Among the attendees were representatives of US bodies such as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, as well as personnel from various media outlets. The event was live streamed and made available to hundreds of supporters online.
“The same forces that have perpetuated caste discrimination are also spearheading India’s seemingly relentless drift away from secularism and religious pluralism, especially over the course of the last three years. In 2016, a global index of human rights and social and religious freedoms by Pew Research Center placed India among the worst 10 of the world’s 198 countries when judged for ‘social hostilities,'” says the report.
“Laws curbing religious conversion, the ban on sale and possession of beef in many states and the curbs placed on NGOs represent the state’s response to forced conversions, the brutal violence of “cow protection” groups and the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders respectively. In all cases, the state has become an enabler of repression, often going to great lengths to defend and normalize the abuse,” the report further adds.
“The release of this report is a plea to the international community for help in influencing the government of India to safeguard the rights of “lower” castes and religious minorities,” said Mr. Ajit Sahi, IAMC’s new Advocacy Director.
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability has pledged to work with people of all faiths to defend India from the onslaught of hate and divisiveness.