Monday May 9, 2011
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called on the Government of India as well as various state governments to take note of the 2011 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), that has placed India on a “Watch List” for the third year in succession.
“It is indeed unfortunate that India, with its long history of tolerance and multiculturalism, has now found a place in the list of countries where religious freedom is at risk”, said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “However IAMC firmly believes that the recommendations of USCIRF are based on factual information. They represent legitimate concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in India, and should not be seen as an exercise in India-bashing”, added Mr. Khateeb.
IAMC wishes to reiterate that it is an organization of patriots, committed to secularism, pluralism and justice for all citizens regardless of their religion, caste or ethnic affiliations. IAMC is also committed to projecting an accurate picture of India internationally.
It was in pursuance of its patriotic duties that IAMC deemed it fit to accept USCIRF’s invitation to present a briefing on the status of religious minorities in India. IAMC accepted this recognition as a professional organization, and briefed the USCIRF commissioners and staff with information that would be helpful in it assessment of religious freedom in India.
IAMC specifically welcomes the USCIRF report’s recommendation about radical sectarian organizations in India. The report says:
“The activities of these groups, especially those with an extremist agenda or history of using violence against minorities, often negatively impact the status of religious freedom in the country. Many of these organizations exist under the banner of the Sangh Parivar, a ‘family’ of over 30 organizations that includes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the BJP. Sangh Parivar entities aggressively press for governmental policies to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India”.
IAMC resolves to continue its tireless efforts against violations of religious freedom as well as social injustices by actively engaging with civil society in India. IAMC is concerned about the jingoistic slant of some organizations that are preoccupied with whitewashing India’s human rights record, rather than working to improve it. IAMC believes that India can and should reclaim its pluralist and tolerant ethos by holding accountable the perpetrators of communal violence, fake encounters and miscarriages of justice, without regard to their political or social standing.
IAMC also welcomes the balanced position taken by the USCIRF report wherein several constructive steps taken by the Congress led central government to uplift minorities are cited. However, the report accurately highlights the culture of impunity in some states, exemplified by the fact that overwhelming evidence of premeditated killings in the Gujarat riots as well as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have yet to result in the conviction of the masterminds behind these pogroms. Among several other recommendations, the report has specifically called for cases against Mr. Narendra Modi to be allowed to proceed in accordance with the law.
IAMC regrets that the plight of Muslims languishing in jail for the terror plots concocted by extremist Hindutva organizations, as confessed by Swami Aseemananda, was given insufficient coverage in the USCIRF report. The issue merits a full scale investigation as it highlights the demonstrable scale of anti-minority prejudice in the law enforcement agencies that inflicted unspeakable torture on innocent citizens they were charged to protect. Acquittal of the Muslim youth that have been unjustly charged with the terror blasts they had nothing to do with, would be an important step towards healing the wounds of communal violence.
IAMC notes with regret attempts by some organizations to undermine the legitimacy of the USCIRF’s report and its recommendations, by referring to instances of religious intolerance in the United States. While religious intolerance is admittedly a challenge for several countries around the world, criticism of India’s human rights record should be addressed by working to change the ground realities, rather than through attempts to obfuscate the issues.
IAMC remains committed to the strengthening of civil institutions and upholding the rule of law, and will continue to reach out to conscientious citizens of all faiths, who are concerned about the steady erosion of civil rights and religious freedom in India. We believe with certainty, that when these efforts come to fruition, India will be an example of tolerance, social justice and communal harmony.
Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.
USCIRF 2011 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom – India Chapter
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