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US ‘Religious Freedom’ watchdog puts India under lens?

Muslim protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have spread to around 100 cites and towns across India and are being joined by mainstream opposition parties and civil society activists. Constitutional Experts point out that the 'CAA' introduced by BJP Govt. is in direct violation of Article 15 of the Indian Constitution itself. Washington, London, Moscow, EU and other capitals are silent on the situation. US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an exception; what does it mean?

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US committee for ‘international religious freedom’ has butted into India’s turmoil over new citizenship rules, exposing Washington’s hypocrisy and apparently threatening to derail US attempts to cultivate New Delhi as an ally.

On Monday, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned “religious violence” across India and called on the government in New Delhi to “stop use of force on those exercising right to express concern” about India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

At least 26 people have died over the past two weeks as a result of protests against the laws adopted earlier this month, which many Western outlets described as discriminatory against Muslims. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi insists that the CAA and the NRC are in no way aimed against Indian Muslims. Almost all who died are Muslims. Protests were initially started by Muslims who constitute around 14% of India’s 1.3 billion population (around 200 million) but now mainstream political parties like Bengal’s CM Mamta Bannerjee are part of protests – She has openly demanded UN and international intervention to examine what is happening in India.

Indian PM Modi argues that the CAA is intended to expedite persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh – all majority Muslim – getting Indian citizenship, while the NRC aims to tally up the immigrants living in India illegally. Neither should affect the rights of Muslims with Indian citizenship according to Modi government. However Muslims protesters and many in India’s academic and political circles point to the implications of excluding Muslims from laws aimed at assimilating immigrants into India. It sends a strong signal that Muslims are less of citizens in India as compared to Hindus, they argue.

 


Enter the USCIRF, a busybody created in 1998, at the peak of “humanitarian interventionism” pushed by the Bill Clinton administration. It is one of those “independent” Washington bodies funded entirely by taxpayer money to crusade around the globe for US government interests – in this case, the “universal right to freedom of religion or belief.”

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi insists that the CAA and the NRC are in no way aimed against Indian Muslims

It is no secret that the US regards human rights – including religious freedom, apparently – as “lethal arrows” to be used against other countries as need be. Even the Trump administration, for all of the president’s lip service to “sovereignty,” believes this. If there is a dispute about weaponization of human rights in Washington, it is only about who gets to decide on the targets.

More often than not, those who find themselves on the receiving end of “human rights” objections are global rivals like Russia or China, or targets of regime change like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, or North Korea – but never allies or client states, such as Saudi Arabia. Even though it imposes a death penalty for leaving Islam, Riyadh is treated with kid gloves by USCIRF.

Read more: Thousands protest against ‘Anti-Muslim’ citizenship bill in India

The commission is also entirely silent on  the persecution of Christians in, say, Kosovo – a province of Serbia occupied by NATO in 1999 where ethnic Albanians have since demolished or desecrated over 150 Serbian churches. But Kosovo is a US client state, so it’s not on USCIRF’s radar.

NATO in 1999 where ethnic Albanians have since demolished or desecrated over 150 Serbian churches

Which makes the poking of India that much more puzzling. Washington has been courting New Delhi for years, going so far as to rename a military command “Indo-Pacific” in 2018, in an effort to secure Indian support for a confrontation with China.

So while Washington is silent which just concluded 2+2 Talks with India involving Defence and Foreign Ministers in third week of December 2019, in an important break through regarding India-Pacific Alliance. But its Human Rights Commission is taking a strong position on India’s turmoil.

Not surprisingly, India has not taken kindly to USCIRF’s meddling, with the foreign ministry calling the US watchdog’s position “regrettable” and “guided only by its prejudices and biases,” about a matter “on which it clearly has little knowledge” and no standing.

Read more: Two dead in India as police fire at demo against citizenship bill

An Russian TV analyst argues that way back in 1821, US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams famously argued that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” and while wishing freedom and independence to all, “she is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

In America of today, where courts have to rule on whether Christian bakers must be forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings – while outfits like CIRF pontificate to the rest of the world how to live, without a shred of self-awareness – Adams’s words would no doubt be considered heresy. Many Indians certainly disagree with this line of reasoning; their sentiments have been echoed by Muslim public figure, Javed Jaffrey and Bengal’s CM, Mamta Bannerjee.

GVS News Desk with input from Agencies and GVS sources

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