India objects to US Congress panel's stand on minorities

India objects to US Congress panel's stand on minorities

The government on Thursday strongly objected to the latest move by a panel of the United States Congress to highlight allegations of violence against religious minorities in India.  

New Delhi said that the briefing held by Tam Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) of the United States Congress in Washington DC on Wednesday was an effort based on “lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society”. The TLHRC – a panel of the US House Committee of Foreign Affairs – held the briefing, which highlighted violence against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in India.

“We have seen media reports about a briefing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee on ‘Violence against Religious Minorities in India.’ We regard such efforts as based on lack of understanding of India, its Constitution and society,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement.

“It is well known that the Constitution of India guarantees equal religious, social and political rights to all its citizens, including minorities,” he added.

Representatives Joseph Pitts and Jim McGovern of the US Congress co-chair the TLHRC. Both of them joined co-chair of the American Sikh Caucus, Representative Patrick Meehan. The briefing, according to the TLHRC website, outlined the “important legal, social and cultural issues” related to the “persecution of minorities” in India.

Rev Dr Joshva Raja of the University of Amsterdam, Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, who heads the Institute for Leadership and Community Development in United Kingdom, Prof G S Dhillon, who taught history in Punjab University, Sahar Chaudhry, a senior policy analyst of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and John Sifton of the Human Rights Watch were among the witnesses in the briefing.

The panelists, according to the TLHRC, made recommendations on the role the US government could play to safeguard religious minorities in India.

The TLHRC noted that Constitution of India guaranteed that all persons were equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

“However, attacks against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits have increased (in India) in recent years,” the panel noted. It also referred to the recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which asked the President Barack Obama’s administration “to press Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who endorse these hateful acts”.

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