US Reiterates Lawmakers’ Concern Over Religious Freedom in Modi’s India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) welcomed by US President Barack Obama at the White House/

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Washington, DC – The Obama Administration on Wednesday acknowledged a letter, sent to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, signed by eight US Senators and 26 members of the US House of Representatives.

Replying to a question from Indian American Times, a State Department official said, “We are aware of the Congressional letter sent to Prime Minister Modi expressing concerns over violence against minority groups in India.”

The official stressed, “The United States stands in solidarity with the people and government of India in supporting the exercise of freedom of religion and expression, and in confronting all forms of intolerance.”

Urging action from the Indian people and their government, the official concluded, “We look forward to continuing to work with the Indian people to realize their tolerant, inclusive vision, which is so deeply in the interests of both India and the United States.”

In the letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Modi, who belongs to the ruling Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has his earlier roots in the ultra-nationalist Hindu organization, Rashtriya Swamyak Sevak (RSS), the US lawmakers make their case with “grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence” citing examples of continuous fatal attacks on Muslims after four were killed over the beef issue and also threats to Christians who are living in fear in Chhattisgarh and other areas.

“Of particular concern is the treatment of India’s Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities,” the lawmakers said, specifically naming the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, hinting at the RSS links of Modi.


“On June 17th, 2014, more than 50 village councils in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh adopted a resolution banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches” in their communities. The Christian minority community has been dramatically affected: the ban effectively has criminalized the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region one day after a mob, which included members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, seriously injured six Christians in the village of Sirciguda. Since the ban was implemented, Christians in the Bastar District reportedly have been subjected to physical assaults, denial of government services, extortion, threats of forced expulsion, denial of access to food and water, and pressure to convert to Hinduism,” the lawmakers said.


“We also are concerned that the nearly country-wide beef ban is increasing tensions and encouraging vigilante violence against the Indian Muslim community. On Monday, November 2nd, a Hindu mob killed Mohammed Hasmat Ali, a married father of three, in Manipur, India, after he was accused of stealing a cow. Mr. Ali reportedly is the fourth Muslim murdered in just six weeks by Hindu mobs angered over allegations of cows being slaughtered or stolen. We understand that the September 28th murder of 52-year-old Mohammed Saif in Uttar Pradesh sparked a national outcry over rising intolerance toward religious minorities which culminated in hundreds of prominent academics, business leaders, and authors protesting,” the letter said.


“We want to raise additional concerns about the lack of recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion, which prevents members of the community from accessing social services and employment and educational preferences available to other religious communities. Sikh community members reportedly are harassed and pressured to reject religious practices and beliefs distinct to Sikhism. On October 14, security forces killed two Sikhs and injured scores of others in Punjab who were protesting peacefully against the desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book,” the lawmakers highlighted.


Reminding Modi about his words “about religious freedom and communal harmony, including your promise in February 2014 that your government would “ensure that there is complete freedom of faith…and not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others.” the lawmakers urged Indian Prime Minister Modi, “to turn these words into action by publicly condemning the ban on non-Hindu faiths in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh, and the violent assaults and other forms of harassment against religious minorities throughout India. We also urge you to take steps to control the activities of groups, such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and instruct Indian security forces to enforce the rule of law and protect religious minority communities from religiously-motivated harassment and violence.”

“Such steps would demonstrate your government’s commitment to fostering a stable and inclusive society and respecting international obligations on the rights of religious minorities, including religious freedom,” wrote the lawmakers, concluding, “We await your response.”

Modi faces more pressure as he will be in Washington, DC, the US capital from March 31 to April 2 to attend the nuclear security summit being convened by the US President Barack Obama.

The letter was sent to Prime Minister Modi as well as to the US Department of State and The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress also issued a press release publicly releasing this letter.

The signatories of the letter (attached) are Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MI), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mark Walker (R-NC), Doug Collins (R-GA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Ted Poe (R-TX), Adam Schiff (D-CA), John Conyers, (D-MI).

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