Several eminent officials and experts from both
India and the US have told lawmakers that a BJP-led government at the
center would be detrimental to the basic rights of the religious
minorities in India.
Testifying before the influential Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of
the US Congress (TLHRC) on ‘The Plight of Religious Minorities in
India’, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
Vice Chair Katrina Lantos yesterday said the USCIRF has been closely
monitoring the situation in India.
“Many religious minority communities have reported to USCIRF that they
fear that a BJP win, and the election of Narendra Modi as the country’s
Prime Minister, will be detrimental to them and religious freedom. The
BJP last led the national government between 1998 and 2004,” Lantos
“Between 2002 and 2004 USCIRF had recommended that the State Department
designate India a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) for the
government’s systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious
freedom,” she said.
She said the USCIRF has long been concerned about the BJP’s and Modi’s close association with Hindu nationalist organisations.
“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,” she said.
“Sangh Parivar entities aggressively press for governmental policies
that would promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying
degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign
to India,” Lantos said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Hindu lawmaker in
the US Congress, questioned the timing of the Congressional hearing and
alleged that its goal is to influence the Indian elections.
“I do not believe the timing of this hearing is a coincidence. The
national elections in India begin on Monday and continue until May 12. I
am concerned that the goal of this hearing is to influence the outcome
of India’s national elections, which is not an appropriate role for the
US Congress,” Gabbard said.