In yet another body blow to the Modi regime’s image, US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has called out the Centre’s repression of minority communities in India, especially the treatment of people in Kashmir in wake of the abrogation of Article 370.
A policy paper titled Joe Biden’s agenda for the Muslim American communities posted on his campaign website read, “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.” It added, “These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.”
Biden has also expressed disappointment with the regime’s approach to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The police paper states, “Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.”
The Biden campaign’s entire policy paper may be read here.
After the Central government scrapped Article 370 last year, taking away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, the former state was bifurcated into two Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. The move was sudden and plunged the region into a virtual blackout after communication and internet services were suspended, political leaders, activists and even children were detained, health infrastructure came to a halt, journalists were barred from reporting and all civil liberties were suspended. Till date, 4G internet services which are available for use throughout the country, remain suspended in Kashmir.
In fact, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who was himself placed in special custody and prevented from communicating with anyone for months after the abrogation of Article 370, tweeted about Biden’s stand.
Democratic Presidential hopeful @JoeBiden says “In Kashmir India should take all necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet weakens democracy”. https://t.co/DQEeo3D5dn
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 26, 2020
The CAA specifically left out Muslims as it only provided relief to persecuted Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The NRC, a drive to verify citizenship of Indians in Assam and weed out alleged illegal immigrants, effectively left in the lurch the future of over 19 lakh people. The Centre had announced its intention to extend the NRC all over India, but the announcement met with vehement protests, leading the government to backtrack a bit saying they were yet to decide upon a timeframe for the same.
The protests against the CAA and NRC which started last year, saw the Central government using brutal force on protesters and student activists. Till date, even under the Covid-19 lockdown, the Delhi police have continued to arrest activists and book them under stringent charges which ensure continuous incarceration.
In light of this, Biden has reportedly asked the Central government of India to take necessary steps to restore rights of all Kashmiris, expressing his disappointment over CAA, NRC and NPR. However, PTI reported that a group of Hindu Americans reached out to the Biden campaign expressing their dismay over the language used against India. They also urged the campaign to release a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans.
Rishi Bhutada, board member of the Hindu American Political Action Committee said that the Biden campaign was missing the much needed context about Pakistan-sponsored cross border terrorism in regards to Kashmir, adding that the CAA was a good-faith effort to remedy the status of approximately 30,000 persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, The Wire reported.
Previous instances of international concerns over religious freedom and dissent in India
The ruling government has of late been receiving scathing criticism for its failure to stick to India’s secular credentials.
The recently released International Religious Freedom Report for 2019 by the United States Department of State indicted India’s present regime for human rights violations in connection with its people’s right to practice any religion of their choice as laid down in the constitution.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its Annual Report for 2020 painted a bleak picture of how India treated her religious minorities. It had recommended that the US Government not only designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), but also impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies.
Maria Arena, Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) too had written to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah raising serious concerns about the manner in which human rights activists, peaceful protesters and sundry dissenters were being thrown behind bars and being silenced using provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide had also raised several key questions about the growth of hate speech and especially the targeting of the Muslim community in wake of the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the nationwide agitation against it.
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and International Christian Concern (ICC) had co-sponsored a virtual Congressional briefing titled “USCIRF Recommendations on India – The Next Steps.” During this briefing, similar concerns had been raised about the plight of religious minorities in India.
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