Religious Freedom Panel Slams India

By Jacqueline L. Salmon The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) plans to announce later today that it has … Continued

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) plans to announce later today that it has placed India on its watch list because of that country’s “inadequate” response to religious violence, particularly against the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities.

USCIRF is an independent U.S. agency whose job is to make sure religious freedom is taken into account in U.S. foreign policy. Its watch list consists of countries with governments that tolerate “serious violations of religious freedom.” The watch list isn’t as draconian as the commission’s list of “countries of particular concern” (for governments that tolerate more severe violations of religious freedom).

Either way, it’s not a list that most foreign governments like to find themselves on. (Some on the list, such as Burma and Iran, probably don’t care.)

It’s also likely to annoy the State Department, which has long complained that foreign government mistakenly believe that the commission makes U.S. policy–which it doesn’t. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited India in July, when the countries announced agreements to strengthen a relationship that has dramatically improved in recent years.

Yesterday, a State Department spokesperson stressed that the commission is an independent federal commission.

“It doesn’t speak for the U.S. government,” she said. “While the State Department considers its recommendation very carefully, it is not bound by them.”

There are already signs that USCIRF’s decision to place India on its watch list could cause problems between the U.S. and India. Some of the eight members of USCIRF had planned a June trip to the country to look into reports of religious violence, but their applications for visas were turned down.

Conservative groups from the Hindu majority criticized the visit. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America warned in a statement that a trip would signal that President Barack Obama’s administration “does not care if its relationship with a peaceful, democratic nation is jeopardized.”

In an interview, USCIRF chairman Leonard Leo rejected the warnings that placing India on the watch list would jeopardize U.S.-Indian relations.

“We always have policy recommendations, and we try to be fairly specific about what our concerns are,” he said. “We try not to paint with a broad brush, which is meant to be a signal that we are trying to be honest and fair…We’re trying to spark a meaningful dialogue and create a partnership for improving the situation.”

In its report, USCIRF paints a grim picture of religious persecution in India, charging that national and local judiciaries and police are unwilling or unable to deal with the religious violence that regularly rocks the country. That includes the 2002 mass killings of Muslims in the state of Gujarat that left 2,000 dead and attacks on Christian churches and individuals in the state of Orissa in 2007 and 2008. USCIRF also defends proselytizers, criticizing laws in several Indian states that make religious conversions difficult. The laws generally require government officials to determine whether it is a “sincere” conversion.

  • max91

    Also, India is one of the few countries where Jews were not victims of anti-Semitism:

  • max91

    My original response can be found here (until the post here is approved by the blog author):

  • max91

    @asfiya_tweety, Kashmiri King Hari Singh signed an instument of accession joining all of Kashmir (including the pieces currently being illegally occupied by Pakistan and China) with the Indian union. Since India was creating a secular democracy, there was no need to break it up into India and Pakistan in the first place, forget about Kashmir. Why do Kashmiris have any more of a right to separate from the union than do people from other states of India, say, Maharashtra ? What makes them so special? And for what? To become a satellite of the communist dictatorship ruling China or of the failed terrorist-HQ “state” of Pakistan, or turn into a “mini me” version of the latter?

  • max91

    ..contd. India gives full slate of democratic and civil rights to Kashmiris (which they should put to good use, use the strong educational system in India, advance their careers and lives, and learn to live in peace with Hindus and other people, instead of getting played around by the religious incitement by the Jihadists and the meddling by Pakistan), unlike Pakistan which rules its part “Azad” Kasmir by dictat from Islamabad and ISI, and has a worse human rights record there per UNHCR:

  • asfiya_tweety

    @INDIANS ON THIS POST,And if you guys are so sure of your democratic credentials: COME AND HOLD A PLEBISCITE IN J&K AS PROMISED TO US AT THE UNITED NATIONS BY YOUR FIRST PRIME-MINISTER JAWAHAR LAL NEHRU.

  • asfiya_tweety

    @MAX,At least Pakistan allowed UNHCR access into Azad Kashmir, INDIA on the other hand has over the past 20 years continually refused access into J&K to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, OHCHR and many other International Human rights organizations.My friend, India knows about its deeds in Kashmir but eventually TRUTH WILL PREVAIL-NO MATTER HOW MUCH THE INDIANS TRY TO PUSH IT UNDER THE CARPET.

  • asfiya_tweety

    Great Work, We Kashmiri Muslims of whom India has killed more than a 120,000 under the garb of democracy/terrorism desperately need this type of help from the International community. INDIANS and their armies have killed innocent civilians in Kashmir ruthlessly over the past 60 years of the KASHMIR CONFLICT. India continues to deny the Kashmiris their basic right of self determination as promised at the UN.

  • vipermd

    Many will always get a kick out of trying to say bad things about decent and progressing places like India, the US, Europe, etc. It gets old, and unfortunately for these naysayers, the evidence and momentum is against them–India is rising yet again, and the world is taking notice.With a booming economy and the most diverse population today and in history, its nonsensical to hear the references to caste constantly made–despite its problems, the nation has done a tremendous amount for all its citizens–nobody walks around with a “caste” card on their clothes the way Jews, slaves,or Serfs were treated in many other countries–its a pathetic attempt to try to make India look bad–nobody asks about or knows another’s caste–its fun way for people to just say nonsense–it is an extraordinary democracy where all people vote–their are poor people of all backgrounds and religions–its truly absurd when people inside or outside of India like to try to compartmentalize a vast and booming country like India.Anyone who has spent any time in India’s villages, cities, schools, companies, or marketplaces, knows Indians of all social strata, religions, and backgrounds intermingle, work, and live together just fine the overwhelming majority of the time. To think otherwise in the land where Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism were born, where 3 Muslim presidents have been elected, where some of the world’s oldest Jewish synagogues remain in use, where a Christian community has resided for 2000 years, where the Zorostrians have thrived since being expelled from their ancient homeland of Persia, where Armenians and Syrians have been living, and the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile have been welcome since the Communist China takeover of their land would simply be silly.The Prime Minister is Sikh, the head of the ruling party is an Italian Catholic women. The chief minister of India’s largest state is of ‘low-caste’ and has become famous for her opulent lifestyle. The President of India is a woman, succeeding a Muslim President, who as a rocket scientist, was considered a hero in India.Progress cannot occur without constructive criticism, and you would be hard pressed to find people more critical of their nation than Indians.But with the most extraordinary history of diversity and tolerance, and a rapidly expanding economy, India, despite its all its shortcomings deserves some credit for moving a huge, heterogenous nation, particularly when considering the great neighbors it lives with forward.Poverty is slowly but surely decreasing, and all citizens opportunities are increasing. All who don’t want to believe don’t have to–India is moving faster and faster forward regardless.

  • asfiya_tweety

    @MAX/VIPER MDHeound YAAR GOW KAVEUR NAAR (FAMOUS KASHMIRI PROVERB)We in Kashmir believe that Indians are actually opposite of whatever they claim to be: You have just the UN resolution into a Pakistan only doctrine- it requires Pakistan as well as India to withdraw their troops. The total number of Indian troops according to various resolutions should not be more than 16000……what are more than 800,000 Indian troops doing on the ground in Kashmir. Guys you can’t even imagine in your dreams how it is to live in a concentration camp day in and day out——cause it involves your HOLIER THAN THOU ARMY.We do not deny that as Kashmiri Muslims our society having many ills but coming from you Indians, its like the thief/murderer giving a sermon on the pulpit-HA HA HA!!!!You are a peaceful democratic Indian Hindu especially if :You kill more than a 120,000 innocent Kashmiri Muslims in cold blood and who knows how many in the North-East. You are actually a great democratic HINDU if you hold a whole set off people(Kashmiris) against their democratic will.You kill Christians in Kandhamal/Karnataka and burn Muslims alive in Godhra plus raze to the ground structures like Babri Masjid encouraged by your national HINDU leaders.50% of the people sitting in Parliament have been goondas(Thugs) or associates of goondas at some time.Hindu fanatic Organisations like Shiv Sena, VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and BJP rule in many constituencies.Hindu Rashtra is your ultimate goal.You repeatedly conduct SHAM elections in states like J&K to hoodwink the world.Police/Armed forces are acting above law and not the least perturbed(Check latest HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT ON INDIAN ARMED FORCES)You wield Trishuls and spears and then kill thousands of innocent Muslims in Mumbai (Bombay) riots.You prosecute and Punish the 1992 Bomb Blast accused but leave alone the Shiv Sainiks (who compelled/forced the Muslims to retaliate). Same goes for Modi and his henchmen………and yet you talk of democratic norms/procedures.Your media maintains a cunning, cowardly silence over the real things happening in Kashmir because its the right thing to do……no wonder your press is 117th on the Worlds free press list, way behind the press of many Muslim countries.You like talking about the condition of Muslims in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Saudi Arabia……Why don’t you talk about the condition of Muslims in Malaysia/Turkey/Tunisia/Indonesia and many other Muslim states.NEXT TIME do some introspection……..before you comment and for once consider yourselves human and not GODS.

  • asfiya_tweety

    @Max91,Kashmiris have never been a part of India, India as a concept has existed only from the time of the British who created India out of the many Kingdoms/territories that they controlled. Except for a common religion at one particular period of time, Kashmiris have nothing common with India. For e:g Our language belongs to the Dardic group of central Asian languages (its the only subcontinent language to be so). Our customs/Way of living/food/cuisine has absolutely no resemblance to India.I guess having had a common religion at some point with the Indians does not make us a part of India just like how Afghanistan(Gandhara at one time) had a common religion with India at some period in history.THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS ARE STILL RELEVANT AND EX-PRESIDENT MUSHARAF OF PAKISTAN HAS GONE ON RECORD TO SAY THAT PAKISTAN IS WILLING TO WITHDRAW ITS TROOPS FROM ITS SIDE IF THE INDIANS DO SO- ACCORDING TO US KASHMIRIS IT IS YOU INDIANS WHO CONTINUE TO PLAY A DELAYING TACTIC CAUSE YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE RESULTS OF THE PLEBISCITE WOULD BE.Anyways, I wish you all the best as an Indian, just impress upon your so called democratic government to follow true democratic NORMS IN KASHMIR.

  • asfiya_tweety

    As the title of this write up aptly mentions: “GODS IN GOVERNMENT”When you have the INDIANS behaving like GODS- they will never accept their follies.

  • max91

    @Asfiya: I will respond to your historic revisionism (and some untruthful claims) in several parts. Part 1: As a Kashmiri Indian national, you enjoy the same federal rights as any other Indian national. In fact, Article 370 grants the state of J&K some autonomy not given to other states. By the way, if an independent Kashmir did come to exist, what’s it gonna be, if you could choose? A secular democracy (are you going to invite back the Hindus that have been brutalized and kicked out (some killed), and make sure that they will not persecuted? The reality being, you can’t gurantee that either Hindus or Muslims would be safe given the internecine Islamic fundamentalism we see in Pakistan. Are you sure you yourself would be safer than now?), or an Islamic state? You would positively not have real sovereignty because it WILL be communist China dictatorship calling all the shots for you, and recall what they did recently to Uyghurs in Xinjiang, their iron hand opression of Tibetans and the Falun Gong. The Chinese regime’s abuses are limitless.) You will mainly be used as a tool/proxy (exactly as Paksitan has been for the last 62 years, turned basically into a failed satellite “state” by Chinese tactics. Remember this: Chinese dictators do not like any religion, and Islam is NOT an exception to that rule.) by the Chinese regime to continue its bullying, destabilization and terrorization of India.

  • max91

    Dear asfiya_tweety, the great Indian civilization, of which Kashmir and the Kashmiri culture are a part, is over 5000 years old. Islamic invader conquests of India came to the area about 1000 years ago and the invaders then proceeded to convert the locals to Islam, in many cases by force. It makes no sense to be at war with your own ancestral cousins of the Indian subcontinent. Learn to live in peace and harmony with each other and advance the human race, as the people of the subcontinent did for 4000 years before the infusion of Islam there. It’s fine if you choose to practice faith through the prism of the newfound religion of your familial tree, but it should not be done at the expense of other religions or people. The common humanity of the entire human race must come ahead of individual sects we find ourselves in, in most cases through sheer random incidence of nature. Every human soul must be given equal dignity and respect. That’s what God expects from all of us.

  • max91

    Nehru’s words re. plebiscite were conditional upon the right conditions prevailing. The UN resolution in question called for complete and immediate withdrawal by Pakistan from the Kashmiri land that it came to illegally occupy. Since Pak hasn’t pulled out and also because of the persecution, genocide and the mass forced displacement of Kashmiri Hindus, by Pak on its side and by Jihadists in J&K, the conditions under which plebiscite was considered no longer exist, rendering plebiscite no longer applicable. In practical terms, do you think that an independent Kashmir will be left alone to flourish by China and Pakistan? No, they will ruthlessly and unscrupulously exploit Kashmir and Kashmiris (Muslims included) and turn it into a military base for the next fake “Kashmir problem” to continue their unethical mission to destroy India and its civilization. Jihadists will invent a reason for why you are not “pure” enough and persecute people of whatever Islamic sect you belong to, as they have done all over Pakistan and Bangladesh to minority Islamic sects. Your best bet is to be part of the secular Indian democracy. Think smart. Please see Kashmiri blogs which has links in the sidebar for the real persecution that has taken place in Kashmir, namely of the Kashmiri Hindus:

  • max91

    Part 4: Historical India: The concept of nation states is a very recent one, before which they were all forming, expanding, shrinking and dying kingdoms, empires and dynasties. Known history of India dates back to the Indus valley civilization, which spanned c. 3300 to 1300 BCE, kicking off a range of empires, religions (major ones before the foreign invasions being Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Sikhism came to exist c. 1500 ce), cultures (pre-vedic, vedic, Buddhist etc), languages (Sanskrit being the central unifying formal language, for which powerful grammar was invented by Panini around 500 BCE

  • max91

    Part 2: The official Indian government estimate for deaths resulting from Islamic terrorist insurgency (which began in 1988/1989) is 47,000: 20,000 terrorists, 7,000 police, 20,000 civilians (not sure what the Muslim/Hindu composition of this is; both Muslims and Hindus caught in the cross fire, and dead Hindus from the Jihadist persecution) and some unofficial estimate of 10,000 missing. Those missing could be either Hindus being ethnically cleansed or some locals joining terrorist camps. See KPS Gill’s “The Kashmiri Pandits: An Ethnic Cleansing the World Forgot”: Note that basically all of this is the result of the terrorism infiltration (unlike Pakistani state forced butchering 3 million people and raping 200,000 in just a few months in 1971 in Bangladesh). If the Kashmiri Muslims reject and and kick the terrorists out, both Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists (and everyone else) can all happily coexist in Kashmir, attend great universities (all across India), build a wonderful Kashmir together, and do well for themselves, their state and the country. Why do you keep rejecting that option compared to effectively becoming a tool state of communist China? Kashmiris peacefully did for 5000 years (with Islam entering the picture from around 14th century, as you will see in my next comment.

  • max91

    Part 5: The Kashmiri language has its roots in Sanskrit as seen, among other things, in its vocabulary, and the theory that it is a “Dardic” language is a loosely made claim, with little evidence to support it, by one linguist (George Grierson) and it is thoroughly questioned by some other scholars. See:

  • max91

    Part 3: Apologies for typos in Part 2 below. Brittanica enc. entry on Historic Kashmir: “According to legend, an ascetic named Kashyapa reclaimed the land now comprising Kashmir from a vast lake. That land came to be known as Kashyapamar and, later, Kashmir. Buddhism was introduced by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century bce, and from the 9th to the 12th century ce the region appears to have achieved considerable prominence as a centre of Hindu culture. A succession of Hindu dynasties ruled Kashmir until 1346, when it came under Muslim rule. The Muslim period lasted nearly five centuries, ending when Kashmir was annexed to the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab in 1819 and then to the Dogra kingdom of Jammu in 1846.”That dates Islam in Kashmir to 1346 CE (AD), i.e. 663 years ago, but the known Kashmir history dates back 5000 years (mostly with Hindu/Buddhist culture and dynasties), about 7.5 times longer. If you are a native Kashmiri, your ancestors from before 1345 were quite probably Hindus or Buddhists. Have you considered that?

  • max91

    Part 5: The Kashmiri language has its roots in Sanskrit as seen, among other things, in its vocabulary, and the theory that it is a “Dardic” language is a loosely made claim, based seemingly on flimsy evidence, by one linguist (George Grierson) and it is thoroughly questioned by some other scholars. See:

  • max91

    Here is a suggestion I want to make as a new online friend of yours, ASFIYA, What would be wrong in aspiring to become the next Azimji Premji (the Chairman of Wipro technologies: