Bipartisan US house resolution decries role of Modi and sectarian forces in eroding religious freedom
Washington DC, November 20, 2013: In a historic development in Washington DC, 15 US Congressmen, led by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) introduced resolution H. Res. 417, calls the US administration to have “religious freedom and related human rights to be included in the United States-India Strategic Dialogue” going forward.
Coalition Against Genocide, a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, today welcomed the introduction of a bipartisan resolution in the US House of Representatives.
The resolution praises India’s “rich religious diversity and commitment to tolerance and equality,” while raising concerns over the erosion of religious freedom. The resolution also highlights the role of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the orchestrated violence and the continuing denial of justice to the victims of the 2002 pogroms.
Highlighting the “divisive and violent agenda” of the Hindu nationalist movement that “has harmed the social fabric of India” as “contrary to the tolerant and pluralistic traditions of the Hindu faith”, the resolution encourages “the establishment of an impartial body… to discuss and recommend actions to promote religious tolerance and understanding”.
Commending the US administration in placing a visa ban on Modi, the resolution acknowledges that under Mr. Modi’s rule in Gujarat, “minorities have suffered horrific violence, as well as attacks on their religious freedom through draconian anti-conversion laws”. The resolution also refers to the harassment of whistle-blowers and human rights activists, that reflects on Mr. Modi’s consistent role in the obstruction of justice.
The bipartisan resolution initially co-sponsored by 9 Democrats and 6 Republicans, has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific. “This resolution’s strong bipartisan support shows that the rights of religious minorities in India are a priority for the U.S. Congress,” said Congressman Keith Ellison in a joint press release with Congressman Joe Pitts after the introduction of the resolution.”India is big enough for all its citizens. Its best leaders have worked to promote unity among its diverse populations, not division,” commented Mr. Ellison referring to the elevation of Mr. Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP. “India is a land of unrivaled religious diversity, but with such diversity comes great responsibility in ensuring the rights of religious minorities,” added Mr. Pitts.
Echoing the sentiments of the Congressmen, CAG spokesperson Mr. Kannan Srinivasan said: “It is a sad day for all Indians, that a man whose complicity in mass violence and suppression of minorities is acknowledged internationally, happens to be the Prime Ministerial candidate of a major political party in India.” He further added: “The fact that threats to our secular polity and traditionally rich diversity are now an international concern, should cause all Indians to reflect on the direction our country has taken in recent years. Thankfully, this trend is not irreversible.”
The introduction of the resolution is the latest among several recent developments that highlight the US administration’s consistent and grave concerns about Narendra Modi’s role in broad human rights violations in Gujarat, including extra-judicial killings by the state law enforcement agencies. The resolution also comes close on the heels of a fiasco in Washington, DC that led a group of top Republican leaders to dissociate themselves from an event organized by Mr. Modi’s supporters, due to their criminal misuse of the US House of Representatives Seal and pictures of prominent Republican congresspersons without their consent.
While Representatives Pitts and Ellison are the first two sponsors of the resolution, it is expected to gather more support in the weeks to come. The resolution also highlights violence that took place against Muslim, Christian and Sikh minorities. It calls on the Government of India to take steps to stem the erosion of religious freedom and urges Gujarat and other states to repeal anti-conversion laws.
CAG is a group of over 40 organizations, representing a diverse cross section of the religious and political spectrum of the Indian diaspora, including Hindu and other faith-based organizations. The coalition is committed to democracy, pluralism and to the preservation of the idea of India.