EDITORIAL: Last week, US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken announced his annual ‘Religious Freedom Designations’ list, saying his country will not stand by as governments and non-state actors around the world harass, threaten, jail and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs. But the list exposes hypocrisy and double standard that characterise America’s approach to human rights.
Unsurprisingly, it includes China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Except for the last two countries – probably seen not reliable anymore as they try to chart out an independent course in the fast-changing geo-political scenario — with all others the US has an adversarial relationship. A glaring omission is India, which eminently qualifies to be placed in that list on account of all the issues Secretary Blinken said his country will not tolerate.
India under the far-right Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi (whom the US and several European countries had denied visas for presiding over the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom as chief minister of Gujarat until he became prime minister in 2014) nearly 200 million Indian Muslims are routinely harassed, arrested and subjected to custodial torture.
Many have been lynched by cow vigilantes linked to Modi’s party, the BJP, and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS. Although Christians are not safe either, Muslims are singled out for discriminatory treatment as the BJP-RSS combine openly seeks to implement their agenda of turning India into a Hindu state in which Muslims must live as second class citizens.
Decent people, both inside and outside that country have been raising voices of concern over the prevailing conditions. Last month, as many as 21 UN Human Rights Council members described the situation in India as a “serious regression”, asking the government to improve its protection of freedom of religion and rights of religious minorities.
Also last month, six international rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organisations Against Torture and World Organisation for Human Rights issued a joint statement expressing the worry that various legislative and other actions of the Modi government have made it “lawful to discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and enabled violent Hindu majoritarianism.”
If that was not enough to prick his conscience, earlier this year Secretary Blinken’s own country’s the Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan independent body, had recommended, for a third year running, that India be designated “a Country of Particular Concern”, pointing out that religious freedom conditions in the country had “significantly worsened in 2021.” Yet the State Department has chosen to look the other way. So much for the claim the US will not stand by in the face of human rights abuses.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022