At Congressional Briefing on Gujarat Pogrom, USCIRF Commissioner Steve Schneck says US must condemn Modi’s anti-minority policies.  

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By Shafaat Khan, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO, NJ: Modi apologists push back on any comparisons to Fascism.  Words and actions of Modi supporters make that comparison easy.  It’s black and white.

Many of these apologists  live in our midst – enjoy freedoms enshrined in our liberal democracy while enabling Neo-fascism in India.  They need to be called out.  And they must be stopped.  We can’t really change behavior of people living in another country, but we can certainly condemn them and call out their enablers in our midst.

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“Hindutva” supporters take advantage of American democracy and enrich themselves financially. But, when it comes to exporting the same values to India so that millions of poor, dalits and minorities can also enjoy the benefits of liberal democracy, these guys suddenly develop cold feet. Some of these people are so regressive in their outlook that they make ku-klux-klan look like amateurs. Americans and law enforcement agencies should definitely take note of these individuals and organizations among us because these guys are not only dangerous for India, but they could be a major risk for American democracy too. I mean, who can forget that Modi was actively supporting Trump during 2020 election even though it was completely against international democratic norms.

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United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Stephen Schneck called on the US government to condemn Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s regime for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedoms. 

“The Indian government at the local, state, and national level continues to create policies that negatively impact Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities,” said Commissioner Schneck.

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“Application of these policies has created a culture of impunity for national campaigns of violence against Muslims and Christians. The U.S. must designate India a country of particular concern. We at USCIRF continue to press President Biden and congress to do so.” 

Commissioner Schneck made these remarks at a congressional briefing organized by the India Working Group (IWG) on Capitol Hill this Tuesday. IWG is a working group of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. 

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Other discussants at the congressional briefing highlighted how PM Modi’s policies have led to massive loss of life and property for Muslims, Christians, and other minorities. These policies form the central focus of an Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) report titled, “Persecution as State Policy” which provides detailed accounts of violence by state and non-state actors against religious minorities in India.

The briefing also marked the 21st anniversary of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat by featuring a screening of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” which exposed PM Modi’s role, who was then the chief minister of the state in enabling the violence.

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Pogrom eyewitness and survivor Imran Dawood shared his powerful testimony in the documentary and with congress members. “My human dignity was taken away from me in Gujarat. I was forced to disrobe and show that I was circumcised by Hindu mobs. It was like in Nazi Germany. This should never happen again,” he said. 

While serving as chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi ordered police to stand down and “allow Hindus to vent their anger” as violent Hindu-supremacist mobs slaughtered more than 2,000 predominantly Muslim Indians, destroyed more than 350 Mosques, and razed 20,000 Muslim-owned properties. Rioters beat Dawood and left him for dead before killing his two uncles as well as their family friend. 

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“The trauma will always be with me but I won’t be defined by it. We must oppose the BJP’s hateful bulldozer policies,” Dawood said, referencing the BJP’s ongoing and extensive use of bulldozers to destroy Muslim-owned properties

Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of jailed whistleblower and former senior police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, discussed her father’s attempts to expose Modi’s role in the pogrom. Sanjiv had met with Modi during the three days of violence that rocked Gujarat and later testified to the Indian Supreme Court that Modi had ordered police to let violent mobs kill Muslims. Sanjiv Bhatt was fired from his post shortly after Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019 on bogus charges.

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“My father was framed and incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. His only crime was holding Modi and Amit Shah [Modi’s close political advisor] accountable for their heinous crimes,” Bhatt said of her father.  “Anyone who still thinks India is a democracy, they are in deception. A country that does not allow people to exercise their own religion, thought, speech, where one tweet can mean prison time, where your choice of food or spouse can result in you being lynched in broad daylight, where every media outlet is controlled by the regime — this is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship,” she added.

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Govind Acharya, India specialist for Amnesty International, also underscored India’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies. He condemned the U.S.’s reversal of its once condemnatory stance towards Modi, saying, “In 2005 the Bush administration denied Modi a Visa in recognition of his severe violations of religious freedom. He was a pariah. Now Modi is an integral part of the quad. Secretary Blinken will be in Delhi greeting Modi as part of G20 meetings. I invite everyone to see if human rights are on their agenda.”

Acharya further said, “there’s the injustice of Gujarat, and the decades of impunity that stemmed from the impunity of Gujarat.” He cited Modi and his Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) increasing use of bulldozers to demolish Muslim and Christian homes, the government’s use of sham financial charges to freeze the bank accounts of Muslim, Christian, and civil rights NGOs, and their weaponization of the love jihad conspiracy, which has led to violence and widespread criminalization of interfaith Hindu-Muslim marriages in BJP-ruled states.

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The pogroms left deep scars on Indian American consciences,” said IAMC Associate Director Amin Zama in closing. “We call on congress to push for a transparent and impartial investigation into the Gujarat pogrom and to prosecute those responsible for the crimes.”

International Society for Peace and Justice president Dr. Rehan Khan called on the United States government to officially declare Gujarat 2002 pogrom as genocide.

“This is the 21st anniversary of the Gujarat mass murder. Why are we talking about this 21 years later? Because the cycle of violence has not stopped yet. Hindu rightwing groups are terrorizing minorities,” Dr. Khan said.

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“We also call on the US government to designate Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal as terrorist organizations,” Dr. Khan added.

There is no doubt that India under PM Modi, who was once banned from entering the US, is fast becoming a fascist state. The ruling party is enabling violence and hate against Muslims and Christians. Recently Christmas celebrations in Churches were disrupted by Hindu terrorists.  PM Modi has kept silence over Christians and Muslims killings in India. India is becoming a rogue state, we dont know when Biden will wake up and call spade a spade.

At this point, we should all realize that Modi-BJP-RSS has only one agenda and that is hostile takeover of India to implement their regressive “Hindutva ” world view. They do not care about the human or economic cost. In fact, they are looking forward to it.

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Current situation on the ground is that all minorities are under severe emotional, physical and financial stress.  Each subsequent attack is more demeaning,  violent and costly in number of lives lost. State machinery which is supposed to provide law and order is proactively encouraging and abetting these violent crimes against minorities. I am afraid Modi-BJP-RSS will push India into a horrific situation where democracy, respect, decency, trust and constitutional order will all be dead.

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In my view, Biden and rest of the  democratic world should let Modi know that his fascist behavior will not be tolerated. Biden should layout exact consequences for trampling democratic norms.

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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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