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34 US lawmakers express concerns over violence against minorities, write to Modi

india Updated: Feb 28, 2016 09:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
US lawmakers write to Modi

Butchers and beef traders gathered in huge numbers at Azad Maidan to protest against Maharashtra government’s decision to ban beef. (Arijit Sen/HT photo)

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 34 US lawmakers have expressed “grave concerns” over “increasing intolerance and violence” against members of minority communities in India.

“Our strong support of this partnership (India-US partnership) encourages us to relay our grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence members of India’s religious minority communities experience,” said the lawmakers in a letter sent Friday.

“We urge your government to take immediate steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of religious minorities are protected and that the perpetrators of violence are held to account.”

The letter released by The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus of the House of Representatives, was signed by eight senators and 26 members of the House, from both parties.

It refers to a June 2014 ban on “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches” in their communities imposed by 50 village councils in Bastar, Chattisgarh, which it says has effectively “criminalized the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region”.

The letter then said the “nearly country-wide beef ban is increasing tensions and encouraging vigilante violence against the Indian Muslim community”. And mentioned killings of Mohammed Hasmat Ali in Manipur and Mohammed Saif in Uttar Pradesh.

It went on to cite the death of two Sikh men in October during protests over the desecration of the religion’s holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Applauding the prime minister’s February 2014 statement that the government was committed to “ensure that there is complete freedom of faith... and not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others,” the lawmakers said, “We urge you to turn these words into action.”