A key US Congressional committee has called for a public hearing on violence against Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in India early next month.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has invited experts from India, the US and the UK to testify before it on June 3. The hearing would be led by Congressman Patrick Meehan, co-chair of the American Sikh Caucus and Congressmen Joseph Pitts and Jim McGovern, co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
No US government official would testify before the committee. This briefing will outline the important legal, social and cultural issues related to the persecution of minorities in India..
Panelists include Rev Joshva Raja, Research Supervisor, University of Amsterdam; Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, director, Institute for Leadership and Community Development, United Kingdom; and Professor Gurdarshan Sing Dhillon, Professor of History (retired), Punjab University.
Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch will be among the experts who will testify before the committee.
The panelists will also make recommendations as to how the US can play a role to safeguard religious minorities in India and around the world, a statement of the committee said.
India's constitution guarantees that "all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion," the statement said. However, attacks against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits have increased in recent years, it alleged.
A 2015 report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom asked the Obama Administration to press the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who endorse these hateful acts, the committee further added.
On a visit to India in January this year, US President Barack Obama had also prodded India to uphold the religious freedom guaranteed by its founding fathers.
“Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear of discrimination,” he had told a largely young audience during his town-hall style address in New Delhi.
The US President had cited the promise of freedom to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
“Nowhere is that more important than India, nowhere is it going to be more necessary for that foundational value to be upheld. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith, along lines of anything, and is unified as one nation,” said Obama.
(With inputs from PTI)