Bernie Sanders slams Trump for not pressing India on anti-CAA protests

Updated on Feb 27, 2020 09:45 PM IST

The senator had earlier criticized the $3 billion defence deal announced by India and the United States during Trump’s visit, saying the two countries should instead work together to combat climate change.

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders had criticized the restrictions imposed in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, and demanded they be lifted.(REUTERS PHOTO.)
US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders had criticized the restrictions imposed in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, and demanded they be lifted.(REUTERS PHOTO.)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination, has said it was a “failure of leadership” for President Donald Trump to dismiss ongoing clashes between protestors and supporters of the new citizenship amendment law in India as an internal matter during his visit.

The senator had earlier criticized the $3 billion defence deal announced by India and the United States during Trump’s visit, saying the two countries should instead work together to combat climate change.

“Over 200 million Muslims call India home,” Sanders wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Widespread anti-Muslim mob violence has killed at least 27 and injured many more. Trump responds by saying, ‘That’s up to India.’ This is a failure of leadership on human rights.”

Asked about his position on the Citizenship Amendment Act at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, President Trump had said, “I don’t want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India, and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people. That’s really up to India.”

Asked specially about the violence and casualties, the president had taken much the same line. “That’s up to India,” he said.

On Thursday, the state department called for peace and respect for the right of peaceful assembly. “Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased and injured in New Delhi,” Alice G Wells, the top diplomat for South and Central Asia, wrote on Twitter. “We echo PM @NarendraModi’s call for calm and normalcy and urge all parties to maintain peace, refrain from violence, and respect the right of peaceful assembly.”

Trump did raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and came away satisfied with what he heard. “I will say that the Prime Minister was incredible on what he told me. He wants people to have religious freedom, and very strongly. And he said that in India they have -- they have worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom.”

Critics had expected Trump to be more forceful, perhaps along the same lines as President Barack Obama during his 2015 visit. There is a need to reaffirm, he had said in a speech at Siri Fort, “that 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 and discrimination”.

He had added, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith -- so long as it’s not splintered along any lines -- and is unified as one nation.”

The Wednesday tweet was the third time Sanders had taken aim at India while running for president this time (he ran in 2016 also). In August, the senator had criticized the restrictions imposed in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, and demanded they be lifted and “the United States government must speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law and its support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people.”

Pramila Jayapal, an Indian American member of the House of Representatives and a close associate of Sanders, has introduced a resolution in the House seeking the removal of those restrictions and the protection of religious freedom in India. It has been supported thus far by 62 other members, including five Republicans.

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