The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com
), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has marked India’s Republic Day with celebrations in four US cities, while pledging to safeguard India’s secular and pluralist Constitution from attacks by divisive forces.
IAMC organized two events during the weekend of January 24th, one each in Minnesota and Florida. Two more events are scheduled to be held next weekend, one each in New Jersey and Chicago (Illinois). Attendees at each event include representatives of various faiths, elected officials and prominent members of the diaspora. Consul General of India Dr. Ausaf Sayeed will be the keynote speaker at the event in Chicago.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) was honored in Minneapolis by the “Champion of Human Rights and Social Justice Award” in an event that was also attended by Ms. Amy Bergquist, Assistant Director of “Advocates for Human Rights.”
|Mr. Chao Lee, accepting the “Champion of Human Rights and Social Justice” Award on behalf of Congresswoman Betty McCollum
In a letter accepting the award, Congresswoman McCollum expressed her commitment to continue to work “to advance human rights at home and abroad.” “With our collective voice, we can make a difference in the lives of others,” the letter stated.
“The Republic Day celebrations remind us yet again, that the foundations of the Indian Republic are based on the ideals of justice, pluralism and democracy,” said Mr. Umar Malick, President of IAMC. “Unfortunately, the Constitution is under threat, by the onslaught of a relentlessly divisive and hateful agenda, espoused by narrow, sectarian interests,” added Mr. Malick.
This year’s Republic Day has a special significance, with President Obama visiting India as the Chief Guest for the celebrations in New Delhi. In a letter, delivered to the White House before President Obama’s departure for India, IAMC called the President’s trip an opportunity for the two countries to “come closer not only in matters of common strategic interests, but also on issues related to our common values.”
“As signatories to the UN Declaration of Human rights, both India and the US have a shared commitment to religious freedom and human rights. It is in this context we wish to bring to your attention deeply disturbing developments in the world’s largest democracy, that are having a profoundly negative impact on millions of religious minorities in India, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis,” the letter stated.
The series of attacks on churches in New Delhi, the campaign to forcibly convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism undertaken by Hindu supremacist organizations and the incendiary rhetoric adopted by ministers and members of Parliament belonging to the ruling dispensation have created a sense of siege among the religious minorities, and were mentioned in the letter to President Obama.
|IAMC event in Florida included flag hoisting at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi
The letter urged the President to express concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation of minorities, to direct the State Department to include human rights and religious freedom within the framework of the US-India Strategic Dialogue and to call on India’s administration to pursue policies that are “equitable and representative of India’s secular constitution and its long-standing tradition of pluralism.”
“Without international concern over the plight of minorities in India, a population of over 200 million representing India’s religious minorities would be faced with heightened persecution, constricted freedom of religion and diminishing civil liberties,” the letter added.
IAMC has consistently marked Annual Republic Day celebrations in different cities across the US for over 8 years. This year’s festivities included speeches celebrating the Constitution, a flag hoisting ceremony, a fancy dress competition and cultural events highlighting India’s diversity.