Biden should tell Modi that US will be, “compelled by law to designate India as CPC” if anti-minority violence continues, says former USCIRF chair
Washington, D.C. (September 13, 2023) – During a Congressional Briefing held on Capitol Hill, Nadine Maenza, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), stated the Biden administration should raise issues of mass anti-minority mob violence —particularly in Haryana and Manipur— with Modi, and inform him that if such violence continues, the US will be “compelled by law” to designate India as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom.
In recent months, India has witnessed a troubling increase in incidents of Hindu militant mob violence targeting minority communities. Haryana and Manipur have witnessed particularly egregious acts of brutality. In August, an armed Hindu militant procession wreaked havoc in Muslim-majority areas of Haryana, resulting in arson, stone pelting, and physical violence. Tragically, this violence claimed the life of a 19-year-old imam and five others. Concurrently, Manipur’s predominantly Christian Kuki-Zo tribe has faced violent attacks by the majority Hindu Meitei population since May, including beheadings, immolations, and horrifying gang rapes.
Maenza stated that for the past four years, USCIRF has been calling on the US Department of State to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a label reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedoms.
“For at least the last five years, religious freedom conditions have deteriorated in India, making them now among the worst in the world,” said Maenza. “We can’t just ignore the facts on the ground, especially with Manipur on fire… it is important that [the Biden administration] raise these issues directly with Prime Minister Modi and explain how – without change – they will be compelled by law to designate India as a CPC.”
During the briefing, Florence Lowe, co-founder of the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about atrocities against the Kuki-Zo, shared a harrowing personal account of her family’s experience in Manipur.
“My family home was attacked and my 77-year-old mother had to run and hide from the mob that had burned their church… they have lost everything to arson and looting,” she recounted.
“It boggles the mind to realize that they are the lucky ones,” she added. “That same day, other people of my tribe were not as lucky. Some were bludgeoned to death, over the next few days others were raped, gang raped, burned to death. They did not even spare a 7-year-old boy.”
Investigative reporter Astha Savyasachi, who was part of a fact-finding team that investigated the cause of the recent anti-Muslim violence in Haryana, debunked myths spread by Hindu supremacists blaming Muslims for the violence.
“Right-wing groups instigated the violence through a sustained hate campaign against Muslims [in which] provocative media content targeting Muslims was circulated on social media by far-right Hindu extremist groups,” said Savyasachi.
She added that in addition to raising genocidal anti-Muslim slogans, the Hindu militant procession was heavily armed. Despite the blatant provocation, police and the administration “largely remained indifferent” to the violence, bulldozing over 1,200 Muslim-owned shops and businesses in the aftermath.
Prominent activist Sharjeel Usmani stated that the violence in Haryana follows a pattern seen in other cases of mass Hindu mob violence across India.
“First, the Hindu militant outfits attack Muslim localities. They burn down properties, vandalize mosques, demolish shrines, beat up Muslims,” Usmani said. “Then the police accuse Muslims of [committing] the violence they were victims of… and [they] launch their own series of violent measures against Muslims, [including] arresting Muslim youth and demolishing Muslim properties.”
“The kind of impunity the Hindu right-wing in India enjoys today has not happened before in history, ever,” he added. “And this government has incentivized the hate, so much so that the more cruel you are to Muslims, the more chance you have of being successful in your politics.”