IAMC condemns U.S. Commerce Secretary’s praise for PM Modi amid minority persecution - IAMC

IAMC condemns U.S. Commerce Secretary’s praise for PM Modi amid minority persecution

Washington, DC (April 17, 2023) –The Indian American Muslim Council, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has condemned the recent comments made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite the ongoing persecution of religious minorities, journalists, activists and critics in India.

While speaking at an event organized by the Indian Embassy on April 16, Raimondo described Modi as “unbelievable, visionary” and “the most popular world leader for a reason.”

“His level of commitment to the people of India is just indescribable and deep and passionate and real and authentic. His desire to lift people out of poverty and move India forward as a global power is real, and it is happening,” Raimondo said.

Raimondo’s comments are blatantly untrue on several levels. Her assertion that “India has more than arrived” in terms of economic power belies the findings of the International Monetary Fund, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), and India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation: that inflation is rising, unemployment has skyrocketed to a 45-year high, and India’s GDP fell to its lowest in a decade after Modi came to power.

More importantly, Raimondo’s remarks about Modi as a “visionary” leader are in direct contradiction with the findings and reports published by her own government, including the India Reports on Human Rights Practices by the Department of State, as well as the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual reports on egregious human rights and religious freedom violations in India.

Last month, the State Department released its 2022 report, which extensively documents accelerating human rights abuses in India under the rule of PM Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The report cited numerous instances of violent attacks and killings of Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities, government-led demolitions of Muslim homes, discriminatory laws targeted at Muslims, arrest of government critics, government censorship of media, attacks on journalists, and numerous other indicators of rising authoritarianism and widespread anti-Muslim practices.

In June 2022, Secretary Antony Blinken openly called out India for violent attacks against its religious minorities.

“In India, the world’s largest democracy and home to great diversity of faiths, we have seen a rise in attacks on people and places of worship,” Secretary Blinken said.

USCIRF has for three consecutive years recommended that the State Department designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” for egregious violations of religious freedoms, putting it in the category of the world’s worst authoritarian regimes like Iran, China, and North Korea.

USCIRF Chair Nury Tukel has gone as far as to express his frustration that India has not yet been included on the CPC list, saying that “USCIRF is tremendously disappointed that the Secretary of State did not… recognize the severity of the religious freedom violations that both USCIRF and the State Department have documented in India.”

This reality has been noted by other officials within the US government as well. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain has stated that his department is “concerned with the targeting of a number of communities in India, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, [and] the Hindu Dalit community and indigenous communities.”

The world’s most prominent human rights groups have written numerous reports, conclusively proving that under the Modi government, the persecution of religious minorities, journalists, activists, and critics has become a state policy.

Under Modi’s rule, India has slipped from 140 to 150 in the World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog. Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group, has ranked India as only a “partly free” nation due to government crackdowns and persecution. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published dozens of reports holding the Modi-led BJP government responsible for an alarming surge in hate speech and violence against religious minorities.

UN Special Rapporteur for Minority Rights Fernand de Varennes has said that “nothing short of an international investigative mechanism – as has been done by the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council for countries such as Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia – may be necessary” to reverse the trend of violence against minorities in India.

Genocide Watch, a US-based human rights watchdog, placed India at Stage 8 (persecution) of genocide according to Dr. Gregory Stanton’s 10 Stages of Genocide in 2022. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has warned that India is among the top ten likeliest places in the world for new mass killings against minorities.

IAMC calls on Secretary Raimondo to retract her statement and acknowledge the violations of human rights and religious freedoms taking place in India. The United States must stand firm in its commitment to human rights and democratic values, and we urge the Biden administration to hold the Modi government accountable for its actions. We stand in solidarity with all those affected by the persecution in India and will continue to advocate for their rights and dignity.