US-BASED CIVIL RIGHTS COMMUNITY URGES DEPUTY SECRETARY WENDY SHERMAN TO RAISE ISSUE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN HER MEETINGS WITH INDIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TODAY
October 6, 2021
US Department of State
Re: Raising human rights concerns during upcoming India visit on October 6-7
Dear Deputy Secretary Sherman,
We, the undersigned civil rights organizations and human rights defenders based in the United States, write this letter to urge you to raise the issue of deterioration of human rights in India in your meetings with Indian Government officials this week.
Your visit to India represents a crucial opportunity for the United States to affirm its support for human rights in that country. In particular, we request you to raise the following issues in your engagements with the Government of India:
Releasing Political Prisoners: We note with alarm the growing number of human rights defenders detained under anti-terrorism laws. In the Bhima Koregaon matter, the accused, who are champions of the rights of Dalits and advisasis, have been held in pre-trial detention for over three years. We await with anticipation the decision of the Bombay High Court on their bail applications. Thousands of other human rights defenders, such as Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Waheed Para, and Siddique Kappan. have been targeted solely because they are Muslims, including those who have opposed through nonviolent protests the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. Despite reaching the Supreme Court, over 600 habeas corpus petitions have not been heard since the mass arrests that occurred after the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomous status in August 2019.
Crimes Against Dalits and Adivasis: The National Crime Records Bureau recently reported a dramatic 9.4% increase in crimes against Dalits in 2020, with over 50,000 cases reported. 25% of these cases come from one state alone, Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, crimes against Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) also rose by 9.2%. A pattern of State complicity in atrocities against Dalits has been evident, with the horrifying treatment of the deceased person and her family by the State of Uttar Pradesh in the Hathras case, as well as the arrest and harassment of journalists who sought to bring the case into public view. It is crucial that the alarming rise in caste-based atrocities be brought to the attention of Indian authorities.
Farmers’ Protests: Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have protested for over a year against laws they consider against their interests. Yet Mr. Modi’s government has refused to determine a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Just this week, at least six people, including farmers, were killed when a vehicle carrying functionaries of Mr. Modi’s party, the BJP, ran over those participating in a farmers’ protest. Mr. Modi’s government has deployed the worst tools of repression against the farming community to brutally suppress their legitimate protests.
Press Freedoms: Mr. Modi’s government is carrying out reprisals against newspapers, television news stations, websites and individual journalists who have criticized its policies. News offices have been raided by tax authorities and journalists have faced criminal charges and arrest.
Attacks on Muslims: Attacks on India’s Muslim population, which numbers nearly 200 million, have become commonplace across India, led by vigilante mobs aided and abetted by the police. Just last week, a Muslim man was decapitated by a Hindu supremacist group that is aligned with Mr. Modi’s BJP and Hindu majoritarian ideology. Multiple cases of Muslims being lynched to death with impunity have arisen, as well driven out of their homes, as is now happening in Assam. Muslims are routinely accused falsely of terrorism and other state crimes and incarcerated for extended periods without trial, destroying their families’ lives. Mosques are also routinely attacked. This week, a mausoleum of a Muslim saint was bombed by a Hindu majoritarian group.
Attacks on Christians: Vigilante mobs belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, two militant outfits associated with the BJP, have repeatedly attacked churches across India. Instead of acting against them, the police have arrested and charged the victims, including priests and pastors who are wrongfully accused of carrying out forced conversions. Nearly a dozen Indian states have passed anti-conversion laws that are fundamentally discriminatory and used to target Christians and Muslims.
FCRA: Last year’s revisions in the FCRA continue to be of serious concern to the people of the United States. We appreciate the recent decision to extend the validity of FCRA certificates until the end of the year, but remain concerned about this provision as the pandemic continues and CSOs are in need of support. We would urge the Government of India to indefinitely suspend provisions on renewal and sub-granting during the pandemic.
We are grateful for your time and attention in considering these requests. We wish you a safe and productive visit to India.
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)
Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)
International Christian Concern (ICC)
International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR)
Federation of Indian American Christians of North America (FIACONA)
Justice for All (JfA)
New York State Council of Churches
India Civil Watch International
Ambedkar International Center (AIC)
Dalit Solidarity Forum
Center for Pluralism
Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM)
Arjun S. Sethi, Georgetown University Law Center