Washington, February 27
Expressing “grave concern” over the violence in New Delhi, a US commission on international religious freedom urged the Indian government to take swift action for the safety of its citizens.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the Indian government should provide protection to people regardless of their faith amid reports of attack on Muslims and expressed “grave concern” over the violence.
“We urge the Indian government to make serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said in a statement on Wednesday.
Reacting to the statement, India on Thursday described the comments by the USCIRF and by “a few individuals” over the violence in Delhi as “factually inaccurate, misleading” and an attempt to politicise the issue.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We have seen comments made by USCIRF, sections of the media and a few individuals regarding recent incidents of violence in Delhi. These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicising the issue.”
US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and a number of other leading American lawmakers have also expressed concern over the clashes in several parts of Delhi in which 34 people have been killed.
Though the MEA did not clarify the individuals being referred to, it is being seen as a reference to US lawmakers critical of India on the issue of the Delhi violence.
USCIRF Chair Perkins said the “ongoing violence we are witnessing in Delhi and the reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and shops, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing. One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith”.
USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said the “brutal and unchecked violence” across Delhi could not continue.
“The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of its citizens,” she said, adding that reports are mounting that “Delhi Police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens”.
“These incidents are even more concerning in the context of efforts within India to target and potentially disenfranchise Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards,” Bhargava said.
In its 2019 report, the USCIRF had classified India as a “Tier 2” country for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious standard for designations as a country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Meanwhile, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the Indian-American Muslim Council (IAMC) issued statements condemning the violence.
“We strongly condemn the violence, loss of life and destruction of places of worship in India this week. There is no religious, historical or political justification possible for what is happening in New Delhi,” Suhag Shukla from the HAF said, adding that the perpetrators, no matter the religious community to which they belonged, should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The IAMC urged the “international community to call out India for its relentless attacks on minorities and marginalised communities”.
“The latest spate of violence in Delhi is a harbinger of things to come under an avowed Hindutva administration that is violating human rights and religious freedom at a pace rarely seen in history,” it alleged.
The MEA said the law enforcement agencies are working on the ground to prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy.
“Senior representatives of the government have been involved in that process. The prime minister has publicly appealed for peace and brotherhood. We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time,” said MEA spokesperson Kumar. PTI