If foreign countries and institutions start preparing reports on India based on observations or perceptions or statements by some Indian leaders, such reports are bound to be questioned on facts and intentions. Indictment of India only when it involves members of Muslim community forces one to question if such reports are meant to mollify the Muslim community that has charged the West of suffering from Islamophobia.
On 28 April 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that India should be placed on Religious Freedom Blacklist. The Indian government has rejected the report as “biased and new level of misrepresentation”.
Actually the report has brought Pakistan, India, China and North Korea on one platform. Not that the report would mean anything significant for the US administration, but it depicts the bias of the Left liberals in the US and other countries of the West and Europe. I will try to analyze this bias and look for the reasons. India is bound to feel hurt since its vibrant democracy has been compared to countries where democracy does not exist.
Let us try to understand what the report says. “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault,” and “called on the US to impose punitive measures, including visa bans, on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor the hate speech”.
The commission said that Modi’s ï¿½Hindu nationalist government’, which won a convincing election victory last year, “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence”. It spoke about revocation of Article 370 in only Muslim majority state and allegations that Delhi police turned a blind eye to mobs who attacked Muslim neighbourhoods in February this year.
In the context of the Citizenship Amendments Act, the report said that “the national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims”. It said: “The Citizenship (Amendment) Act potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation, and statelessness when the government completes its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens”.
Those who are aware of the Indian realities know that it is fighting against fundamentalist forces using democratic means. This country has a vibrant media, independent judiciary and a vociferous opposition. This is a country where every citizen vows by the constitution and nothing is done or can be done that would undermine the spirit of the constitution. If institutions are running as per mandate, how can one accuse these institutions of violating human rights or perpetrating discrimination?
Why then such a damning indictment? There is definitely more to it than that meets the eye. One must recall that this report has come after irresponsible statement by Arundhati Roy who compared the democratically elected government with the Nazis and said that the Muslims were being discriminated against (18 April 2020). A day after, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) criticized the Indian government saying there was Islamophobia in India.
“(We) urge the Indian Government to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in India and protect the rights of its persecuted Muslim minority as per its obligations under International Human Rights law,” said a tweet issued by the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (19 April).
One hundred and one former civil servants of India wrote an open letter to all the Chief Minister and Lieutenant Governors alleging harassment of Muslims while dealing with COVID-19 spread (23 April). United under the banner of Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), these officers from All India Services have complained that the Muslim community has been facing hostility ever since the news of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation spread across India. It included prominent Muslims including Wajahat Habibullah, Siraj Hussain, Najeeb Jung, Harsh Mandar and others.
The US panel report was followed by the chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan, who thanked Kuwait for “standing with Indian Muslims” and attacked Hindus. He said “Hindutva bigots have miscalculated the reaction of the Arab world about the persecution of Muslims in India”. Hindus will face an avalanche’ if Indian Muslims complain to their friends in the Arab world, he said.
A careful look at the dates when the statements were made would make anyone understand that there is someone working from behind and trying to defame India. Of course the Western world and Europe are not comfortable with India rising story. They keep painting India in the negative and describe Kashmir as one of the hotspots of conflict. Indian government has tried to resolve that without any help from the West. The Islamists, the Leftists and anti-India forces that had calculated that the entire world would come to support them had eggs on their face. They have been peddling lies to the western world that the Unity called India is artificial and that India is a nation of nationalities.
These forces tried their best to prevent Mr Narendra Modi from coming to power at the Centre. The same sets of people who wrote a letter to then US President Barack Obama in July 2013 asking him to deny Visa to Mr Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The idea was to defame Modi and prevent his rise.
It is not a rant. I have worked with the British High Commission in Delhi and I am aware of the tools foreign governments employ to have their say in Indian affairs. The NGOs funded by them, giving international awards to certain category of people and using them later to further their ends have been old techniques that were prevalent earlier. Under the new regime it does not work. Most of the fictitious NGOs have either been closed or their funds have stopped due to their failure on the accountability fronts. The panel’s call to fund these NGOs reflect their desperation.
I recall an interesting anecdote. I had gone to London on an official visit to toe Foreign Commonwealth Officer. Amnesty International and other such organizations have mastered the tool of influencing the government and shaping their policies. The British government takes care of them because of their nuisance value. A complaint was forwarded to me and I was asked to give a response. There was an alleged attack on a Church in Rajasthan under the regime of BJP’s Vasundhara Raje. The Church organization had sent complaint through Amnesty International. I did some Internet search there at the FCO and came across a photograph that showed the archbishop meeting the chief minister just two days after the date of the attack. I made my own inquiry and found that nothing like that had happened. I told them that the Archbishop had expressed happiness with the chief minister and had made no such complaint to her. Many such stories land at India desk of these countries in order to create an anti-India narrative.
It is quite possible that the US narrative is outcome of combined effort of anti-India forces. The Western media bias was visible when the Washington Times and others reported negatively on Delhi riots. Some of the facts that appeared in these media were challenged. They were determined to convert the riots into a pogrom. If we need to understand these we will have to understand the background of the writers who are setting the narrative. Most foreign correspondents based in India collate their information so that the narrative is the same.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemns violence and targeting of any community it does not make news to them because it would then damage their building blocks of state sponsored violence. The Prime Minister has always spoken about welfare of all and had been working day and night to ensure that all Indians are safe. If maulanas at the Markaz are condemned for spreading the virus, it is not blaming the entire Muslims community. This distinction is being made by ordinary Muslims but ignored by international media and vested community leaders. Others just chip in to support their narrative.
They can’t be blamed because their stories would sell back home only if it is negative. They think that India is a country of snake and ladders. They want to see poverty, conflict, violence, rape and inequality. The India rising story cannot sell. Also, somewhere down the line they are suffering from a complex because the entire West and Europe is gripped by Islamophobia. They try to show India in bad light to sound soothing to Muslims here and also back home.
(Sudesh Verma is National Spokesperson of BJP. The views expressed are personal.)