Incidents of violence and racism against minorities, including attacks on Muslims and Dalits, aren’t keeping with the country’s legal protections for minorities, said the US diplomat to the Congressional Subcommittee on Monday.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells told Subcommittee on the Pacific, Asia, and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “incidents of violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.”
Ms. Wells stated that the United States calls upon the Government of India to “fully” uphold the universal right to religious freedom and protect vulnerable individuals, “including the 1.9 million people in Assam at risk for statelessness because of questions about their citizenship; condemn all incidents of violence, and hold perpetrators accountable.”
She continued that 68 percent of eligible voters in India had gone to elections earlier this year for a historic win, adding that Indians of every caste, religion, socio-economic, and sect background had participated in the remarkable display of parliamentary democracy, which was further witnessed a record turnout of women voters.
Ms. Wells further said that “India’s robust civil society and democratic institutions are all the more remarkable given its immense size and the challenges it faces in terms of development.”
These also comprise of the country’s understaffed and overwhelmed court system and its extraordinary federal structure, which at times complicates governance and policies. Around one-third of the population is living at or below the poverty line, the local governments have often struggled with competing priorities, she said.
Proclaiming that India is a flourishing democracy that enjoys a strong and growing strategic partnership with America, Ms. Wells stated that the relationship between Washington and India is broader in scope and multifaceted.
“As with every country, we engage with India on issues of human rights and religious freedom. We also press India for progress on parental child abduction, consistent with the priority we place on safeguarding the welfare of US citizens abroad, including children,” said Ms. Wells in a prepared statement submitted to the Congressional Subcommittee on the eve of the hearing “Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region.”
Noting that America is proud to build a partnership with India, she further stated that its Constitution mandates a secular state that upholds the rights of all citizens to practice freedom of expression and speech, religion freely, and equal treatment before the law.
India is the birthplace of four major religions – Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. India is also the home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population, a diverse community of sects, which includes Shia, Sufis, and Bohra. Around 3 percent of the country’s citizens are Christian, and they are the religious majority in three of twenty-nine Indian states, said Ms. Wells.
“India has a proud history with the Jewish faith the oldest synagogue in the country dates to 1568. We also appreciate India’s longstanding support for Tibetan refugees and the Dalai Lama. Adding to this diverse mosaic are India’s many regional and linguistic communities. Indeed, on every Indian rupee note the denomination value is printed in 15 different languages a remarkable display of India’s rich diversity,” added Alice G Wells.