A Summary of Religious Freedom concerns in South Asia.
Friday, March 9, 2018 –Washington, D.C., The South Asia working group’s initial report to the International Religious Freedom Round-table.
There is a dire need to address the violations of religious and political freedoms in South Asia comprising the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
A critical note – when a reference is made to the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, India, Russia or others, it is not “all” people of that faith or country. It is usually a small percent of disaffected people from among the majority who feel threatened about their future and their way of life.
The Center for Pluralism offers a solution to counter that – We need to reassure each other in conflict, particularly those who may be troubled by the changing paradigms and demographics of the society that we are committed to safeguarding the way of life for everyone. As Citizens of a given nation, we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values of liberty and freedom enshrined in the Constitution. We acknowledge that not all constitutions have the element of freedom embedded in it – an example would be the rights of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan and rights of Arab Israelis.
There are pending issues that are simmering and may boil over one day. We hope to understand these issues and do our share of reporting them to the International Religious Freedom Round Table, an informal group.
This group will identify problems and offer recommendations and possible solutions, and they are;
- Monitoring to ensure the individual rights of people are protected.
- Facilitate democratic values and hoping for stable political and economic climate
- Secure our long-term interests of the safety of Americans and their investments
Governor Sam Brownback, the newly appointed Ambassador for religious freedom, said in the inaugural reception. The essence of which was -if you want a nation to have peace, give the people their freedom, but if you push them to the corner, their anger will morph into extremism, and everyone will lose in the end.
Here is a summary; a detailed report is in the making and will be produced upon a request.
There is no doubt a lot of good things are happening, but our focus is how to identify exceptional violations of human rights and religious freedom.
The commissioners of USCRIF have been the denied visa to India to investigate, among other things; Sikh Genocide, Massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, the plight of Hindu Pundits and the caster system that mistreats the Dalits who are shamefully called untouchables. Most of the Hindu American organizations have an affiliation with the ruling party in India; we need them to stand up for the religious rights of the people and work on getting the Visas to the commissioners for an honest evaluation of the situation.
The policies of the government will lead to mass suicides by the farmers. The Farmers raise the cattle to sell and eke out a living. Now, they are afraid to sell the cattle for fear of being killed by the vigilantes and the Government does nothing. The Cows have gone astray and are eating the farmer’s crops and eating trash on the streets – the cows are treated with disrespect and left on their own, its gross violation of animal rights.
In India currently, you do not have the freedom to eat, drink, wear or believe in the pursuit of your happiness.
A Dalit* groom rode a horse on his wedding Baraat (Procession) in the state of Uttar Pradesh last month; the upper caste Hindus could not stomach the “neech –i.e., the low caste untouchable” ride above them and they ended beat him up. Last week an Adivasi (Tribal) Girl was burnt alive. The upper caste Hindus feel entitled to the Dalit women for their pleasures. It is an endless agony for the Dalits. They cannot even convert to other faiths to escape these attitudes due to enforced anti-conversion laws.
Here is a report from the Dalit Leaders in India.
“The many millenia old caste systems and the ‘unparalleled social abuse of untouchability (A.J.Toynbee)’ are based on religious doctrines of Brahminical Hinduism. Thus, caste based violations of human rights in India are expressions of the utter lack of religious freedom.
This perilous situation is aggravated by anti-conversion laws that have been passed in many states of India. Their purpose is to prevent Dalits from converting to other religions where they would not be considered untouchable’.https://www.loc.gov/law/help/anti-conversion-laws/india.php
The inferior status that Hinduism accords to Dalits, in spite of the equalities guaranteed by the constitution of the country, reflects in severe social, economic, and educational inequalities.
Dalits continue to suffer extreme prejudice and deprivation, apart from institutional harassment. Violence against Dalits – public shaming, beatings, rape, murder – is a daily occurrence. The law enforcement agencies, police and the judiciary, largely remain mute spectators, if not actively conniving in the violence.
Statistics show that violence against Dalits has only increased in recent years. Religious freedom and equality thus remain a mirage for 200 million Dalits in India. ”
The Muslims are lynched and killed for doubt of possessing beef; fake encounters is common practice to trap the young Muslim boys; RSS (political Hindus in the guise of culture) set the bomb blasts in Mumbai and other places and blamed Muslims. Muzaffarnagar and other riots were created to pit Hindus against Indians.
Christian Nuns are raped; pastors are chased and beat up in the public. The Christians Churches are burned, and the couples are constantly harassed on Valentine’s Day and Christmas Day. The Dalits are forced to convert back to Hinduism.
Justice to Sikhs is not done yet; mothers are still waiting for their unaccounted children from the Sikh Genocide of 84 where in three days, the extremists among Hindus butchered about 3000 Sikhs.
Blatant discrimination births frustration leading to violent expressions, when that happens the foreign investors will pull out, who wants to invest in a place where their investments are not secure. It’s happened in India in the mid-60’s, mid 70’s and it has happened in South Africa. The consequences do not bring goodwill.
There is a significant crisis brewing in India, and the Supreme Court will render a judgment about the disputed land and authority to build or not build a Hindu temple, where a 500-year-old Muslim Mosque was razed to the ground.
The Supreme Court of India would review the documents if that Mosque were built razing a temple. The internationally famed Guru of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has sowed the seeds of discontentment. Instead of suggesting the public to respect the Supreme Court’s decision, he has predicted civil war if the Court decides one way or the other. He has shown disrespect to the average Hindu and average Muslim who have demonstrated respect to the decisions of the Apex Court, several times in the recent past.
We pray that the Modi government and the State Government will offer strong safety protections to the public at least for a few months after December 5, 2018, the new date of the verdict.
Harassment of all minorities continues unabated. Ahmadiyya Muslims are denied their right to call themselves Muslims. There are numerous billboards that proclaim that it is legitimate to kill Ahmadiyya. The Hindu population is steadily declining as a percentage of the overall population with forced conversions. Christians are targeted with blasphemy and apostasy laws; these are the fake encounters. The Apostasy and Blasphemy laws were created to appease the tyrant kings and have no basis in the religion of Islam, and both are tools of oppression.
The Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, and Ahmadiyya Muslims live in apprehension; the Atheist bloggers have been killed. There is a deficiency of law and order.
The ethnic violence continues between the Buddhists and Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims. Sri Lanka’s president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread. The emergency announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the cities outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. The attacks followed reports that a group of Muslims had killed a Buddhist man. Police fired tear gas into the crowds, and later announced a curfew in the town. The government will “act sternly against groups that are inciting religious hatred,” Cabinet minister Rauff Hakeem said after a meeting with the president.
It seems this nation is free from religious strife at this time, as it has undergone tumultuous political conflicts including a change in the form of Government from Monarchy to a democratic Republic.
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A full report will be made available upon request.
IRF Roundtable – South Asia working group.