US Congressmen ask Speaker to take up human rights issue with Modi

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan group of 18 lawmakers from the US Congress has urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to keep the issue of severe human rights violation in India on top during his Wednesday’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a letter written by 18 Congressmen and led by Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), the lawmakers pointed out to the Speaker about the ongoing harassment against religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to address the joint session on  Wednesday, but a day before the Human Rights Commission of the US Congress held a hearing to discuss the human rights violation in India.

“We respectfully request that during your meetings with the Prime Minister, the ‘shared value’ of the fundamental right of religious freedom will be a priority in your conversation,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

“Religious minority communities including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs”  have endured ongoing violence and harassment for decades in India, and continue to live in a climate where known perpetrators commit violence with impunity, they said.

They reminded the Speaker that it was in the best interest of the United States and India to reaffirm religious freedom as a shared value in this growing partnership, and ensure that conversation concerning justice and accountability for such horrific acts of violence continues.

In the letter, the lawmakers cite several specific examples of violent attacks that have killed or displaced religious minorities. Human rights groups in India have investigated and traced these attacks to specific groups, but a current climate of impunity exists in India around such attacks and many victims never receive justice.

“The important relationship between India and the United States is based on our shared democratic values. Religious minorities in India – Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs – deserve the freedom to live out their faith without fear,” Representative McCollum said.

“As we celebrate the strong bilateral partnership between India and the United States, we must continue to prioritize religious freedom for all Indians.”

In addition to Representatives McCollum and Franks, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Randy Weber (R-TX), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Mike Honda (D-CA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), John Garamendi (D-CA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA) signed the letter to Speaker Ryan. –APP