America overlooks religious intolerance in India

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Iqbal Khan

IN its China phobic approach, the US has blindfolded itself to shield against the ground reality about religious intolerance in India. Designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” by the US under its “International Religious Freedom Act of 1998” is completely against the realities on the ground and raises serious doubts about the credibility of the exercise. Systematic demonisation, dispossession, marginalisation and targeted violence against Muslims using the communal slur of “love jihad” in Hindutva-inspired India has become commonplace. It is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynching of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators. State complicity in organized violence against the Muslim minority in India is a matter of record.
The findings and recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the US Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom all over the country including in the Muslim-majority IIOJK(Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir) were mischievously ignored by the US State Department. The glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom and discriminate against minority communities in an institutionalised manner, is unfortunate and puts the credibility of the US report into question. Pakistan has aptly rejected the US State Department’s “arbitrary and selective assessment” on religious freedom, terming it counterproductive to promote bilateral relations. Pakistan and the US have been constructively engaging on the subject at the bilateral level, a fact regrettably overlooked by the US. Such subjective designations do not contribute towards promoting the cause of religious freedom worldwide. The invoked Act is purely a political tool to arm twist the countries which do not fall in line with the American foreign policy’s overall objectives. This Act is nonbinding, both inside and outside the US. Recently, at the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held at Niamey, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called upon the Indian Government to take immediate steps “[It also calls upon New Delhi to] fulfil its responsibilities under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments including the recommendations of the OIC.”OIC also called upon the Indian Government to take immediate steps to implement its commitment to reconstruct the Babri Mosque on its original site. It also urged India to punish those responsible for the mosque’s demolition, to prevent the construction of a temple on its site, take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the other 3,000 historic mosques, and ensure the safety and protection of the Muslims and their holy sites throughout India. But myopic Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not see all this. Most of those designated are Muslim countries. This makes Indo-US anti-Muslim nexus so obvious.
Pakistan and China were among several countries designated by the State Department as countries of “particular concerns” regarding religious freedom on the recommendations of the US International Commission on Religious Freedom (USICRF). However, the State Department rejected the proposal to place India in the list as well. Silence of the so-called human rights champion is rather intriguing after the Indian occupational army has itself confessed that it had killed the ordinary Muslim civilians in fake encounters in Indian illegally occupied Kashmir, and later declared them terrorists. Most of the encounters taking place in the occupied territory are fake. It is no longer a secret that the Indian Army is engaged in naked terrorism and ethnic cleansing of innocent Kashmiri Muslims in the occupied territory. During the year 2020, Indian Army violated the Line of Control for more than 3,000 times. As a consequence, 30 innocent civilians were martyred and more than 180 others including over 90 women and 67 children, got injured or became disabled—all Muslims. It was the bloodiest year in terms of the Indian brutalities.
Incident of killing of three innocent young Muslim labourers at the hands of Indian Army in Shopian district of occupied Kashmir and later placing weapons on their corpses to declare them militants and terrorists, as exposed by the Kashmir police after an in-depth investigation, should serve as an eye-opener for the United States. And the United Nations should constitute a Commission of Inquiry to visit IIOJ&K and look into human rights violations there. India has been using the tools of oppression and ill-treatment to spread a sense of fear among the unarmed and innocent Muslim people of IIOJK for more than seven decades. Thousands of Kashmiris including innocent youths, members of civil society, journalists and Kashmiri leaders remain incarcerated in Indian prisons, several of them at unrevealed locations and aloof from their families. The Indian forces still operate in the illegally occupied territory with complete impunity under draconian laws like Public Safety Act (PSA) and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Several senior Muslim Kashmiri leaders, including elderly Syed Ali Gilani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, are also under house detention, while other prominent leaders, such as Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmed Shah and Masarrat Aalam Mutt are in New Delhi’s notorious Tihar Jail. Andrabi like other Kashmiri leaders has been illegally arrested over malicious, false and fabricated charges by the Indian Government through invoking draconian laws promulgated in IIOJK. Imprisonment and torturing of Muslim Kashmiri leaders on the premise of their political ideology and struggle against illegal Indian occupation can be termed a true reflection of the extremist mindset of the RSS-BJP regime that has no respect for the human rights, especially religious tolerance.
India has also been running a campaign under the caption “India Chronicles” to evolve negative perceptions about Pakistan through disinformation campaign based onlaundering of Fake News through repackaging. The network is active in Brussels and Geneva in producing and amplifying content to undermine Pakistan. To do so, India resurrected dead NGOs at the UN, impersonated the EU, laundered content produced by fake media to real media –that subsequently reached millions in South Asia and across the world. To achieve this, operation resorted to malicious funding of minority and human rights NGOs and think-tanks. Pakistani society is multi-religious and pluralistic with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. Religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed by its Constitution which are ensured through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures. In the broader perspective, redressal of the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding. Pakistan is sincerely playing its part in this endeavour and will continue to do so.
—The Islamabad-based writer is a retired army officer and a regular contributor to the national press.

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