(Image source from: ThePrint)
Religious freedom groups and activists in the United States have urged Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to take all necessary measures to restrain the rise of Hindutva extremism and penalize groups involved in violence against religious minorities in the country.
The request was put forward during a briefing titled 'Religious Freedom in India: A Briefing on Capitol Hill', organized by the Indian-American Muslim Council, at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday which was attended by Congressional staffs, activists, State Department officials, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and civil society members.
"The failure of prime minister Modi to definitively condemn and to definitively distance himself from the extreme elements of his party has played a substantial and significant role in bringing about the situation that we see today," said Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
India keeps that its Constitution assures fundamental rights to all its citizens as well as the right to freedom of religion and the USCIRF has no locus standi to pass its statement on Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights.
The entrants urged Modi to condemn on such violence against religious minorities as well as take all necessary measures to curb the rise of Hindutva extremism and punish the Hindutva groups involved in violence.
Swett, the daughter of Tom Lantos - the only Holocaust survivor to have ever been elected to the U.S. Congress and who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus - said that Muslims and Christians are the "primary victims".
"Inflammatory rhetoric and a conception of India's national identity increasingly based on religion have contributed to an atmosphere of intimidation, exclusion, and even violence directed at non-Hindus," Swett alleged.
Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, said if the prime minister were to condemn acts of aggression and violence and push for prosecution, this (violence) would fairly quickly dry up. "But it's not happening," King said.
He likewise urged Modi to "condemn acts of aggression and violence" and let a team of USCIRF visit India on a fact-finding mission.
Matthew Bulger, Legislative Director of the American Humanist Association, alleged that numerous Indian laws and policies "restrict religious freedom rights" and have led to arrests and prosecution of individuals, "which is just unacceptable".
Rev. Sarah C. Anderson-Rajarigam, a Dalit Christian Lutheran church clergyman from Philadelphia, claimed that the position of Dalits had worsened under the Modi regime.