As a possible US Presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs committee, a US Congress advisory body on religious freedom, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation criticised the violence and riots in Delhi, India on Monday retorted sharply and called these “factually incorrect” and “misleading” statements, and urged that such “irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time”.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) official spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, said, “We have seen comments made by USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), sections of the media and a few individuals regarding recent incidents of violence in Delhi. These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicising the issue.”
Stressing that law enforcement agencies are working on the ground to “prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy”, that senior representatives of the government have been involved in that process, and that the Prime Minister has publicly appealed for peace, Kumar said, “We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time.”
While US Congressmen and other organisations slammed the government, the US administration gave a more nuanced statement. US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice G Wells, said, “Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased and injured in New Delhi. We echo PM Narendra Modi’s call for calm and normalcy and urge all parties to maintain peace, refrain from violence, and respect the right of peaceful assembly.”
Earlier in the day, Democratic Party Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Over 200 million Muslims call India home. Widespread anti-Muslim mob violence has killed at least 27 and injured many more…This is a failure of leadership on human rights.”
US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel — a Democrat — tweeted, “Deeply troubled by the deaths from the communal violence in India over the past couple of days. The right to protest is a key aspect in democracy, but they must remain peaceful and police must ensure the safety of all.”
In a fresh statement, USCIRF, an advisory body to the US Congress, expressed “grave concern” over the ongoing violence taking place in Delhi. It stated, “So far, more than 20 people have been killed in the violence and close to 200 injured. According to reports, several mosques have also been set alight or vandalized. Many Muslim residents have been forced to flee…”
“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue,” USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said. “The Indian government must take swift action to ensure safety of all of its citizens. Instead, reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens…”
USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said, “The ongoing violence we are witnessing in Delhi and the reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and shops, and their houses of worship, are greatly disturbing. One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith. We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence.”
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF classified India as a “Tier 2” country for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious standard for designations as a “country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation condemned the “recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India…”
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