Around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi finished his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office Tuesday, a short distance away, at 1334 Longworth House Office Building, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing, in which at least three US Congressmen and a group of human rights activists criticised the Modi government for the current situation of human rights in India.
The hearing, which began 3 pm Tuesday and lasted about an hour-and-a-half, saw the Congressmen speak about “intimidation, discrimination, harassment and violence” experienced by Muslims and Christians in India.
US Congressman Trent Franks, a Republican who has visited India, flagged the riots in Uttar Pradesh, violence in Odisha and the 2002 Gujarat riots and said that because of the “current climate of impunity in India, many victims may never get justice”.
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Congressman Joseph R Pitts, who is co-chairman of the commission, also said the economic growth in India “overlooks an array of troubling human rights concerns”. Talking about the plight of religious minorities, he said there is an “alarming trend” of instances of violence against religious minorities and the numbers have gone up.
Activists from Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch and some other activists also took part in the hearing, where they held the Modi government responsible for the current situation.
However, the Indian side was unfazed. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that on one hand, the PM had been invited by US Congress to address a joint meeting and on the other, “some people are having some hearing”. Asked whether human rights issues came up during the talks between Modi and Obama, Jaishankar said: “No, I do not believe the subject came up today.”
However, officials pointed out that the Indo-US joint statement said that the leaders reviewed the deepening strategic partnership between the US and India that is rooted in “shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights, tolerance and pluralism, equal opportunities for all citizens, and rule of law”.