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The USCIRF report is soaked in hypocrisy
  2nd May 2015

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has predictably unleashed a torrent of invective directed at India, which in its wisdom, the Congressional body considers to be a country intolerant of religious minorities. Were the authors of the 2015 report to ever get tasked to write a history of the subcontinent, they would affirm that it is not Pakistan but India where the share of minorities in the total population has fallen precipitously since 1947. The USCIRF has for long being following an agenda vis-à-vis India, which is to portray this country as a den of fanatics, thereby providing an excuse for the US administration to threaten sanctions and other punitive measures against India. While these would entirely be in order to give additional benefits to US corporate and other interests, it would get passed off as being the consequence of backing for religious freedom. It bears repeating that hours after President Barack Obama chided this country for its alleged acts of intolerance against minorities, he landed in Saudi Arabia, where he was noticeably reticent on the subject of religious freedom, presumably because he does not consider the same to be under threat in that country the way he claims is the case in India. The fact is that Washington (as also other capitals, especially in Europe) is adept in using high-sounding phrases to come up with plausible excuses to browbeat and bully much poorer countries into adopting policies that benefit the richer countries, and the USCIRF report is among the most egregious of such a trend. Were the thousands of refugees dying of hunger and drowning within sight of the shores of Italy to have been headed towards India, there is little doubt that there would have been a tornado of criticism against Delhi for such callousness, although Rome is exempt, just as a pilot who kills a planeload of passengers is simply crazy if he is German, but a terrorist if Arab.

Rather than continue Manmohan Singh's policy of bending over backwards in order to curry favour with the US and its advanced country partners, India needs to pay them back in the same manner. Reports need to be released by the MEA on the callous way in which migrants are being allowed to die because European countries deny asylum to the inhabitants of countries that are in crisis, such as Libya and Syria, precisely because of intervention by France and the UK, besides other states that manage to escape the attention of the USCIRF despite forcing scarves off the heads of women or condemning individuals of certain faiths to live in ghettoes within cities. Another issue on which India needs to shine a spotlight is the neglect of the Roma community, which suffers discrimination throughout Europe. Of course, no US congressional committee would ever mention such an inconvenient truth. The hypocrisy and double standards which suffuse reports such as the USCIRF critique of India need to be not simply exposed, but countered, and this can only be done by presenting facts about the countries making them, rather than just mouthing weak protests of the kind seen as the official reaction to the USCIRF report. India is a country where the moderation of the majority has ensured the safety of the minority, and those who ignore this fact are diverting attention from countries where religious persecution is the norm, such as Pakistan, for geopolitical rather than ethical reasons.

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