India Rejects An Old Colonial Game
This is the second time India has rejected visas to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom. A US law tasked the commission to monitor the state of religious freedom everywhere except the US. The remit of this team brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s epigram: Vulgarity is the conduct of others. The first USCIRF visa rejection was in 2009, courtesy the Congress government led by Manmohan Singh.
The New York Times reported on March 4 that USCIRF was “responsible” for monitoring religious freedom. Responsible to whom, one may ask? It is clear that it is not responsible to India because India did not tender an invitation. The American law that created the commission has no legal or even moral force beyond American shores. And, any USCIRF assertion obviously does not carry the weight of an international treaty. The Indian embassy in Washington has bluntly pointed out the commission simply has no locus standi in India. Nevertheless, Robert P. George, the group’s chairman, defended the application seeking visas, saying the group has traveled to China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, “among the worst offenders on religious freedom.” That India is included in this list of totalitarian nations is itself an affront.
Then followed the now familiar vocabulary that foreign media, including NYT, use to prejudice the minds of readers against Narendra Modi and the BJP: “India has had a checkered history with religious violence, and the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 raised concerns about the potential for increased religious tensions.”
The Times goes on to recall more history from its biased archives: “Debates over the issue heated up after a Muslim man accused of eating beef near the capital was beaten to death by a mob last year. Cows are sacred for Hindus, and their slaughter is prohibited in much of the country. A preliminary investigation found that the meat retrieved from the home of the man who was beaten was that of a goat.” It further adds “In a report published last year, the commission said that religiously motivated violent episodes reportedly increased for three consecutive years in India, and that the struggle to provide justice to victims “perpetuates a climate of impunity.” What the NYT fails to mention is that this is the same USCIRF that invited to the U.S Indian journalists and human rights activists, who conveniently provided it with negative material on Gujarat riots that was used to condemn India as a country where minorities lack security. The conflicts of interests were damning. But, truth be damned, as these negative passages are repeated ad nausea by the media whenever they report on Narendra Modi or his party.
On both occasions when visas were denied, the Indian media reported facts but pitifully shied away from expressing anger at a foreign agency trying to snoop and interfere.
A NDTV report quoting PTI said, “USCIRF” is an “independent”, bipartisan US federal government commission with commissioners appointed by the President and the leaders in both Houses of Congress.” How can the commission, appointed by the US President and reporting to the Secretary of State, be independent? Business Standard and Firstpost. com also affirmed that the USCIRF was an independent body. Blunders like this perpetuate a false mythology about the state of affairs in India. Hindustan Times at least led its report with India’s rebuff.
NYT’s British cousin The Guardian did not forget to unearth fragments of history to attack India. The Guardian said: “Non-governmental organizations and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase in violence to religiously divisive campaigning in advance of the country’s 2014 general election won by Modi.”The Guardian helpfully added that “since the 2014 election, religious minorities had been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist group.”
The Mail of UK, like other foreign media, quoted more Modi fiction to justify the US team’s visit. “It comes as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government faces accusations it has fostered an atmosphere of rising intolerance and emboldened religious hardliners.” The Mail remembered the past to rationalize the need to monitor the state of religious freedom in India. It said, “ A recent spate of violent attacks on secular intellectuals and Muslims suspected of killing cows, which Hindus consider sacred, have heightened concerns of mounting intolerance under Modi’s two-year-old government.’
These are a few examples of the constant dirge of anti-Modi writing in foreign media. A dirge that is reaching ridiculous proportions. Most of the reportage is woefully lacking in research and newspapers keep parroting lines that are at best misinformed and at worst malicious. I would like these media outlets to objectively show another “Western” country that is more inclusive than India. India is a country with the second largest Muslim population in the world and it has been generally peaceful and sports an economy that is growing rapidly, while much more homogeneous western countries remain mired in near recessions. Look at the struggles of France and the U.K. with much smaller Muslim populations. Ironically, Pakistan’s Dawn came to the defense of India by agreeing that it does not see the need for a foreign country to pass judgment on the state of religious freedom in India.