Why India alarmed at US funding of NGOs promoting religious freedom?
The Indian government on Thursday said it has sought details about the US announcement to provide nearly USD 500,000 to NGOs to promote religious freedom in India.
The US has announced it wants to “increase societal tolerance” and reduce “religiously-motivated violence” and discrimination in India with the nearly $500,000 grant to NGOs in the country.
The state department had on Wednesday announced the grant for organizations which can come up with ideas and projects to promote religious freedom in India.
The department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in a notice, had said that it seeks to “reduce religiously-motivated violence and discrimination in India” through its $4,93,827 grant program.
“The goal of the program is to increase societal tolerance and improve civilian security to reduce religiously- motivated violence and discrimination, and the funds will support activities that work toward that end,” a department spokesperson told Press Trust of India in Washington.
The State Department said the NGOs applying for the grant should come out with proposals to develop and implement early warning systems to mitigate large-scale violence and implement conflict mitigation programs between minority and majority groups.
The applicants also need to come out with ideas for successful program activities to counter hateful or discriminatory public messages with positive messages.
They should also have proposals to educate civil society and journalists about legal protections for religious freedom, particularly for members of religious minorities; document and report religious freedom violations to authorities; and educate law enforcement on human rights standards.
Among other proposals could be ideas to engage law enforcement to better protect rights of religious minorities, including preventing incidents of discrimination and violence and holding perpetrators accountable, the State Department said.
The countries currently receiving grants from US in the region are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In its latest International Religious Freedom report, the State Department said Christian and Muslim activists stated the government was not doing enough to protect them against religiously motivated attacks.
There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize, it said.
There was an increase in violent incidents by cow protection groups against mostly Muslim victims, including killings, mob violence, assaults, and intimidation. Hindus threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians and destroyed their property, it added.
During his confirmation hearing last month, the new US Ambassador-designate to India, Ken Juster said that human rights and religious freedom would be one of his priority areas during his assignment in New Delhi. Juster was confirmed by the Senate last week.
Violence by cow vigilantes increased in India in 2016: US report
There was an increase in violent incidents by cow protection groups mostly against Muslims in India in the year 2016, an official US report on international religious freedom said in last August, noting that authorities often “failed” to prosecute cow vigilantes.
The report, the first under the Trump Administration, released by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said members of the civil society expressed concerns that under the BJP government religious minority communities felt vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non- Hindu individuals and places of worship.
“There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize,” the State Department said in its annual report, which does a country wise review of the religious freedom in the year 2016.
It said that there was an increase in violent incidents by cow protection groups against mostly Muslims, including killings, mob violence, assaults, and intimidation.
“Hindus threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians and destroyed their property,” said the Congressional-mandated 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
Quoting the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the US report said there were over 300 incidents of abuse targeting Christians during the year, compared with 177 in 2015.
86% Dead In Cow-Related Violence Since 2010 Are Muslim; 97% Attacks After 2014
Muslims were the target of 51% of violence centered on bovine issues over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017), according to an IndiaSpend report.
As many of 97% of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014, and about half the cow-related violence–32 of 63 cases–were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the first six months of 2017, 20 cow-terror attacks were reported–more than 75% of the 2016 figure, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010.
The attacks include mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. In two attacks, the victims/survivors were chained, stripped and beaten, while in two others, the victims were hanged.
Christian Persecution in India Hits Record High in First Half of 2017
As many as 410 incidents of attacks, harassment and threats on Christians were reported in India in the first six months of 2017, the highest ever since the country's independence, according to figures compiled by partners of Open Doors. Attackers are generally from or influenced by groups associated with the governing Hindu nationalist party.
The first quarter of 2017 saw 248 incidents of persecution, and by June-end, the number grew to 410, the report by Open Doors said, noting that a total of 441 incidents were reported in all of 2016.
In one case, Hindu nationalists beat an evangelist with chains, stripped him and forced him to drink urine, according to another recent report. In a separate incident, a Christian cemetery was desecrated and
The governing Bharatiya Janata Party is widely seen as the political arm of the umbrella Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or National Volunteer Corps).
The report notes that the group's founder, M.S. Golwalkar, said, "The non-Hindu people in Hindustan (referring to India) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu religion, that is they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude toward this land and its age-long tradition but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen's rights."
The RSS wants India to be "unified under one religion, one culture, and one language," the report says.
In March, more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to India's interior minister, urging him to allow U.S.-based Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International to continue its work in that country. The charity recently ended its programs in India amid an ongoing crackdown by the BJP government on nonprofits that receive foreign funds.
The Indian government's treatment of Compassion International has "caused serious concern within the U.S Congress," said the letter addressed to India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Indian government claimed that Compassion was funding religious conversions.
150 Hindu outfits meet in Goa to discuss possibility of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by 2023
Approximately 150 Hindu outfits held a four-day convention in Goa in June last to chalk out a program for establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India by 2023.
The convention was organized by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), the sister outfit of Sanatan Sanstha which was caught up in controversy after the murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in 2013.
Declare India a Hindu rashtra, ban cattle slaughter and declare the cow India’s national animal, ban all religious conversions, start the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya: these were some of the resolutions passed by the four day convention attended Approximately 150 Hindu outfits will meet in Goa from June 14 to17 for a convention to chalk out a program for establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India by 2023.
According to Rahul Kaul, national youth coordinator for Panun Kashmir, this will bring back the glory India enjoyed in ancient times. “It was Hindutva which attracted people from all across the globe and this will happen again if we adopt the Hindu way of life,” said Kaul.
Similar was the view of Bharat Raksha Manch, which said that the move had the potential to make India a superpower. “This will create in a country where no one will be appeased and there will be the same law for everyone,” said Anil Dhir, National Secretary, Bharat Raksha Manch.
Opponents have blasted the whole mission calling it a upper class conspiracy. “In their concept, forget Muslims, even the Dalits and adivasis will be reduced to second class citizens,” said Maulana Noorie, general secretary, Raza Academy. “This is false propaganda of appeasement of Muslims being spread by these Hindu forces as the ground reality is we are worse off than the Dalits,” said Noorie.
The Congress said the entire Hindutva program of HJS has the blessings of the ruling Bhartiya Junta Party (BJP). “These outfits carry out subversive activities with impunity, thanks to the support from the BJP-led Govt,” said Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.
India is on its way to becoming a Hindu nation
To borrow Teesta Setalvad of AlterNet, much has changed in India since 2013. Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of a western Indian state, the first chief minister who was a direct recruit from the supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is now India’s prime minister, heading a majority government that has already implemented several changes in laws and statutes that arguably militate against India’s constitutional framework.
The RSS, since its birth in 1925, has openly advocated creation a Hindu nation.
It is therefore not insignificant that the purported vision of the 2017 Goa convention of these self-declared “Hindu nationalists” is to have a Hindu state in place by 2023, to coincide with the near century of the RSS’ existence.
According to the late RSS leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the objective of the RSS is:
“‘....We have been sufficiently fooled uptil now by their exhortation that we Hindus, who are having a great philosophy of human brotherhood, catholicity of spirit and so on, should not narrow ourselves by the talk of Hindu Nationalism and all such 'communal', 'medieval' and 'reactionary' ideas! We must be able to see through the game and revert to the truth of our nationalism as an ancient fact and the Hindus being the national society of Bharat, so clearly restated by our revered founder when he decided the word 'Rashtriya' for our organization. We must once again stand up in our true and full stature and boldly assert that we shall elevate the Hindu National Life in Bharat to the peak of glory and honor which has been its birthright since hoary time.’ (Bunch of Thoughts by MS Golwalkar)
If history has any lesson to learn: RSS member, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, in January 1948.Golwalker was arrested along with 20,000 RSS members. The RSS was banned for promoting "violence" and "subversion."
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com