Lynching, rampant anti-Muslim violence in India sparks protests, prompts American groups to call for strong US response

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A coalition of progressive US groups has called on the US government to take stronger action in the aftermath of the lynching of a Muslim and other incidents of violence against minorities in India.

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is urging the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to move India into Tier 1 of “Countries of Particular Concern,” because of the continuing deterioration in the human rights and religious freedom in India, the group said in a statement released last week.

Tabrez Ansari, 24, became at least the 11th lynching victim in India this year when on June 22 a mob beat him for 12 hours and forced him to chant praises to Hindu gods, all of which was captured on video, before police took Ansari into custody, according to published reports. Despite his family’s pleas for Ansari to receive medical treatment, authorities waited four days before getting him to a hospital, where he died.

Ansari’s killing has sparked demonstrations across India and protests in Boston and Chicago in the U.S.

According to published reports, two days after the attack on Ansari, Mohammed Haldar, a 26-year-old Muslim teacher, was thrown from a train in India’s West Bengal state. Haldar survived.  On June 27, Muslim cab driver Faizal Usman Khan, 25, was beaten by a group of men near Mumbai. The men forced Khan him to chant “Jai Shri Ram,” or “Glory to Lord Ram,” a phrase that has become a phrase employed by extremist Hindu nationalism to intimidate.

“The fact that the state was complicit in Ansari’s lynching is clear from reports that the police threatened the family with a similar fate when they begged for Ansari to be given medical attention,” AJA said in the statement. “In the jail, the family found the main perpetrator of the violence berating Ansari, asking why he was not dead yet despite the severe beatings. While eleven villagers have been arrested, past incidents of mob lynching do not instill confidence in the prospect of justice being served.”

The USCIRF – which was created by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad – issued a statement calling for an end to religious intolerance and related violence in India.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this brutal murder, in which the perpetrators reportedly forced Ansari to say Hindu chants as they beat him for hours. Ansari later died from the injuries he suffered due to this horrific attack,” USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said in the statement. “We call on the Indian government to take concrete actions that will prevent this kind of violence and intimidation by a thorough investigation of Ansari’s murder as well as the local police’s handling of the case. Lack of accountability will only encourage those who believe they can target religious minorities with impunity.”

AJA applauded the USCIRF statement but said the U.S. needs to go further than a simple condemnation “on the rapid intensification of violence against religious minorities and ‘lower’ castes in India.”

At present India has a USCIRF Tier 2 designation, formerly known as the Commission’s Watch List, for “countries in which religious freedom conditions do not rise to the statutory level that would mandate a CPC (Countries of Particular Concern) designation but require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments.,” according to the commission’s website.

The coalition has called for the U.S. government to move India to the Tier 2 list to the Tier 1 CPC list of countries are “that commit systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

AJA said hate crimes are on the rise that religious freedom and tolerance have reached new lows beyond those seen before the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gained power in the national elections of 2014.

“The BJP’s landslide victory in the recent polls has emboldened Hindu supremacist groups in India to carry out mob lynchings against minorities and Dalits,” the coalition said in its statement. “In many cases, victims are targeted for reasons as varied as suspicion of possessing beef, protesting against caste discrimination or simply for their religious or caste identity.”

Modi attempted to reassure Muslims in a speech given shortly after he was re-elected India’s prime minister in May, but hate crime against Muslims nearly doubled in his first term, according to published reports.


[Photo courtesy: Aazaad Lab]

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