By Hemendra Acharya
Recent speeches by several Massachusetts Democrats appear to suggest that they do not like any action in India that protects Hindu religion or Hindu identity in India, even though India is the home of Hindu religion. At a Congressional Briefing on January 26, 2022, arranged by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), U.S. Senator Markey and Congressman McGovern spoke about “India’s Constitution Under Threat from Hindu Nationalist Ideology, and Persecution Under Modi Government”. Senator Markey said that he was “concerned” about the Modi government’s “efforts to peel back the rights of religious minorities in India and that laws on religious conversion, citizenship and other restrictive measures fly in the face of India’s inclusive secular Constitution and core tenets of any democracy.” These general statements were made without any proof or example to support them and are no different from the assertion of “Stolen Election” by Republicans without any proof. Similarly, Representative Jim McGovern spoke about events in India without providing any example.
I am sure that Senators Markey and Rep. McGovern know that the motto of Modi Government has always been “Everyone together for Everyone’s development”. Modi government has provided basic human needs like toilets, gas connections, roads, clean water and electricity to all villages, regardless of whether they are dominantly Muslim or Hindu villages. Almost 75% of Indian population has been vaccinated and not even the opposition in India has raised any issue of discrimination in providing these vaccinations. All poor people, regardless of religion have been provided bank accounts so that government welfare funds can be directly transferred to them. Senator Markey and Representative McGovern were not able to provide any example where government policies have discriminated against Muslims and appear to be inhaling hot air exhaled by the IAMC.
Senator Markey provided no proof that the Indian government has targeted the practices of minority faiths. As far as most people are aware of, the only minority practice it has targeted is the abolition of the practice of “Triple Talaq” or A Men divorcing his wife by simply saying three times the words “Talaq.” This practice was outlawed by the Indian Supreme Court and the Indian government simply passed a law banning it. I wonder if Senator Markey would like 60-70 million Indian Muslim women to live constantly in fear of hearing or seeing the text message “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq.” I am sure that the honorable Senator is not even aware of the existence of this practice, and I can guess that the Indian American Muslim Council never informed him that this practice has now been outlawed.
Senator Markey’s statements on Indian government targeting the practices of minority faiths are factually incorrect on many counts. There are many examples of Muslim practices tolerated in India that would not be tolerated in any city or state in the United States. For example, Imams broadcast the call for prayers in India on loudspeakers every day at 4:30 in the morning disturbing the sleep of non-Muslims living in the area. I am sure that the Senator will hear many protests if call for prayers were broadcast over a loudspeaker in any Massachusetts neighborhood. Similarly, in last few decades, Muslims have started the practice of occupying public roads and train tracks in many cities for offering their Friday prayers. Clearly this is a nuisance to people using roads and railways and will not be tolerated in any American city and yet the national and state governments in India have bent over backwards to accommodate prayer requirements of Muslims. Senator Markey has just made statements without any knowledge of the situation in India, or facts on ground and so these statements appear to be just propaganda material most likely provided by the IAMC.
Congressman Jim McGovern stated that “For the first time in 2019, a law was passed that links citizenship to religious identity. There is every reason to fear that this change combined with the proposal for a National Register of Citizens institutionalizes discrimination against Muslims,”
This statement that the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 linked citizenship to religious identity is an absolutely false statement. The Act does not in any way affect the rights of any Indian citizen whether Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh This Act only allows citizenship rights to those non-Muslims living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, who because of persecution in these Islamic Nations, fled to India and sought asylum there. But this false propaganda (like the stolen election) continues unabated without any proof. The only thing this Act does not do is to provide asylum to Muslims from these three countries to India on the ground of religious persecution. Rep. McGovern has not given any example of Muslims seeking asylum in India on grounds of religious persecution in their Islamic homeland. Congressman McGovern is simply giving credence to fear mongering by vested interests that the “Citizenship Amendment Act combined with the proposal for a National Register of Citizens institutionalizes discrimination against Muslims,”
Senator Markey and Representative McGovern appear to forget that the United States Congress passed a similar law in 1989 which was sponsored by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ). This law provided for political asylum and citizenship to Russian Jews because they were persecuted in Russia. I do not remember either of them condemning this act because it defined American Citizenship on the basis of religion. The persecution of Jews in Russia should be of as much concern to these democrats as the persecution of minorities in the Islamic Nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Senator Markey spoke about increase in hate speech in India but does not provide any evidence or example of a hate speech given by a government minister. There is no place for hate speech in any civilized society. At a recent conclave, several Hindu saints indulged in hate speech but were apprehended by the state government which is controlled by the Hindu Nationalists. And yet even the Hindu Nationalist government has taken no action against hate speeches by a Muslim member of the National Parliament and a Muslim member of a State Assembly. These leaders have openly threatened the elimination of all Hindus from India, if only the police will not interfere with Muslims for fifteen minutes. No one in the public sphere, including Indian American Muslim Council, have condemned these speeches. Massachusetts democrats should condemn all hate speeches and not just hate speeches from some individuals.
Congressman McGovern recently managed passage of House Bill HR 5665 to Combat Islamophobia worldwide While Islamophobia is to be condemned, Congressman appears to be not aware or concerned that many religious communities are persecuted in many countries. For example, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians are harassed and persecuted in Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan as well as Malaysia. Congressman McGovern did not amend the bill to include the persecution of all religious faiths. His sole interest appeared to be Islamophobia.
Recent actions of many Massachusetts Democrats suggest that they have assumed that the assertion of Muslim identity is acceptable and must be protected, and that any criticism is Islamophobic and has to be not only condemned but also acted upon. On the other hand, these same democrats appear to have concluded that any protection of Hindu religion or practice even in its land of origin is to be considered as an affront to pluralism and should be criticized and condemned. This mindset of Democrats has alienated many Hindu-Americans who are otherwise loyal supporters of the Democratic Party. Indian American Muslim Council members may have their own agenda about India. It will be unfortunate if Massachusetts Democrats continue to help them in their agenda.
(Mr. Acharya writes about Indian issues.)