Analysis of the USCIRF India Chapter report, 2014
In 1998, The United States Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and created The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
USCIRF 2014 annual report published in April 2014 concludes that
“In the past year, reports of incidents of communal and religiously-motivated violence against religious minorities in India increased…..…..India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice when crimes occurs…..due to religious bias by government officials.”
Every year, USCIRF comes to a similar decision, and publishes a similar conclusion, regardless of what happened during the year.USCIRF 2014 conclusions are based on following 5 incidents:
1) Attack on Buddhist Religious Complex
2) Police action during Christian and Muslim Dalit Rally in New Delhi
3) Hindu-Muslim Violence in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh
4) Freedom of Religion Act commonly referred as anti-conversion law
5) Redress for past large-scale violence
1) Attack on Buddhist Religious Complex
USCIRF wrote “On July 7, nine explosives were detonated in the Bodh Gaya Buddhist religious complex located in the Indian state of Bihar. A temple and sacred tree sustained minor damage and two monks were injured in the attack. On August 14, the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Arup Brahmachari, a Hindu priest. Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari, saying they made an error. The NIA has not made any other arrests.”
Omissions and Commissions in USCIRF version of Bodh Gaya attack:
A Google search for “Who bombed Bodh Gaya?” is revealing. Nearly all the results mention an Islamic terrorist group. In order to find the Arup Brahmachari arrest story, I again put a Google search for “Hindu involvement in Bodh Gaya attack.” Next, I put a Google search for “Protesters protesting Arup Brahmachari arrest forced NIA to release Brahmachari” and scanned first three pages of search results. I found exactly one result. Guess what that was? It was this same “USCIRF 2014 annual report.”
The story of Arup Brahmachari
USCIRF describes Arup as a “Hindu priest” but Arup does not dentify himself as a Hindu priest. On his blog, Arup describes himself as a Sufi Fakir, and an anti-corruption crusader, whose life mission is “to protect Buddha’s belonging in Bodhgaya”. In 2007, Arup’s anti-corruption campaign, “to save Bodhi Tree,” received significant media coverage. Many media outlets, including Buddhist Channel TV and Rediff, described Arup as a “Buddhist Monk”.
On 14 August 2013, two press releases, one claiming the arrest of Arup, and another refuting the arrest claim, appeared almost simultaneously. These mysterious press statements put out by an anonymous journalist were released by a small, privately-held news agency IANS.
USCIRF also claims “Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari” but I did not find a single press release or even a blog post mentioning anything about protestors protesting Brahmachari’s arrest. Moreover, it’s not humanly possible to organize such a powerful protest, which would bend NIA, in a single day. Thus, the USCIRF’s claim of “ Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari” is not believable. USCIRF should provide additional information about this so-called massive protest or expunge this statement after admitting it had erred.
Now, the USCIRF’s statement about investigations and “no arrest made” is equally misleading. USCIRF omitted the fact that several Indian Mujahideen terrorists were arrested.
On 4 November 2013, NIA announced that the Indian Mujahideen were responsible for the bombings at Bodh Gaya and during Narendra Modi’s rally in Patna.
On 19 December 2013, the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmedthe same. Nearly all major media outlets and reports, except USCIRF, carried statements of Indian Mujahideen involvement in the Bodh Gaya attack.
Bodh Gaya attack contradicts USCIRF conclusion
Many national symbols of India are Buddhist. In the middle of India’s national flag is the holiest of the holy Buddhist symbol, the “Dharma Chakra”. India’s national emblem is another Buddhist holy symbol, the “sacred pillars of Sarnath”.
Nearly all modern monuments honoring Buddha, like the Golden Pagoda at Mumbai, the world’s largest Buddha statue at Hyderabad, are built by and have the approval of Hindus. This is possible because most Hindus consider Buddha an avatar of Vishnu, and most Hindus love Buddhism. For Hindus, praying at Bodh Gaya is part of a pilgrimage. For several centuries, it was the Hindus, who preserved and sustained Bodh Gaya.
India has witnessed many religiously motivated attacks on Hindu temples, pilgrims, and believers celebrating Hindu festivals. In the last 25 years, 243 Hindus were killed, and 250 were injured, by Islamist terrorists.
India’s Supreme Court conviction rate in Hindu temple attack cases is near Zero. Bodh Gaya attack is just another attack on a Hindu/Buddhist temple. Thus, the Bodh gaya attack contradicts the USCIRF conclusion, and raises the questions:
1) What is USCIRF unwittingly promoting —- “religious freedom” or “religious discord between Hindus and Buddhists?”
2) What is the USCIRF unwittingly attacking — “corruption” or “anti-corruption crusade”, “terrorism” or “religious freedom of a monk?”
3) Who benefits from this sort of the USCIRF’s whitewash — “Indian Mujahideen” or the “Buddhist Monk?”
2) Police action during the Christian and Muslim Dalit Rally in New Delhi
The USCIRF writes that “in mid-December 2013, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India…..organized a rally in New Delhi to protest the treatment of Christian and Muslim Dalits…..When some protesters crossed police lines, the police responded with a water cannon and attacked protesters with canes and batons, injuring scores of people. In addition, police arrested dozens of protesters……The following day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a full investigation, but the outcome is not known as of this reporting.”
I combed through all major news sources but none carry any news report of large-scale police brutality. On the contrary, the Indian Express carried a news-report stating that “There was no lathicharge”.
The USCIRF’s current stand on police action contradicts its prior stand. The USCIRF 2008 annual report found Gujarat police action of detaining 35,552 civilians, firing 10,000 rounds of bullets killing 170 civilians and injuring many more, “inadequate”.
Christian Dalits were demanding affirmative action, and special favors from the Government of India. These demands have nothing to do with religious freedom as defined by IRFA act 1998. Moreover, India already has a sizable affirmative action program for minorities. Thus, this incident does not support the USCIRF conclusion.
3) Hindu-Muslim Violence in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh is currently ruled by the pro-Muslim Samajwadi Party (SP) which depends on Muslim votes to win elections.
On 17 Feb 2006, Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister and senior Socialist Party leader Mohammed Yaqoob Qureshi called for the beheading of the cartoonist who had sketched Prophet Mohammed for a Danish newspaper and announced that he would give “the avenger” $11 million and weigh him in gold.
Another SP leader, Beni Prasad Verma, who later joined the Congress party and became a Minister in the ManMohan Singh Government, virtually endorsed the beheading call.
On March 2 2006, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav addressed an anti-George Bush rally. This protest resulted in communal violence killing four and injuring eight. The violence started after Muslim protestors tried to force Hindu traders to shut their shops.
Last year, the outbreak of communal riots in Muzaffarnagar too began as an incident sparked off by Muslim hooligans who eve-teased Hindu girls. IndiaFacts has published detailed ground reports of the entire saga, which shows how a massive crowd of Muslims unleashed acts of well-planned and brutally executed violence against Hindus in the area.
Equally, a sting operation done by Headlines Today revealed that Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan ordered the Muzaffarnagar district Police Officers to release Muslims and not take action against them.
Thus, this incident too, contradicts the USCIRF conclusion.
4) Freedom of Religion Act
USCIRF is concerned that “these laws…. have created a hostile atmosphere for religious minorities”.
For once, I agree with USCIRF.
Most of the so called Freedom of Religious Acts create hostility, and do more harm than good. Therefore, most of them, including International Religious freedom law of USA, and India’s Freedom of Religion act, should be scrapped.
India has dozens of Socialist-style licenses and permit laws with burdensome provisions and broad bureaucratic powers. India’s local freedom of religious act is one of them.
As per Wikipedia “US Law is rooted in the U.S. Evangelical movement and its original intention was to protect Christians around the world. Such organizations as Christian Solidarity International, International Christian Concern, Open Doors …….were influences for the foundation of the International Religious Freedom Act.”
Moreover, US Congress outsourced the implementation of this law to the USCIRF, which is almost wholly Evangelical. USCIRF’s harsh denouncement of mostly non-christian countries has failed to promote peace, harmony and religious freedom. Furthermore, the USCIRF has made no positive contribution to the promotion of religious freedom in USA. Far worse, its harsh denouncements might create a hostile atmosphere for religious minorities in the USA.
The USCIRF 2014 India chapter is a classic case of how not to advocate what it calls “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”.
Every formal submission of the USCIRF report to the US President and the US Congress states that “this report….was prepared in compliance with section 202(a)(2) of the International
Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA),….” but it appears that only the USCIRF 2014 India chapter is not in compliance with the IRFA 1998 act.
In the USCIRF 2014 annual report, USCIRF recommends that “U.S. government should encourage India to establish of an impartial body….to promote religious tolerance.” This is all well but charity begins at home. As a first step, the U.S. Government should audit USCIRF’s compliance with IRFA 1998 act, and replace it with an impartial body.