The Hindu – House of Representatives to host second hearing on human rights in Kashmir today

Witnesses will examine the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and offer recommendations for action by Congress

Sriram Lakshman

Washington DC – USA, 14 November 2019. With a hearing on Kashmir at the USA House of Representatives scheduled for 14 November, the choppy waters on Capitol Hill that India has found itself in, at least since the October 22 hearing on human rights in South Asia, do not seem to be letting up.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bi-partisan commission, will hold a hearing “to examine the human rights situation in the former State of Jammu and Kashmir in India in historical and national context,” a statement from the Commission’s website said.

“Witnesses will examine the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of the region’s history and larger patterns of rights violations in India and Pakistan, and will offer recommendations for action by Congress,” the Commission said, outlining the restrictions from the Indian side placed on Kashmir since Article 370 was abrogated by Parliament in early August.

‘Article 370 hampering development in J&K’

“The increased militarisation of the security presence in the region and the economic and social consequences of the central government’s actions, including continuing restrictions on internet and phones, have also provoked widespread concern,” the statement read.

“In addition, militants have targeted migrant workers from outside Kashmir, and have threatened businesses to maintain a protest shutdown.”

Indian diplomats have, since the legislative changes in early August, been doing the rounds of Capitol Hill as well as lobbying at the state and district level via the Consuls General, highlighting the government’s position on the changes in Kashmir issue, that Article 370 was hampering development in Jammu and Kashmir and therefore had to go, and that restrictions, which have been progressively eased, are in place for security reasons.

These arguments did not stop the criticism at the 22 October hearing. Members of Congress were focussed on continuing restrictions on mobile data and internet access in Kashmir, the numbers still in detention and foreign correspondents not being allowed access to the region.

This prompted renewed diplomatic outreach by Indian officials, including India’s USA Ambassador meeting with USA lawmakers on 29 and 30 October.

List of witnesses

The Indian side has concerns about Thursday’s hearing, including that the list of witnesses largely comprises known critics of the Indian position, The Hindu has learned.

One witness, Yousra Y Fazili, a human rights lawyer, is the niece of one of those detained in Kashmir, Mubeen Shah. The Commission website describes Ms Fazili as a “Human rights lawyer and Kashmiri-American cousin of Mubeen Shah, detained Kashmiri businessman.”

The Hindu asked a Commission representative for a response to the criticism that it was one-sided.

“The Commission’s mandate is to promote, defend and advocate for internationally recognised human rights norms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Kimberly Stanton, a spokesperson for the Commission told The Hindu.

“The ‘side’ the Commission takes on all issues is that of individuals and communities who credibly allege that their rights have been violated.”

The witness list also includes Sunanda Vashisht, who the Commission describes as a “writer, political commentator, and Kashmiri Hindu who identifies as a victim of ethnic cleansing.”

A Commissioner from the USA Commission on International Religious Freedom, Arunima Bhargava, will testify in the first of two panels at the hearing. The second panel will include human rights lawyers, a professor of anthropology and John Stifton, a director at Human Rights Watch.

Short notice around the hearing

Another issue for the Indian side has been the short notice around the hearing, which was posted on Monday, three days before the hearing itself.

“Commission hearings are posted once the description of the topic and initial witness list receive final approval. In this case, the hearing was finalised over the weekend and posted on the holiday [Monday],” Ms Stanton told The Hindu.

The panel, is headed by James P McGovern (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Chris Smith (Republican, New Jersey), and is mostly comprised of Democrats, who have, typically, been more vocal in their criticism of India’s recent actions around Kashmir.

“We are working hard to level the playing field,” India’s Ambassador to the USA Harsh Vardhan Shringla told The Hindu, about current diplomatic efforts around Thursday’s hearing, but did not elaborate on how this was being done.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/house-of-representatives-to-host-second-hearing-on-human-rights-in-kashmir-today/article29969522.ece?homepage=true

The Print – Sikhs third most targeted religious group in USA after Jews and Muslims: FBI report

In 2018, the FBI received 7,120 reports of hate crimes, of which around 835 were against Jews, 188 were against Muslims, and 60 were against Sikhs.

Washington DC – USA, 13 November 2019. Around 60 incidents of hate crimes against Sikhs were reported to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2018, making the community the third most commonly targeted religious group after Jews and Muslims in the US, according to an annual report released by the FBI on Tuesday.

A total of 7,120 hate crimes were reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies around the country last year, slightly down from 7,175 in 2017, the FBI said, adding that this involved 8,496 offenses.

The largest number of hate crimes based on religion were reported against Jews (835), followed by Muslims (188) and Sikhs (60). According to the FBI report, 91 hate crimes were reported against other religions, including 12 against Hindus and ten anti-Buddhist crimes.

Of the 4,047 hate crimes based on ethnicity, the maximum 1943 hate crime incidents were against anti-Black or African Americans, followed by anti-White (762) and anti-Hispanic or Latino (485).

The FBI reports as many as 148 hate crimes against Asians in 2018, while those against Arabs were 82, anti-American Indian or Alaska Native (194).

The Sikh Coalition in a statement said it is “disheartening” that hate crimes remain systematically “under-reported” across the United States.

According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Americans experience an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year; this latest FBI data, by contrast, only managed to document 7,120 incidents, with less than 13 per cent of law enforcement affirmatively providing reports of hate crimes, it said.

“While hate crimes remained relatively steady nationally, reported anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by 200 percent since 2017, making Sikhs the third most commonly targeted religious group in the dataset,” it said.

At the end of the day, this data simply isn’t giving us the accurate information we need to effectively counteract hate against targeted communities, said Sim J. Singh, Sikh Coalition senior manager of Policy and Advocacy.

It’s past time for action. Congress must pass the next generation of common-sense legislation that equips law enforcement to better identify and track hate incidents,” he said.

Sikhs third most targeted religious group in US after Jews and Muslims: FBI report

Tolo News – Khalilzad Meets Ghani and Abdullah in advance of peace talks

The US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, arrived in Kabul on Sunday to meet with Afghan leaders.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 27 October 2019. This is the first time the US Special Envoy for Peace Zalmay Khalilzad has been in Kabul since the peace talks were halted by US President Trump in early September.

“The meeting focused on the achievement of a lasting peace in Afghanistan, and both sides called for the reduction of violence and ceasefire by the Taliban to begin inter-Afghan talks,” said CE Abdullah’s deputy spokesman Omid Maisam.

Khalilzad also met with former President Hamid Karzai and some other Afghan politicians.

The meeting focused on reaching a permanent ceasefire and concerns over delays in talks between Afghans, with the politicians calling on the US to resume talks with the Taliban.

The Afghan government has made assurances that a comprehensive delegation is prepared for the intra-Afghan talks, and considers the ceasefire to be one of the pre-conditions to start talks.

“We have consulted with political parties and with various people and the list has been made and includes individuals who will represent the Afghan people with dignity,” said President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

Sources close to the peace talks say Khalilzad’s trip is also linked to the release of two US university professors in Kabul.

“Khalilzad’s trip has two parts, one I think is about the release of US university professors that Khalilzad talked to the Taliban about, and the second is about the talks between USA and Taliban that are likely to resume in the near future,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.

Experts say that regional confidence-building in the peace process, and dialogue with the Afghan government over the resumption of peace talks with the Taliban, are the reasons for Khalilzad’s travel to Kabul.

“There is now serious distrust between the Taliban leadership and the USA leadership, and Mr Khalilzad’s travels to the countries involved is to restore that trust between the two sides again,” said Intazar Khadam, a peace researcher in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad has also traveled to Belgium, France and Russia prior to his trip to Kabul, and has talked with Chinese, Russian and Pakistani representatives about the Afghan peace talks.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/khalilzad-meets-ghani-and-abdullah-advance-peace-talks

OFMI – Gandhi Interrupted: “What have you done for India’s minorities?”

Rajmohan Gandhi challenged on his grandfather’s racism and sexual abuse

Berkeley – California – USA, 23 October 2019. As Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the iconic Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi,” appeared at University of California, Berkeley on October 22, his presentation was interrupted by a man challenging Rajmohan about his grandfather’s alleged legacy of racism and sexual abuse.

“We politely presented the organizers with a prepared list of seven questions about Gandhi,” says Bhajan Singh, who disrupted the event. “They ignored our questions and made it clear that Rajmohan would not entertain any criticism. I felt the only way to draw attention to these issues was to stand up and just start speaking.”

Singh, a former director of Organization for Minorities of India, did just that.

He began by explaining that he was speaking in support of movements against Gandhi statues in Malawi, Ghana, and Gwinnett County, Georgia. “They are opposing the legacy, the racist legacy, of your grandfather,” said Singh.

“They are also opposing that why you continue to promote this racist man, who was responsible for the pre-apartheid era?” He continued, “This is my question: why are you apologetic? He raped your own grand-cousins, Manu and Abha.”

As he spoke, Singh unfurled a sign reading: “Gandhi was a sex-offender.”

“Gandhi is no role model,” comments OFMI spokesperson Arvin Valmuci. “It is well-documented that he conducted so-called celibacy tests by sleeping naked with his teenage grandnieces, Manu and Abha, an action which would generally be interpreted as sexual molestation.

That was at the end of his life, but from the beginning and well into his 40s, he actively and successfully campaigned for racial segregation in pre-apartheid South Africa.”

Referring to Rajmohan’s past explanation that the “younger Gandhi” was sometimes “ignorant and prejudiced about South Africa’s blacks,” Singh asked at the event, “You keep saying he was young and naive, but at what point did he change?”

Rajmohan Gandhi was present at UC Berkeley to discuss the issue of “Hindu Nationalism in Gandhi’s India.” Yet Valmuci notes that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party lays claim to Gandhi’s legacy.

“In Gandhi, we have the best teacher to guide us,” Modi recently wrote in an 02 October published in The New York Times in honor of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

“We don’t need to hear from you,” Singh told Rajmohan at the event. “We can Google. We can Google what Modi’s doing. What are you doing over there? What have you done for the minorities of India? What have you done for the people who were killed, who were lynched? What have you done?”

“It is for the people of America to talk about Gandhi’s sexual abuse of women,” concluded Singh as he was escorted out of the event. “I came to speak for the victims of the sexual abuse of Gandhi. I speak for Manu and Abha.”

Brian Isai, an associate director of OFMI, says that two things struck him about Singh’s protest. “It was very odd how Rajmohan Gandhi remained a mute spectator throughout the whole incident, but one man in the audience stood up and said that he would give an answer for Rajmohan regarding the question of Gandhi’s racism,” comments Isai.

“Another thing is that Mr Singh, during his protest, answered a question that Rajmohan failed to properly address. A member of the audience previously asked about who India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh looks to for inspiration in the outside world. Rajmohan hemmed and hawed, but Mr Singh clearly and correctly stated that the RSS looks to Hitler for inspiration.”

“We applaud Bhajan Singh, our former director, for his passion for the truth,” concludes Valmuci. “It’s important to remember that the BJP stands for Hindutva, but Gandhi and his legacy represents soft Hindutva.

India’s oppressed minorities find no balm for their wounds in the assimilationist rhetoric of Gandhi.” Asserting that Gandhi shared the RSS’s goal of turning India into a Hindu nation, Valmuci points to a comment by Gandhi made in 1947, where he stated:

“It cannot be said that Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are separate religions. All these four faiths and their offshoots are one. Hinduism is an ocean into which all the rivers run. It can absorb Islam and Christianity and all the other religions and only then can it become an ocean. Otherwise it remains merely a stream along which large ships cannot ply.”

“With the tensions between India and Pakistan creating a risk of a nuclear flashpoint, minorities are apprehensive about both Gandhi and Modi,” explains Balbir Singh Dhillon. A former victim of torture by Indian police, he now serves as president of the West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara.

“Rajmohan Gandhi wants us to pick the convenient choice, but his lip service for peace shows how he is just another player in the game of smoke and mirrors. If Rajmohan is serious about stopping Hindu nationalism, why doesn’t he take some initiative in India instead of hoodwinking masses here in America?”

The seven questions presented to the organizers at the outset of the event were printed in a pamphlet which was widely distributed to those in attendance. They were as follows:

  1.  Why did your grandfather never admit to or apologize for working for racial segregation in colonial South Africa, which laid the foundations for full-blown apartheid? You can argue that he was “young and naive,” but his track record of anti-black racism continued into his 40s.
  2. South African author Ashwin Desai writes: “Gandhi believed in the Aryan brotherhood. This involved whites and Indians higher up than Africans on the civilized scale.” Gandhi himself said that he believed the “white race… should be the predominating race.” Was Gandhi a white supremacist?
  3. During the Bambatha rebellion in South Africa, which led to a massacre of Zulu tribesmen, why did Gandhi encourage Indians to take up arms against Africans?
  4. Why did Gandhi lie in his autobiography about his reasons for joining the British Army to fight Zulus? His autobiography says he joined to nurse wounded Zulus, but his writings before the war say he joined because “there is hardly any family from which someone has not gone to fight the Kaffir rebels” and also because “now is the time when the leading whites want us to take this step.”
  5. There is a mountain of evidence showcasing how Gandhi was racist and casteist, both in South Africa and India, from the age of 23 until his death. When did he admit his faults? When exactly did he change his views?
  6. Why did Gandhi call the caste system “scientific” and do you agree with him that “one acquires one’s caste by birth”?
  7. If a 77 year old man in America forced his teenage nieces to sleep with him naked, he would be arrested for sexual abuse. If he argued that he was only doing it to test his celibacy, he would be considered crazy. What compassion do you feel for your very own cousins, Manu and Abha, who were abused by your grandfather? Why do you continue propagating a sexual predator?

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit OFMI.org for more information

www.ofmi.org

OFMI – Joint Hindu-Muslim delegation thanks Ro Khanna for rejecting Hindutva

Meeting follows RSS-affiliated protest against Hindu-American congressman

Washington DC – USA, 22 October 2019. A joint delegation of Hindu and Muslim organizational leaders met with US Congressman Ro Khanna on 21 0ctober to thank him for his recent statement rejecting the political ideology of Hindutva.

Rasheed Ahmed and Ajit Sahi of Indian American Muslim Council joined Sunita Viswanath of Hindus for Human Rights at Khanna’s office in Washington DC. According to HHR, they “expressed solidarity and support for his commitment to pluralism and justice for all.”

Khanna earned their gratitude for his 29 August Tweet: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists & Christians.”

Hindutva, defined by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as an ideology that treats non-Hindus as foreign to India, is the guiding philosophy of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Modi’s political party (BJP) and its cultural counterpart organizations (RSS, VHP, etc.) form the backbone of the Hindutva movement,” noted Amar Shergill last month.

An attorney who serves as an executive board member of the California Democratic Party, Shergill added, “Hindutva is a fascist and supremacist movement similar to white supremacist movements in the US.

It mobilizes around a virulent religious ethno-nationalism, holding that India is a homeland for only Hindus and uses violence to intimidate compliance around its economic and political policies.”

Not all supported Khanna’s statement

On 03 October, approximately 25-30 people protested Khanna at a town hall event near San Jose, California. According to event organizers, most were allegedly members of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas wing of the RSS. They displayed signs denouncing Shergill as well as Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs.

Khanna’s call to “reject Hindutva” was posted in response to an article by Friedrich about US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s association with Hindutva organizations.

HSS protests Ro Khanna

“Congressman Khanna set an example for his colleagues by braving the heat to stand strong against supremacy,” comments Organization for Minorities of India spokesperson Arvin Valmuci. “He should do much more. The best way to reject Hindutva is to lead the charge against its devious agenda.

We call on Khanna to join his colleagues like Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal in challenging the Modi regime’s devastation of human rights in Kashmir.

We also urge Khanna to take action to expose the foreign interference of the Overseas Friends of BJP in America’s sovereign elections, such as the way they have meddled with the campaign of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Words speak louder than actions.”

“Hindutva is responsible for an endless cycle of violence against non-Hindus in India,” says Brian Isai, an activist with OFMI. “One of the worst recent incidents of mass violence against Christians, though, happened in 2009 when the BJP’s opposition was in power.

The United States needs to make human rights the touchstone of a relationship with India. Congressman Khanna should put his money where his mouth is and introduce an updated version of 2013’s House Resolution 417, which would require US government dialogue with India to be based on religious freedom and related human rights issues.”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit OFMI.org for more information

www.ofmi.org

The Hindu – In a first, USA lawmakers take a step against India on Kashmir

Senate panel adds appeal to end the “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report.

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi – India, 05 October 2019. In what could become the first step towards legislative action by American lawmakers against India on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has added an appeal to end what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited Delhi this week as a part of a congressional delegation that discussed the Kashmir situation as well as India-USA bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with key officials.

‘Restore communication’

According to the report, which was submitted to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, senior Senator and key Republican leader known for his close ties to President Donald Trump, the committee on Appropriations “notes with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and calls on the Government of India to: fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”

What makes the report as well as the tough language on Kashmir more startling is that the document was submitted on 26 September, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in the US, and came just a few days after his joint address at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston with Mr. Trump, as well as their bilateral meeting in New York.

Expression of concern

“This amendment, which was accepted unanimously by the bipartisan committee, is a strong expression of concern by the Senate about the situation in Kashmir and sends the signal that we are closely monitoring the human rights situation there, and would like to see the Government of India take those concerns seriously,” Mr. Van Hollen told The Hindu here, adding that he had “hoped to share his concerns privately” with Prime Minister Modi, but had not been able to meet him.

Mr Van Hollen had met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Washington last week and Senator Bob Menendez, also a part of the delegation, met with Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal this week in Delhi. Both Senators have made public statements in the last two months on the Kashmir situation.

Denied permission

While it is unclear whether their concerns over Kashmir elicited any responses from the government, The Hindu has learnt that Senator Van Hollen was rebuffed when requested permission to visit Srinagar in an effort to assess the situation on the ground.

When asked, MEA officials said the Ministry of Home Affairs handled such requests. No diplomat or foreign journalist has yet been given clearance to visit Kashmir since the government’s decision on Article 370 on 05 August.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Friday, Mr Jaishankar said many key decision-makers in the USA had been “misinformed by their media” and that he had spent considerable efforts in the past few weeks to clear misconceptions on the government’s decision to drop the “temporary” Article 370.

With inputs from Sriram Lakshman

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/in-a-first-us-lawmakers-take-a-step-against-india-on-kashmir/article29598290.ece

OFMI – Proposed Gandhi bust in Georgia protested for Indian icon’s racism

“He thought of Africans as subhuman,” say Gwinnett County residents

Lilburn – Georgia – USA, 08 October 2019. A diverse coalition of residents of Gwinnett County, in northern Georgia, united on 06 October around the common cause of opposing the proposed installation of a Gandhi bust.

“We’re going to stop it from happening,” Cheryle Renee Moses told the local CBS news channel at a rally held in the City of Lilburn’s Bryson Park. The park is the planned location for the proposed bust, which is intended to be installed on October 19. Residents upset about the bust, however, are relying on more than public pressure.

They are hiring an attorney and hope to file a lawsuit to block the bust. Last year, similar action stopped a proposed Gandhi statue in the southern central African country of Malawi. Activists there protested Gandhi for the same reasons.

“Gandhi’s statues are being taken down all around the world,” said Moses, who was the Democratic nominee for Georgia State Senate District 9 in Gwinnett County. “He thought of Africans as being subhuman.

African-Americans are the majority-minority in Gwinnett County, so to put up a statue of a person who was racist against Africans is insulting to many of the citizens that live here. These are their tax dollars going to maintain the erection of a man who cannot stand us.”

On 03 October Dr Charles Steele Jr, president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, commented on the controversy. “He’s been called a racist here in the last few weeks,” said Dr Steele, speaking from the SCLC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The University of Ghana just removed his statue. It’s so deep in terms of racism. You’re talking about America, but it’s all over the world. What we have to do is address it, we have to confront it, and we can’t hide it under the rug.”

The bust, proposed by non-profit Indian Friends of Atlanta, has faced protest for at least the past two weeks. On 01 October, Moses appeared at the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners’s public hearing to speak against the project. Earlier, Jerry Jones and Nanak Singh registered opposition from Organization for Minorities of India at a September 24 Board of Commissioners’s hearing.

“Statues installed around the world have provoked international headlines and protests as many continue to confront the facts of Gandhi’s hard reputation as a racist, sexual deviant, and religious extremist,” said Jones at the September 24 hearing. “Not only did Gandhi harbor racist opinions, but he enthusiastically acted upon them by promoting racism during his time in South Africa.

He demanded segregation of blacks and Indians and even served as a Sergeant-Major in the British war against the black Africans. His efforts in India have been undermined by his sexual abuse of teenage girls from his own family.”

“The world must learn and evolve and reevaluate the people it puts on pedestals,” remarks Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for OFMI. “Gandhi was viciously and unapologetically racist against black Africans. Besides the problem of promoting a racist, we must also consider what message putting up a statue of Gandhi sends about how we should treat women.

Gandhi molested his teenage grandnieces while they were in his power. In this age of the Me Too movement, we must listen to the cries of the women who were abused by Gandhi. We stand against all commemorations of Gandhi everywhere because his life represented a rejection of the values of love, peace, and nonviolence.”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity. Visit OFMI.org for more information.

http://www.ofmi.org/

BBC News – US imposes China visa restrictions over Uighur issue

The US has said it will impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials accused of involvement in repression of Muslim populations.

Washington DC – USA, 09 October 2019. It follows the decision on Monday to blacklist 28 Chinese organisations linked by the US to allegations of abuse in the Xinjiang region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Chinese government had instituted “a highly repressive campaign”.

China has dismissed the allegations as groundless.

In a statement, Mr Pompeo accused the Chinese government of a string of abuses against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz Muslims and other minority Muslim groups.

These included “mass detentions in internment camps; pervasive, high-tech surveillance; draconian controls on expressions of cultural and religious identities; and coercion of individuals to return from abroad to an often perilous fate in China”.

China has rebuffed the US moves.

“There is no such thing as these so-called ‘human rights issues’ as claimed by the United States,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday.

“These accusations are nothing more than an excuse for the United States to deliberately interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Visa restrictions are to be imposed on Chinese government and Communist Party officials, as well as their family members.

“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” the US statement said.

The US and China are currently embroiled in a trade war, and have sent delegations to Washington for a meeting about the tensions later this week.

What is the situation in Xinjiang?

China has been carrying out a massive security operation in Xinjiang, in its far west, in recent years.

Human rights groups and the UN say China has rounded up and detained more than a million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in vast detention camps, where they are forced to renounce Islam, speak only in Mandarin Chinese and learn obedience to the communist government.

But China says they are attending “vocational training centres” which are giving them jobs and helping them integrate into Chinese society, in the name of preventing terrorism.

There have been increasingly vocal denunciations from the US and other countries about China’s actions in Xinjiang.

Last week, Mr Pompeo alleged that China “demands its citizens worship government, not God” in a press conference in the Vatican.

And in July more than 20 countries at the UN Human Rights Council signed a joint letter criticising China’s treatment of the Uighurs and other Muslims.

Who are the Uighurs?

Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims. They make up about 45% of the Xinjiang region’s population; 40% are Han Chinese.

China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan.

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese and Uighurs fear erosion of their culture.

Xinjiang is officially designated an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49979063

OFMI – US Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard justifies 2002 Gujarat Pogrom

Rights group accuses Gabbard of “victim-blaming” for asking “who instigated it?”

Londonderry – New Hampshire – USA, 05 October 2019. Answering a question at a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, US Congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard appeared to justify the 2002 pogrom against Indian Muslims in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is accused of complicity.

“Modi, of course, back in 2002, was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, and many consider him to be complicit in the deadly ’02 Gujarat riots,” an audience member said to Gabbard during an 01 October town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Gabbard responded, “Do you know what instigated those riots?”

“Congresswoman Gabbard’s justification of the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom is the most abominable form of victim-blaming,” remarks Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India. “With cold and emotionless calculation, she excuses the worst state-sponsored atrocity in modern Indian history by suggesting the thousands who died somehow deserved it.

Gabbard’s response trumps the sociopathic attitude of Modi, who says the only sorrow he feels for victims is same as if a puppy were run over by a car.”

In 2013, when asked if he regretted the incidents of 2002, Modi notoriously responded, “[If] someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is…. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”

Although the violence lasted for several months, the most intense period was a three-day pogrom from February 28 to 02 March 2002. At least 12 Gujarati cities suffered large-scale attacks. In April 2002, Human Rights Watch stated, “What happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims.

The attacks were planned in advance and organized with extensive participation of the police and state government officials.”

HRW further reported, “The attacks on Muslims are part of a concerted campaign of Hindu nationalist organizations to promote and exploit communal tensions to further the BJP’s political rule, a movement that is supported at the local level by militant groups that operate with impunity and under the patronage of the state.

The groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS).”

According to Amnesty International, “Some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and many others were injured.” The death count is corroborated by many other organizations. Dr Christophe Jaffrelot, a specialist in South Asian history and politics, states, “According to reliable NGOs, more than 2,000 people died.”

Attackers included BJP leaders and elected officials such as Member of the Legislative Assembly Maya Kodnani.

In 2007, attackers were filmed fingering Modi as architect of the violence. “He had given us three days to do whatever we could,” said BJP MLA Haresh Bhatt. Another attacker, Babu Bajrangi of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist group labeled by the CIA as a “religious militant organization”, stated, “Nobody can do what Narendra-bhai has done in Gujarat.

The police was standing right in front of us, seeing all that was happening, but they had shut their eyes and mouths.” Bajrangi concluded, “It was [Modi’s] hand all the way.”

The pogrom was preceded by the February 27 burning of several train-coaches in Godhra, Gujarat. Fifty-nine Hindus, including 37 women and children, died. Modi announced the fire was a “preplanned inhuman collective violent act of terrorism.” Jaffrelot states, “Modi thus used Godhra as an opportunity to unleash violence that he hoped to capitalize on during early elections.”

Modi’s role in the 2002 pogrom prompted the US State Department to deny him a visa to enter the country. In 2005, then US Ambassador to India David Mulford said the decision was “based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions.”

Mulford cited reports from the US Government and India’s National Human Rights Commission which alleged a “comprehensive failure” of Modi’s government in Gujarat to stop the “persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state.”

Gabbard’s perceived justification of the pogrom has sparked a harsh response across social media.

Dr Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict research, commented, “Tulsi Gabbard, in order to defend Modi, shamelessly justifies killing of 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat riot under Modi’s watch!”

“Tulsi Gabbard whitewashes Modi’s complicity in independent India’s worst anti-Muslim violence,” remarked Saif Khalid, a journalist with Al Jazeera English.

Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs who has written about Gabbard’s connections to Hindu nationalist groups, enquired, “Can you imagine someone saying that about Kristallnacht, the first Nazi pogrom against the Jews?” His question referenced the 1938 assassination of a German diplomat by a Jewish teenager, which was used as a pretext for Kristallnacht.

“Tulsi Gabbard is blaming Muslims for instigating the 2002 Gujarat riots,” noted Dr Alf Gunvald Nilsen, a professor of sociology.

“She suggests there’s a justifiable reason for why Hindu extremists murdered upwards of 2,000 Muslims and raped thousands more in 2002,” claimed writer C J Werleman. He added, “Tulsi Gabbard’s hatred of Muslims is literally hiding in plain sight.”

Werleman recently reported on leaked audio recordings of Gabbard’s guru, Chris Butler, “describing Muslims in the most viciously racist ways.”

Butler, who founded the Science of Identity Foundation in which Gabbard was raised, reportedly states, “I’m not in a mood to be tolerant towards so-called Muslims.” He describes Muslims as “demons” and “invaders,” stating, “Everyone is afraid of them.”

Gabbard has faced strong criticism for her association with Butler as well as her alleged support for Modi. Last month, OFMI reported that an anonymous source in her campaign confirmed that the US congresswoman had refused an invitation to join Modi’s September 22 pep rally in Houston, Texas.

Reacting to OFMI’s report, Gabbard called it “misinformed” and claimed she only dropped out of the “Howdy Modi” event due to a scheduling conflict.

On 27 September she met Modi in New York City, where she says they discussed issues such as “the situation in Kashmir” and “civil rights.” In a statement after the meeting, she said, “There is no place for hate, bigotry, ignorance and prejudice.”

“What about the money that you get from the RSS,” asked the anonymous audience member at Gabbard’s New Hampshire town hall. “Back it up,” responded Gabbard. “If you’re going to make these arguments and make these claims, you better have the evidence to back it up.”

“Evidence for claims regarding RSS support for Congresswoman Gabbard was provided in a lengthy article in August issue of Caravan magazine,“ concludes OFMI’s Valmuci. “Gabbard must clarify her position on the RSS. Does she support the RSS’s agenda of ethnic cleansing and turning India into a Hindu nation?

If she is against hate and bigotry, how can she be for the RSS?” He adds, “The young woman who posed these questions at Gabbard’s recent town hall has not been identified. We ask her to reach out to us. We would like to interview her to learn about her background and her interest in these issues. Who is she?”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity. Visit OFMI.org for more information.

US Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Justifies 2002 Gujarat Pogrom

Organization for Minorities of India – Diverse groups in USA demonstrate against Gandhi’s racism, sexual abuse

USA: 04 October2019. Groups on both the West and East coasts of the U.S. demonstrated against Mohandas Gandhi on 02 October, his 150th birthday, describing the occasions as “150 years of racism.”

At the Martin Luther King Junior Center in Atlanta, Georgia, a group including several African-Americans demanded removal of the Gandhi statue placed at the center.

Jerry Jones, an activist associated with Organization for Minorities of India, displayed placards declaring: “No place for Gandhi in USA.” Another placard held by Jones quoted South African author Ashwin Desai, who stated, “Gandhi believed in the Aryan brotherhood.

This involved whites and Indians higher up than Africans on the civilized scale.” In a 2015 interview with BBC, Desai further said, “You cannot have Gandhi as an accomplice of colonial subjugation in South Africa and then also defend his liberation credentials in South Africa.”

Demonstrators later shifted to Georgia State University to protest a commemoration of Gandhi hosted by Atlanta’s Indian Consulate in collaboration with the Gandhi Foundation of USA.

Previously, on 24 September, Jerry Jones and Nanak Singh represented OFMI at the Gwinnet County Board of Commissioners’ public hearing, where they appeared to register dissent against a proposed bust of Gandhi which the county intends to unveil at Bryson Park, Lilburn, GA on 12 October 2019.

“There is no way there should be statues erected commemorating a man who could not stand Africans,” said Cheryle Renee Moses about the proposed Bryson Park bust.

Moses, who is the Democratic nominee for Georgia State Senate District 9 in Gwinnett County, continued, “I’m sure many other African-Americans and black folks would feel the same way once they are educated on Gandhi’s real beliefs about Africans, about black folks.”

Also on 02 October at the University of California, Berkeley, approximately 20 people blocked the university’s Sather Gate. Holding a large banner declaring, “150 Years of Racism: Happy Birthday, Gandhi,” they chanted slogans such as “down with Gandhi” and delivered short speeches about why they were protesting Gandhi.

“Gandhi is used as a diplomatic weapon by the Indian State,” stated Bhajan Singh, a former director of OFMI. He claimed that the Government of India has expanded its budget to finance Gandhi statues around the world, adding, “They have occupied Kashmir, they have attacked the Sikhs in Punjab, they have attacked Dalits, Christians, and they want to forcefully convert and submerge the traditional Dravidian culture of India into the pro-Aryan culture.”

In an interview with the university’s CalTV, Singh concluded, “He started his career by being the founder of apartheid in colonial South Africa.”

Demonstrators displayed placards calling Gandhi “father of apartheid.” Other placards claimed Gandhi had “hatred of women” and stated: “Gandhi was a sex offender.”

Although Gandhi is widely perceived as a “Mahatma” (Great Soul) and portrayed as an icon of peace, the past several years have brought increased calls for reevaluation of his legacy. In 2014, protests erupted over a proposed statue of Gandhi in London after historian Kusoom Vadgama began a petition alleging that the Indian activist “dishonored women.”

In 2018, a Gandhi statue was removed from the University of Ghana campus after students and faculty began a petition against Gandhi’s “racist identity.” An ongoing campaign against a proposed statue of Gandhi in Malawi has generated almost 4,300 signatures on a petition calling him an “ardent racist.”

“Modi’s years of building upon the false Gandhi propaganda to support the goals of India’s Hindu nationalist movement are being challenged around the world,” comments OFMI’s Arvin Valmuci.

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity. Visit OFMI.org for more information.