India’s human rights record to be discussed at US Capitol

Date: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 – 3:00pm [EST]
Location: 1334 Longworth House Office Building

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By special correspondent

Washington DC: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet again in the United States. He is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday. On the eve of his address, a group of activists to testify at a special hearing on the human rights conditions in India.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing that will examine the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement.
The hearing is going to specifically look at persecution of religious minorities, discrimination of Dalits, and human trafficking.

The hearing is hosted by Congressman Joseph R. “Joe” Pitts (Republican) from Pennsylvania’s 16th congressional district and Coongressman James Patrick “Jim” McGovern (Democrat) representing Massachusetts’s 2nd congressional district.

A statement issued by the two Congressmen:

“A wide variety of serious human rights concerns persist. Despite Constitutional provisions abolishing the legal existence of “untouchable” or Dalit castes and tribes, the caste system remains deeply ingrained within Indian society, leading to ongoing discrimination. Dalit communities, which make up a quarter of India’s population, are also disproportionately at risk of suffering from another major human rights concern in India, that of human trafficking. Tens of thousands of individuals, including children, are believed to be trafficking annually within India for the purposes of commercialized sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Religious minorities also face growing challenges. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s most recent report, “In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.”

Meanwhile, a large number of international non-governmental organizations supporting a range of causes, including human rights, have been added to government watch lists or had funding cut off by Indian officials. These actions, coupled with perceived crackdowns on groups or individuals critical of the Indian government, have many concerned that the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association are being increasingly curtailed.

This hearing will examine these and other issues, while seeking to provide concrete recommendations for how U.S. policy makers can most effectively encourage the protection of human rights given the strategic importance and continued growth of the U.S. – India bilateral relationship.
This hearing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media.


Panel I
• Mr. John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
• Mr. Ajit Sahi, Human Rights Activist & Journalist, Formerly with Tehelka Magazine
• Mr. T. Kumar, Asia Advocacy Director, Amnesty International
Panel II
• Mr. Jeff King, President, International Christian Concern
• Mr. Musaddique Thange, Communications Director, Indian American Muslim Council
• Ms. Martina E. Vandenberg, Founder & President, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
• Mr. Raj Cherukonda, Representative, Dalit American Federation