Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, introduced a motion in the US House of Representatives where she condemned India’s alleged human rights record.
The Congressman, who sparked controversy after a visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir earlier in April, accused India of “violating religious freedom” and said “targeting of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, tribals and other religious and cultural minorities” created.
Omar wants the foreign minister to designate India as a ‘country of particular concern’ in line with the recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Mere introduction does not mean that it will be passed or actively considered as there are many hurdles to be overcome for its implementation.
Three other Democrat leaders are co-sponsors of the proposal. A fellow member of the so-called “squad” Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American congresswoman from Michigan, is also a signatory to the resolution.
Jim McGovern, a Congressman from Massachusetts, and Juan Vargas, a Congressman from California, are other co-sponsors.
The proposal comes two months after the Congress woman had traveled to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and claimed that she was on a ‘private visit’. He along with many other prominent ‘socialist’ Democrats like Pramila Jayapal has taken a hard line towards India.
The Union Ministry of External Affairs issued a strong statement asking him to do ‘narrow-minded politics’ at his home.
“If such a politician wants to do his narrow-minded politics at home, it can be his business. But the violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty in its pursuit makes it ours. This visit is condemnable,” the Ministry of External Affairs had said in April.
She says the death of Stan Swamy and the arrest of Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez are examples of the Indian government’s “repression of religious minority leaders and a voice for religious pluralism”.
She also claims that Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Sedition Act and National Register of Citizens as tools of repression against Muslims.
The USCIRF’s allegations provide the basis for the motion, which also alleges that the government represses Hindu converts to Islam and Christianity and harassed interfaith couples.
India had earlier said that the 2020 USCIRF report is an example of “misrepresentation reaching new levels” and “bias”.
The US State Department said earlier this month in its annual report on international religious freedom that minority religions and their places of worship are at risk as they face increasing attacks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this year that attacks on minorities and places of worship were on the rise.
“It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being played in international relations. We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views are avoided,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in response.
The MEA also hit back saying that India has highlighted issues related to racism, gun violence, ethnically motivated attacks on minorities and hate crimes that happen on a daily basis in the US.
It is noteworthy that in his resolution Omar also said that tribals in India are facing repression, failing to notice that the ruling party nominated Draupadi Murmu as its candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.
The US House of Representatives’ House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) will now look into the resolution, but it is unlikely to pass because its rules require 25 House co-sponsors, of whom at least 10 are HFAC members. The Committee on Foreign Affairs was adopted in February 2021.
The committee chair will also need to decide what the “extraordinary circumstances” are – if any – with Republican Michael McCall, who is the ranking minority member in the HFAC.
The resolution passed by Omar has other limitations. As mentioned earlier it lacks 25 House co-sponsors, of whom at least 10 are members of the HFAC.
It also faces another obstacle – it does not arise from the HFAC or any of its subcommittees, thus limiting its possibilities.
If passed it would reflect the collective spirit of the legislative chamber but it would not be a law.
Another obstacle is the importance of the HFAC to the strong bilateral relationship between the US and India as the committee feels that the two countries should come together to face global challenges as well as threats from China.
If the motion is not taken up by the end of the term of the House, the resolution will lapse as elections to the new House will be held in November.
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