Mismatch of Secretary Blinken’s assessment of Indian democracy with ground reality

By Koshy George

“The most remarkable democratic election in the world, in many ways is here in India,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a press conference last week during his visit there.  As a pravasi Indian I wish these were true statements and I want India to be known this way among the nations of the world.

But Mr. Blinken either believes this to be true or he was ignoring the truth for the sake of international diplomacy.  Since freedom of the press in India is under pressure, only polished news comes out.  Either way, based on the facts on the ground, he was either misguided or as the UCA (United Catholic Asian) news commented, it was Blinken’s blinkered vision of India to suit Prime Minister Narendra  Modi.

The Secretary of State’s words would have been soothing for the ears of Mr. Modi and his party.  However, this does not give justice to hundreds of Christians and people of other minorities who sacrificed their lives at the altar of the quest of the ruling party to declare India as a Hindu state. The injustices suffered by the 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy alone should have been reason enough for Mr. Blinken to have been more cautious in his statements about human rights and respect for democratic principles by the Indian government.

According to Reuters, on July 23, 2021 a senior State Department official said that  the Secretary of State will raise human rights issues with officials in India when he visits the country next week.  If Secretary Blinken was aware of human rights violations in India, how can he take an about-turn after 12 hours of air travel to India? USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) recommends India as one of the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) as India is listed by Open Doors as the tenth most violator of human rights in the world.  Now, Secretary Blinken will have to accept or reject the recommendations of the State Department’s own report by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

We hope and pray that Secretary Blinken will have the wisdom to do the right thing.  Of course, no one is happy about such a rating for India, but due to the stubborn stand of several nationalists in the Modi administration, this may be the only medicine for them to respect the basic human rights and religious freedom of minorities.

India had a good beginning after Independence and adopted the principles of pluralism and secularism.  However, the evils of the caste system and the supremacy ideologies of the majority squeezed out any decency that was left in the political system in India by the ruling majority of the Modi government.

The current government has been suppressing all kinds of freedom in India including individual and press freedoms.  Anyone criticizing any act of the government is termed as anti-national and they are liable to be jailed indefinitely without the chance for a bail hearing.  Such atrocities are unheard of in a decent democracy.  What is the basis for Secretary Blinken’s assessment that India is a remarkable democracy?  Facts on the ground state otherwise.  All he needs is to talk to any one of the church leaders in India to find the real situation.

Whoever may be ruling India we must have peace and harmony in the country. This is possible only if the ruling majority respects the interests of the minorities.  Following the religious faith of their choice in India has become a challenge for citizens under Prime Minister Modi’s watch.  If India has to prosper, she has to get rid of the caste system. We appeal to the government of India not to pass any more laws that hurt the interests of the minorities.  In the meantime, until India reverses all its unjust laws, the US State Department must include India in the list of CPC nations to encourage India to go back to her roots and give all Indians the same rights and privileges under the law.

The writer is President of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America (FIACONA).  

Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy AP)

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