Just when Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the US for his much-publicised visit, a Congressional commission will hold a hearing to examine the current state of human rights in India,.
The commission’s hearing on India’s human rights, according to a PTI report, will coincide with the White House meeting between Prime Minister Modi and US President Barack Obama.
Tom Lantos from the Human Rights Commission said that the hearing, among other things, will also examine the challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement in India.
In a statement, the commission also said that a “wide variety of serious human rights concerns persist,” while explaining the reasons for holding the hearing on India.
The statement added that despite constitutional provisions abolishing the legal existence of “untouchable”, the caste system remained deeply ingrained within Indian society, leading to ongoing discrimination.
The statement added, “Dalit communities, which make up a quarter of India’s population, are also disproportionately at the 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 commercialised sexual exploitation or forced labour. Religious minorities also face growing challenges.”
The US commission also expressed concerns over the way Modi government has been systematically placing a huge number of international non-governmental organisations supporting a range of causes, including human rights, on to government watch lists even cutting off their funding.
It alleged, “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.”
The hearing, while examining these and other issues, will also attempt to provide concrete recommendations for how US policy makers can most effectively encourage the protection of human rights in India.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its latest report had said that in 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India.
It added, “Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims and Sikhs experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.”
Modi is expected to leave India on a five-nation visit starting on 4 June. Among countries expected to be visited by the prime minister are Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico.
He will arrive in the Us on 7 June at the invitation of Obama and also address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress.