Attaboy, Jaishankar: It's Time India Learnt To Weaponise Human Rights
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar did well to push back strongly against US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s gratuitous comments about monitoring human rights violations in India. Jaishankar said: “People are entitled to have their views of us. We too are entitled to have views about their lobbies and vote banks. We will not be reticent. We also have views on other people’s human rights, particularly when it pertains to our community.” (The Times of India)
This is a good beginning, but to be really effective, this pushback must be backed with decisive action on setting up the infrastructure for monitoring human rights abuses involving Indians settled in the US, and wherever else Indian communities, especially Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, are settled in large numbers. This means the United Kingdom, Canada, some countries of Europe, and West Asia. Most important, this monitoring must include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The purpose of this monitoring group, which can be based in India and north America, and which can be jointly managed by the Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs, should be to do the following:
One, build authentic databases on human rights violations of Indic communities in countries where many Indic people are settled. Once we have collected data on a sustained basis for two years, we can share the details in a report with the world, and take it up with the US too.
Two, we must create coalitions of Indian communities in north America and elsewhere to help us collect and collate this data, and also tell us where things are going wrong. More important, we must call out groups that masquerade as Hindu or Indian organisations — Hindus for Human Rights and anonymous “South Asian” Groups come to mind — but essentially act as anti-India lobbies in the name of preventing casteism or Islamophobia. Any organisation that claims to dismiss Hinduphobia as a reality must be called out and blacklisted.
Three, the activities of anti-India groups — like the Muslim and Christian lobbies in the US, not to speak of various Khalistani groups — need to be monitored and brought to the notice of the US administration. Where their statements with regard to India are out of whack with reality, there must be strong pushback, even defamation cases, launched against them in the US (and sometimes in India). We can’t let legitimate US-based organisations like the Hindu American Foundation to fight solo battles in courts when there is a huge ecosystem, including Hinduphobic academia, US-backed caste-based fronts, evangelical and Islamist front organisations (the Council for American Islamic Relations, for example) to dictate the US’s human rights agenda vis-a-vis India. India must share its data on these organisations with the US administration so that their views are deeply discounted.
Four, India must emphasise that as the only Hindu majority nation of consequence (95 per cent of Hindus live here), it has a special duty to protect Hindu interests here or anywhere. The world has more than a hundred Christian majority countries, many of them Christian by constitution, and nearly 50 Muslim-majority country, most of them Islamist by design. It is ridiculous to pretend that India cannot, or should not, talk about Hindu rights when they are threatened anywhere else in the world.
The US must be made to formally acknowledge this asymmetry: more than 150 nations against Hindu-majority India. India is not obliged to speak only of “Indians” in a communally-neutral way. Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and tribal traditions and faiths are also under attack in India, either by evangelicals or jihadi groups, or both. India must protect them.
The US standard of religious rights, which is essentially about the right of powerful institutions to use any and every means to convert Hindus, is not really about individual religious freedom. Religious freedoms are greater in Hindu majority India, than those existing in the US, which has defined these rights to the advantage of evangelical organisations.
The US has chosen to weaponise human rights. India must also do so to protect its interests and not remain perpetually on the defensive. Jaishankar’s statement against Blinken’s references to alleged human rights abuses in India needs to be followed up with visible action. Statements are not enough. When we have built this database, we must ask for a discussion on human rights with the US and settle the terms of the discussion. Right now, the terms of the discussion, are determined by the US, and not mutually agreed. This must change.
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