Christian group seeks US sanctions on India over its failure to grant religious freedom
Washington: International Christian Concern (ICC) in a report has revealed that Indian anti-conversion laws do not secure the freedom of religion but rather take away their ability to fully exercise their rights without government hindrance.
International Christian Concern is a group based in Washington, DC, whose concern is the human rights of Christians across the globe.
The Christian group said the Department of State in the US must prioritize religious freedom, minority rights, and the repeal of anti-conversion laws in its bilateral conversations with India and should pressure the Narendra Modi administration to condemn specific instances of violence against religious minorities.
“These should be standing agenda items in every bilateral meeting between the two countries. Diplomatic pressure is most effective when it is consistent and ongoing and offers measurable steps and goals for improvement,” the report argued.
The US should publicly impose measured economic consequences on India for its behavior, Christian group demanded.
“…the US should implement targeted sanctions and visa bans on persons known to persecuting religious minorities. The Global Magnitsky sanctioning authority and others provide an array of measured economic responses on individuals and move away from broader sanctioning powers that could negatively impact the country as a whole. In addition to individual sanctions, entity level sanctions should be considered as well, including on the Bajrang Dal, the RSS, the VHP, radical members of BJP leadership, and Hindu Munnani,” the group demanded.
The US government should monitor Hindu extremism in America, which is peddled through various front organisations that maintain close ties to Hindutva organisations across India and advocate for Hindutva policies and ideologies, ICC said.
They also said the US should pressure India to allow the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioners to make an official trip to India. For years, Indian leadership has denied USCIRF official access to India to conduct a comprehensive review of religious freedom conditions in India. The Indian agreement to allow USCIRF for an official visit would be a significant step in the right direction.
USCIRF is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
ICC studied the effects of the enactment of Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law from January to June 2021. During this time, ICC documented the instances of persecution experienced by the state’s Christian community and the number of churches closed as a result.
ICC also surveyed over 500 Christians regarding the enactment of the new anti-conversion law and its effects on their community. On January 9, 2021, Madhya Pradesh became the latest state to enact an anti-conversion law.
The enactment of this law unleashed a new wave of persecution for the state’s Muslim and Christian minorities.
According to the report, the data show the enactment of the anti-conversion law in Madhya Pradesh had a significantly negative effect on the state’s Christian community. The law dramatically increased the number of persecution incidents endured and led to an overall climate of fear for the state’s Christians.
“The legal structures set forth by these laws make state administrators the final decision arbitrators between legitimate and a nonlegitimate conversion, taking this authority from the individual where it rightly belongs. The constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens, included the right to propagate one’s faith and change religions,” read the report. Web Desk
India plans to demolish 500 mosques in occupied Kashmir
Lahore: Mashal Malik, wife of Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Muhammad Yasin Malik, has said that India is conspiring to demolish 500 mosques in occupied Kashmir.
The wife of jailed Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Muhammad Yasin Malik, while addressing a seminar on the occasion of Kashmir Martyrs’ Day organized by Government College University Kashmir Society, said that mosques have already been identified.
He said that Jammu and Kashmir has planned to build temples on the land of mosques for the settlement of Hindus.
Calling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Hitler of this century, Mashal Malik said that the Modi government has set a new example of barbarism and terrorism against Mujahideen.
He said that the population ratio was being changed due to gross violation of UN resolutions and the international community remained a silent spectator.
Professor Zaidi, who was present at the event, said that the time is not far when Kashmiris will have the right to self-determination.
Other participants said that India has no right over the occupied valley. Universities should publish comprehensive curriculum for youth on Kashmir issue.
It may be recalled that Kashmir Martyrs’ Day was celebrated all over the world yesterday and ceremonies were held in memory of 22 youths who were martyred on July 13, 1931. Web Desk
Russia presses Afghan government to negotiate with Taliban
Moscow: Russia is calling on the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban as U.S. troops leave the county and the militant group makes substantial territory gains.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, told Russia’s RIA news agency it would be hypocritical for the Afghan government to float the idea of talks without actually negotiating, Reuters reported.
“It’s hypocrisy. It’s an attempt to close their eyes to the reality which exists and these are empty words,” Kabulov reportedly said. “We need deeds.” A transitional government in Afghanistan is preferred by Russia, he added.
The Taliban have seized both territory and materiel since President Biden announced U.S. troops would be pulling out of Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. Outside watchers fear the government in Kabul may not stand for long after the American withdrawal. The Biden administration moved to evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S. military during the war. AFP
Russia has previously warned the U.S. not to put troops in former Soviet Union nations in Central Asia after the troops are completely withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Hill
Jaishankar’s statement on FATF exposes ‘true colours’ of India: Pakistan
Islamabad: The Foreign Office (FO) on Monday slammed Indian minister’s statement, admitting that it played role in keeping Pakistan on the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“Indian statement not only exposes its true colors but also vindicates Pakistan’s longstanding stance on India’s negative role in FATF,” said FO Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar admitted that Pakistan is on the FATF grey list because of the “efforts of Narendra Modi’s government.”.
The spokesperson reminded that Islamabad has always been highlighting India’s role to the international community in the politicisation of the FATF and undermining its processes. It added that the recent statement by the Indian foreign minister was “just a further corroboration of its continued efforts to use an important technical forum for its narrow political designs against Pakistan”.
“While Pakistan has been sincerely and constructively engaged with FATF during the implementation of the action plan, India has left no stone unturned in casting doubts on Pakistan’s progress through disgraceful means,” said the FO spokesperson.
The statement said that Islamabad has been “exposing India’s duplicitous role to the international community in the past” and vowed that it will also bring the “recent confession by India” to the FATF’s notice.
“Pakistan is also considering approaching FATF president for an appropriate action in this matter. Following the recent confession by Indian Government, India’s credentials for assessing Pakistan in FATF as co-chair of the Joint Group or for that matter any other country are subject to questions, which we urge FATF to look into,” said Chaudhri.
The FO spokesperson reiterated that Pakistan’s progress in AML/CFT domain has been “demonstrated through concrete, tangible and verifiable actions” which was also “openly acknowledged” by FATF.
“We are resolved to sustain this momentum and trajectory with the support and cooperation of our international partners. India’s delusions of putting pressure on Pakistan have always remained unfulfilled and would never see the light of day,” said Chaudhri. He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the AML/CFT systems.
‘India’s statement confirms what Pakistan has been saying all along’
Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar tweeted that Jaishankar’s statement “only confirms what Pakistan has been saying all along”.
“India actively politicises & undermines the technical processes & spirit of FATF,” tweeted Azhar. He added that Pakistan’s “progress is nevertheless undeniable” and vowed that Islamabad “shall soon” complete both its action plans.
‘India made sure Pakistan stays on FATF grey list’
On Sunday, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar admitted that Pakistan is on the grey list of the FATF because of the “efforts of Narendra Modi’s government.”
According to a report published by The Print, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar credited the Modi-led government for its “efforts” to ensure that FATF kept Pakistan on the grey list.
The minister issued the statement while addressing BJP leaders’ training programme on the foreign policy of the government via video link, the outlet said.
“FATF as all of you know keep a check on fundings for terrorism and deals with black money supporting terrorism. Due to us, Pakistan is under the lens of FATF and it was kept [on] the grey list. We have been successful in pressurising Pakistan and the fact that Pakistan’s behaviour has changed is because of pressure put by India by various measures. Also terrorists from LeT and Jaish, India’s efforts through UN, have come under sanctions,” Jaishankar reportedly told the leaders, according to The Print. The Print
US says it ‘recognises, supports’ Pakistan’s efforts to implement FATF action plan
Washington: A couple of days after India admitted to its negative role in keeping Pakistan on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the US has said that Pakistan has made “significant progress” on its first action plan with 26 of 27 actions items “largely addressed”.
During a regular press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said “we do recognize, and we support Pakistan’s continued efforts to satisfy those obligations.”
The State Department spokesperson was asked to comment on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s statement over Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s admission that Pakistan is on the FATF grey list because of the “efforts of Narendra Modi’s government.”
Price said that the US encourages Pakistan to continue working with the FATF and the international community to swiftly complete the remaining action item by demonstrating that terrorism financing, investigations, and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated groups.
“We do further encourage Pakistan to expeditiously implement its new second action plan.”
The State Department was also asked to speak on the issue of the alleged abduction of the daughter of Afghanistan’s envoy to Pakistan after Kabul recalled its senior diplomats from Islamabad.
“Afghanistan’s neighbours do have a role to play. I would add that tangible and material support for the Afghanistan peace process is vital for its ultimate success, as are the longer-term relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
He added that the US certainly do hope to see Afghanistan’s neighbours play a constructive, responsible role in bringing about a just and durable solution here. “We understand the crucial role that Pakistan has the potential to play in this regard as well.” AFP
PM Imran’s number among those targeted for surveillance by India using Israeli spyware: report
Islamabad: India was among a number of countries using an Israeli company’s spyware in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists around the world. At least one number once used by Prime Minister Imran Khan was on the India list, according to an investigation by 17 media organisations published on Sunday.
The extent of the spyware – Pegasus – use was reported by The Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.
According to The Post, more than 1,000 phone numbers in India appeared on the surveillance list while hundreds were from Pakistan, including the one PM Imran once used. However, The Post did not specify whether the surveillance attempt on PM Imran’s number was successful.
According to media reports, 300 mobile phone numbers used in India — including those of government ministers, opposition politicians, journalists, scientists and rights activists — were on the list.
The numbers included those of more than 40 Indian journalists from major publications such as the Hindustan Times, The Hindu and the Indian Express, as well as two founding editors of The Wire, it said.
Reacting to the revelations, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said he was “extremely concerned” by the reports. “Unethical policies of Modi government have dangerously polarised India and the region,” he tweeted.
The Indian government denied in 2019 that it had used the malware to spy on its citizens after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in the United States against NSO, the Israeli company producing the spyware, accusing it of using the messaging platform to conduct cyber espionage.
Israel’s NSO Group and its Pegasus malware have been in the headlines since at least 2016, when researchers accused it of helping spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.
Recently revelations raise privacy and rights concerns, and reveal the far-reaching extent to which the private Israeli company’s software may be being misused by its clients internationally.
The leak was of a list of more than 50,000 smartphone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016, the media outlets said.
One of the organisations, The Washington Post, said the Pegasus spyware licensed by the NSO Group was also used to target phones belonging to two women close to Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist murdered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018, before and after his death.
The Post said the list was shared with the news organisations by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International. The newspaper said the total number of phones on the list that were actually targeted or surveilled was unknown. AFP
Sudan’s Darfur conflict’s latest surge in violence displaces thousands
Darfur: Two years after the Sudanese revolution, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced as violence in Darfur continues. Many hoped a hard-earned peace agreement would put an end to the decades-old conflict, but the region’s bloody legacy continues. Thirty-five-year-old Khamisa Juma Ishag Abaker is perched on a pile of rubble that was once her home.
Dressed in a floral print fabric that covers her from head to toe, she sifts through the dust to uncover an old bottle of perfume and dinnerware gifted to her but now broken – remnants of her old life. “My house had a garden and a door. I could lie down in the shade. I could cook for my children.”
It’s her first time returning to Krinding – a settlement for displaced people – after clashes in January left tens of thousands of people homeless and hundreds dead.
“They burnt all the houses. We tried to flee into the street, but they shot my brother. He fell and when he tried to stand up, they shot him again – they killed him in front of me. I’ve cried so much… my eyes can barely see now.”
Now living in cramped conditions in a school classroom in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, she is struggling to take care of her ailing parents and her children.
“We don’t have money. We don’t even have beds, pillows, or blankets… I don’t have anything. I just stare and do nothing.”
Ms Abaker says the Rapid Support Forces [RSF], a paramilitary group tasked by the government with keeping civilians safe, is behind the attacks.
She is too afraid to go back.
“If the international forces came, we could return, but they won’t.”
The absence of joint UN-African Union (Unamid) peacekeepers is being felt by many in West Darfur. After 13 years on the ground, experts say their gradual withdrawal since December has been met with a surge of violence. Some 20,000 Sudanese troops were promised to take their place, but they are yet to arrive.
The war in Darfur began in 2003 after ethnic African rebels revolted against former President Omar al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated government.
Bashir responded by arming local Arab militias – infamously known as the Janjaweed – who targeted non-Arab tribes accused of supporting the rebels. Hundreds of thousands of people died and many villages were burnt and pillaged.
Then in 2019, he was ousted from government by some of his own generals following mass street protests calling for his removal. Now in prison in Sudan serving a sentence for corruption, Bashir is due to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face genocide and war crimes charges, which he denies.
A year after the revolution the new military-civilian transitional government signed a peace agreement with local rebel groups. Residents believed it was the beginning of a new era of calm, but unrelenting violence, which began in December 2019, has continued to grip the region.
As a result, more than 150,000 people have been displaced, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.
El Geneina is overflowing with people left twice displaced. Some 80 government sites host at least 50,000 civilians – all now experts in building makeshift homes assembled together from plastic sheets and sticks.
In April, fighting between one of Darfur’s biggest communities, the Masalit, and the Arabs spread to the centre, leaving people terrified of a future attack. BBC
Mosque, washrooms, tube well bulldozed at Delhi Rohingya cam
New Delhi: A makeshift mosque, washrooms and a tube well at Madanpur Khadar Rohingya camp in New Delhi were demolished by authorities on Thursday morning, refugees and social media posts said.
According to refugees who spoke with Clarion India, the official told them that the mosque was standing on government land which they had allegedly encroached. The officials also shifted the refugees living on the portion of the land that falls in Uttar Pradesh state and relocated them in tents set up on Wednesday close to the main road outside the camp.
Eyewitnesses said that the officials aided by policemen used bulldozers to demolish the mosque that in structure reflected the look of a ramshackle shelter. The exercise was conducted an hour after morning prayers were held inside the mosque.
A 33-year-old Rohingya man who did not want to be named said the officials went ahead with demolishing the mosque even as they had appealed to them to not do so. “We were hurt when we saw the bulldozer bring the mosque to the ground. Our eyes were full of tears,” he said.
A video that was shared on social media showed the fangs of earth movers tearing through the roof and walls of the mosque as police and officials stood by.
The police officials while speaking with Clarion India said that the structure was not a mosque. But the refugees claimed that they would hold the prayers there daily.
The SDM Sarita Vihar who is assigned to deal with matters concerning Rohingya refugees in the area declined to talk saying he was not competent.
This is the same camp, housing around 300 refugees, that was destroyed in a blaze on June 13. The refugees are now living in tents provided by relief groups.
A refugee said that the people who accuse them of land grab should know that they are refugees and will leave the country when the situation gets better in their home land (Mynamar). “We do not have the right to own the land. We live in the camp because we have nowhere to go,” he said.
Shamsheeda Khatoon, a 27 year old Rohingya woman said that the demolition of washroom and water supply system has left them in lurch. “We have no private space for defecation or bath and wash.”
Ali Johar, a Rohingya activist, said the demolition exercise has hurt the religious sentiments of the camp inmates who now have no place for worship. He appealed to the government to use a compassionate approach towards Rohingya.
Reportedly the mosque stood on the patch of land that belonged to the Uttar Pradesh government’s irrigation department.
“Illegal Rohingya camps were removed from the land belonging to the Irrigation Department in Madanpur Khadar at 4 am. Illegal occupants removed from the 2.10 hectare land of the UP Irrigation Department,” said UP Jal Shakti Minister Mahendra Singh in a Tweet
India TV quoted him saying that he had written to the Delhi LG, Delhi CM and the leader of opposition about this issue. “The LG gave us full support. Our team went to the site with the JCBs and other machines and was accompanied by Delhi Police and a team from the local administration,” Singh had said. Clarion India