Bill to resettle ‘endangered’ Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in US – M.R. Subramani

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M.R. SubramaniResolution introduced in the US Congress to resettle prosecuted Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan to the United States. – M.R. Subramani

A resolution has been introduced in the US Congress to resettle persecuted Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan to the United States.

The resolution has been introduced by Jackie Speier, a House representative from California, and co-sponsored by seven others. It has termed Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan as “endangered minorities”.

Speier said in her resolution that Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have undergone “systematic religious persecution, discrimination” and were in “existential danger”, according to a PTI report carried by New Indian Express.

Her resolution supported resettling the Sikhs and Hindus in the US under the United States Refugee Admissions Programme of the Immigration and Nationality Act and condemned all terrorist attacks, religious persecution and discrimination against these communities.

Drawing attention to the 25 March attack on a gurdwara in Kabul this year that killed 25 persons, she said Islamic terrorists made further efforts to kill the survivors before and after the funerals of the victims.

The resolution also referred to other attacks, including suicide bombing, and said that the violent acts targeted Sikhs and Hindus besides other religious minorities in the war-ravaged nation.

Speier also mentioned reports of the US Department of State and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that had documented discrimination against Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan.

The discrimination includes curbs on religious practices, illegal seizure of property, harassment of children sent to public schools, judicial bias against religious minorities, and restrictions on the political rights of religious minorities.

The resolution also pointed out at the routine persecution of the Afghan Sikhs and faulted US President Donald Trump allowing only resettlement of 18,000 refugees in the 2020 financial year.

The resolution in the US Congress is an interesting development, especially since the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had pointed out at India as a country of particular concern for having passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019.

The CAA offers speedy citizenship to persecuted minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In its annual report this year, the USCIRF said the Indian government had come out with the CAA as “a corrective measure to protect Hindus excluded from Assam’s NRC (National Registry of Citizenship)” and added that with CAA in place “Muslims alone would bear the indignities and consequences of potential statelessness”.

The USCIRF, which relied mainly on foreign media reports on CAA that was grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood, recommended that the US should impose targeted sanctions against Indian government agencies and officials for “severe violation of religious freedom” by freezing their assets or barring their entry into the US.

It also said the US Congress should conduct hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and US policy towards India.

Interestingly, USCIRF commissioner Gary L. Bauer dissented the report and its finding, saying India is not the equivalent of China or North Korea which “wage war on all faiths”.

Similarly, USCIRF commissioners Tenzin Dorjee and Johnnie Moore also did not go along with the decision to place India in the list of nations of concern.

The USCIRF report has been severely criticized in India as well as by Indians abroad. In particular, USCIRF vice-chairperson Tony Perkins has come under attack as he had once headed an organisation that termed yoga as an “obstacle to God”.

The USCIRF is mandated to prepare reports annually on religious freedom in the world and submit it to Congress. Even the State Department, whose employees help prepare the USCIRF report, don’t attach much significance to the findings.

According to Suhar Shukla, Hindu America Foundation executive director, the IRF report was outsourced and a person from Pakistan was hired to write the anti-India report. – Swarajya, 20 August 2020

M.R. Subramani is an executive editor at Swarajya Magazine. 

Sikh Cremation in Kabul