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Is USCIRF unwittingly promoting discord between Hindus & Buddhist?
In 1998, The United States Congress passed International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and created The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
USCIRF 2014 annual report published in April 2014 concludes that “In the past year, reports of incidents of communal and religiously-motivated violence against religious minorities in India increased…..…..India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice when crimes occurs…..due to religious bias by government officials.”
Every year, USCIRF comes to similar decision, and publishes similar conclusion, regardless of what happened during the year.
USCIRF 2014 conclusions is based on following 5 incidents:
1) Attack on Buddhist Religious Complex
2) Police action during Christian and Muslim Dalit Rally in New Delhi
3) Hindu-Muslim Violence in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh
4) Freedom of Religion Act commonly referred as anti-conversion law
5) Redress for Past Large-Scale Violence
1) Attack on Buddhist Religious Complex:USCIRF wrote “On July 7, nine explosives were detonated in the Bodh Gaya Buddhist religious complex located in the Indian state of Bihar. A temple and sacred tree sustained minor damage and two monks were injured in the attack. On August 14, the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Arup Brahmachari, a Hindu priest. Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari, saying they made an error. The NIA has not made any other arrests.”
Omissions and Commissions in USCIRF version of Bodh Gaya attack:
1a) Google Search Results:I did google search “Who bombed Bodh Gaya?” and scanned first 3 pages of result. Nearly all the results mention Islamic terrorist group. The search gets about 232,000 hits. It is safe to assume that nearly all would mention Islamic terrorist group. In order to find Arup Brahmachari arrest story, I had to do google search seeking Hindu involvement in Bodh Gaya attack. Next, I did a google search “Protesters protesting Arup Brahmachari arrest forced NIA to release Brahmachari” and scanned first 3 pages of result. I found only 1 valid result which was “USCIRF 2014 annual report”.
1b) Monk Arup Brahmachari Story:USCIRF describes Monk Arup as a “Hindu priest” but Arup does not self-identify himself as a Hindu priest. On his Blog, Monk Arup describes himself as a Sufi Fakir, and an anti-corruption crusader, whose life mission is “to protect Buddha’s belonging in bodhgaya”. In 2007, Monk Arup's anti-corruption campaign, to save Bodhi Tree, received significant media coverage. Many media outlets, including Buddhist Channel TV and rediff, described Arup as a “Buddhist Monk”.
On August 14 2013, Two press releases, one claiming arrest of Arup, and another refuting the arrest claim, appeared almost simultaneously. This mysterious press statements, of an anonymous journalist, were released by a relatively small privately held news agency IANS.
USCIRF claims “Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari” but I did not found a single press release, or even a blog post, about protestors protesting Brahmachari arrest; Moreover, It’s not humanly possible to organize such a powerful protest, which would bend NIA, in a single day. Thus, USCIRF claim of “ Protests ensued and the NIA released Brahmachari” is not believable. USCIRF should provide additional information about this massive anti-arrest protest or expunge this statement.
1c) Investigation:USCIRF statement about investigation, and no arrest made, is misleading. USCIRF omitted the fact that several Indian Mujahideen terrorists were arrested. On 4 November 2013, NIA announced that the Indian Mujahideen were responsible for the bombings of Bodh Gaya and Narendra Modi rally in Patna. On December 19 2013, The Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed the same. Nearly all major media outlets and reports, except USCIRF, carried statements of Indian Mujahideen involvement in Bodh Gaya attack.
1d) Bodh Gaya attack contradicts USCIRF conclusion:Many national symbols of India, a constitutionally declared socialist secular republic, are Buddhist. In the middle of India's national flag is the holiest of the holy Buddhist symbol "Dharma Chakra". India's national emblem is another Buddhist holy symbol “Sacred pillars of Sarnath”. Nearly all modern monuments honoring Buddha, like Golden Pagoda at Mumbai, World's largest Buddha statue at Hyderabad, are built by Hindu Believers or Government of India. This is possible because many Hindus consider Buddha an avatar of Shri Vishnu, and most Hindus love Buddhism. For Hindu believers, Praying at Bodh Gaya is a pilgrimage. For many centuries, It was Hindus, who preserved and sustained, Bodh Gaya.
India has witnessed many religiously motivated attacks on Hindu temples, pilgrims, and believers celebrating Hindu festival. In last 25 years, 243 Hindu believers were killed, and 250 were injured, by religiously motivated attacks on Hindu temples and pilgrims. India's Supreme Court conviction rate in Hindu temple attack cases is near Zero. Bodh Gaya attack is just another attack on a Hindu/Buddhist temple.
Thus, Bodh gaya attack contradicts USCIRF conclusion, and raises many questions:
1) What is USCIRF (unwittingly) promoting -- “religious freedom” or “religious discord”?
2) What is USCIRF (unwittingly) attacking -- “terrorism” or “religious freedom of a monk”?
3) Who benefits from USCIRF's (unwitting) whitewash --- Indian Mujahideen terrorists?
4) What USCIRF (unwittingly) gave -- “unvarnished truth” or “varnished falsehood”?
2) Police action during Christian and Muslim Dalit Rally in New Delhi:USCIRF wrote “In mid-December 2013, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India…..organized a rally in New Delhi to protest the treatment of Christian and Muslim Dalits…..When some protesters crossed police lines, the police responded with a water cannon and attacked protesters with canes and batons, injuring scores of people. In addition, police arrested
dozens of protesters…...The following day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a full investigation, but the outcome is not known as of this reporting.”
I searched all major news source but none carry a news report of large scale police brutality. On the contrary, Indian express carried a news-report stating that “There was no lathicharge”. USCIRF’s current stand on police action contradicts its prior stand. USCIRF 2008 annual report found Gujarat police action, of detaining 35,552 civilians, firing 10,000 round of bullets killing 170 civilians and injuring many more, “inadequate”.
Christian Dalits were demanding affirmative action, and special favors, from Government of India. This demands have nothing to do with religious freedom as defined by IRFA act 1998; Moreover, India, a constitutionally declared socialist secular republic, already has a sizable affirmative action program for minorities. Thus, This incident does not support USCIRF conclusion.
5) What is USCIRF (unwittingly) promoting -- “religious freedom” or “religious favor”?
3) Hindu-Muslim Violence in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh:
3a) Background:Uttar Pradesh state is ruled by pro-Muslim Socialist Party which depends on Muslim votes to win election. Socialist party's supreme leader Mulayam Singh Yadav is commonly referred as Mullah Mulayam.
On Feb 17 2006, Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister, and senior Socialist Party leader, Mohammed Yaqoob Qureshi called for the beheading of the cartoonist who had sketched Prophet Mohammed for a Danish newspaper and announced that he would give "the avenger" $11 million and weigh him in gold. Another Socialist Party leader, Beni Prasad Verma, who later joined Congress party and became Minister in ManMohan Singh Government, virtually endorsed beheading call.
On March 2 2006, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, and Socialist Party Supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav addressed anti-George Bush rally. Anti-George Bush protest resulted in communal violence killing 4 and injuring 8. Violence started after Muslim protestors tried to force Hindu traders to shut their shops. USCIRF annual reports failed to cover calls for beheading of cartoonist, and anti-George Bush protest leading to communal violence.
6) Who is (unwitting) beneficiary of USCIRF's ommission & commission -- anti America & anti free-speech forces?
3b) Government bias in handling Muzaffarnagar riots:
A sting operation done by Headlines Today revealed that Uttar Pradesh Minister, and Socialist Party leader, Azam Khan ordered Muzaffarnagar district Police Officers to release Muslims and not take action against them. Thus, This incident contradicts USCIRF conclusion of government displaying pro-Hindu bias. On the contrary, This is a case of pro-Muslim bias.
4) Freedom of Religion ActUSCIRF is concerned that “These laws…. have created a hostile atmosphere for religious minorities”. For once I agree with USCIRF. Most of the so called Freedom of Religious Acts create hostility, and do more harm than good. Therefore, Most of them, including International Religious freedom law of USA, and India’s Local Freedom of Religion act, should be scraped.India has dozens of Socialist style license, permit laws with burdensome provision and broad bureaucratic power. India’s local freedom of religious act is one of them. All this impractical laws, which harass common citizen, should be scraped.As per Wikipedia “US Law is rooted in the U.S. Evangelical movement and its original intention was to protect Christians around the world. Such organizations as Christian Solidarity International, International Christian Concern, Open Doors …….were influences for the foundation of the International Religious Freedom Act”; More-over, US Congress outsourced implementation of its law to mostly christian USCIRF. USCIRF’s harsh denouncement of mostly non-christian countries has failed to promote peace, harmony and religious freedom. Further more, USCIRF has made no positive contribution to promotion of religious freedom in USA. Far worse, its harsh denouncements might create a hostile atmosphere, for religious minorities, in USA. Hence, USCIRF should be scraped.
8) Does USCIRF's alleged favoritism breach separation of Church and State?
ConclusionUSCIRF 2014 India chapter is a classic case of how not to advocate “Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”.
Every formal submission of USCIRF report, to US President and US Congress, states that “This report....was prepared in compliance with section 202(a)(2) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA),....” but it seems that USCIRF 2014 India chapter is not in compliance with IRFA 1998 act.
In USCIRF 2014 annual report, USCIRF recommends that “U.S. government should encourage India to establish of an impartial body....to promote religious tolerance” but charity begins at home. U.S. Government should audit USCIRF's compliance with IRFA 1998 act, and replace it with an impartial body.
9) Is USCIRF in compliance with 1998 IRFA act?
10) Is signing a false compliance statement equivalent to lying under oath?
A version of this post was also published in Indiafacts: Analysis of the USCIRF India Chapter report, 2014