The US Commission for International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF’s) latest report slamming India for “a deterioration” of the rights of religious minorities is actually a classic case of a Trojan horse in the Donald Trump administration. Overseas Hindu groups, especially the ones in the US, have reacted predictably to the recent report by the USCIRF, but they have missed the most important points: it has been written by an enemy of the US; further, the author is especially against the thinking of the incumbent President.
This is despite the fact that, as the US government website says, that the “USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission… that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.” The author of the report is Dr. Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, currently serving as the Director for the Institute for Leadership & Community Development, Birmingham, England. The Institute “seeks to disseminate knowledge to build dynamic and self-sustainable communities by identifying, developing, and empowering community members committed to leadership and service roles.”
Cheema is among that species of dyed-in-the-wool Left-liberals who are pathologically against the West (particularly the US) and capitalism, who refuse to believe that the Soviet Union is history, communism is dead, and the Berlin Wall no longer exists. In a paper ‘New World Order and American Interventions in the World Affairs,’ he wrote New World Order has merely replaced “the traditional form of exploitation of the weaker nations by neo-colonialism…”
He believes that “America and its allies” use the “the tools of globalization, liberal democracy, free economic market, privatization, and peace” to keep weaker nations dependent on them. Tellingly, the paper was published in academic journal called Pakistan Vision. (The only thing I felt fascinating about while checking the antecedents of Cheema on the Net was that academic journal also exist in Pakistan. And we thought there were only generals, cricketers, and mullahs in that country!)
What is astonishing is that this guy has prepared a report for the Trump administration. It is like Arundhati Roy heading a committee set up by the Narendra Modi government.
That the USCIRF report is an essay in mendacity is evident not only from Cheema’s background but also its contents. It questions whether India is a secular country. “India terms itself a ‘secular’ country; however, its concept of the term is vitally different from the comparable American idea of secularism—which requires complete segregation of church and state—and also the French model of laïcité—which guarantees the neutrality of the state toward religious beliefs, and the complete isolation of the religious and public spheres.”
Well, the American and French concepts of secularism are also vitally different from each other; the latter are inclined to ban burqa, while the former is not. Cheema also displays poor understanding of India’s constitutional history. His report says, “The first constitution was adopted by the Indian constituent assembly on November 26, 1949; it went into effect on January 26, 1950. At the inception of its constitution, India was not declared a secular country. In fact, the preamble declared India a Sovereign Democratic Republic. It wasn’t until January 3, 1977, that the bill for the Constitution Act, also known as the 42nd Amendment to the constitution, adopted the word ‘secular’ along with ‘socialist’.”
The guy doesn’t know that India has had only one Constitution since 1950. What kind of scholar would confuse an Amendment to the Constitution with a new Constitution? Perhaps, he is confused because his own country has had three Constitutions since inception. He stupidly indulges in semantic hair-splitting with the wording of the Preamble, while he willfully ignores the Indian Constitution’s substantive commitment to liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice to all citizens.
The USCIRF report says, “Since India gained its independence from the United Kingdom on August 15, 1947, it has always been a democratic, secular, and plural society. In recent years, however, religious minorities have witnessed a deterioration of their rights” (emphasis added). In short, it is the monster called Modi who has wrought havoc in the country; before him, it was a secular and plural heaven. Typical liberal hogwash.
The report goes on listing the issues related to religious conversion, foreign contributions to NGOs, cow vigilantism, etc. He goes on to conclude that “since 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults, and forced conversion have escalated dramatically.” Against the monster Modi—which is not surprising because Cheema is also a contributor to a website called www.monstermodi.com.
Evidently, the Indian government found the USCIRF report so consequential that it did not even react to its latest edition, though it did so last year. Further, vice chair of the commission, Tenzin Dorjee, wrote a dissenting note. “Overall, I have observed and experienced religious harmony among faiths in India,” he said in a statement that came along with the report.
He went on to underline the fact that India is the birthplace of major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and a home of different faiths. The principle of nonviolence has really flourished in India. Dorjee is aware of the unlawful acts of saffron cowboys, but he views such as aberrations: “While I do not condone any form of violence, given India’s multi-faith stance and with the second largest populace in the world, such intermittent outbreaks of violence are understandable.”
Left-liberals, however, are unable to have a nuanced view about the current situation in India. For them, any ideology not in consonance with theirs is abhorrent. So, a prominent Indian historian compared the RSS with the Islamic State, thus flattening not only the nuances but also the fundamental differences between the two. And Cheema, convinced of Modi’s inveterate evilness, magnifies intermittent outbreaks of violence as proof of the end of religious freedom in India.
As I mentioned earlier, the presence of people like Cheema in the USCIRF, the Birmingham-based Institute for Leadership & Community Development, etc., is a matter of concern. The Modi government would be well-advised to caution the authorities concerned in Western democracies to beware of the liars like Cheema.