Delhi violence: 'Protect and respect' right to peaceful assembly, US urges India
The US appeal comes as Delhi this week witnessed worst communal riots in more than three decades, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds.
The US has urged India to "protect and respect" the right to peaceful assembly of people and hold accountable those perpetrating violence following the Delhi riots over the amended citizenship act, saying that Washington has raised the issue at the highest level with New Delhi.
The appeal comes as Delhi this week witnessed worst riots in more than three decades, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds.The communal clashes began in northeast Delhi over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and spiralled into bloodshed.
The Indian Parliament had passed CAA last year, resulting in a series of protests across the country. The contentious act seeks to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
Many claim that the act is “discriminatory” on religious grounds as it apparently excludes Muslims. But the BJP government maintains that the act is meant for minorities persecuted in three neighbouring countries due to their faith.
“We strongly condemn the recent violence and urge authorities to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly and hold accountable those perpetrating violence. We call on all parties to maintain peace and refrain from violence,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
“We have raised these issues at the highest levels and continue to engage the Government of India on issues related to religious freedom,” the official said responding to a question.
Underlining that respect for religious freedom and equal treatment under the law are fundamental principles of the two democracies, the official said,“We note Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for peace and the Indian government's pledge to prevent further violence and restore normalcy." Modi appealed for calm and peace in Delhi on February 26.
Democrat Colin Allred said that a democracy is only made stronger by its inclusion and respect for the rights of minorities. "India is the largest secular democracy in the world. This violence and suppression of Muslims' civil liberties undermines India's values and risks a wider conflict,” Allred said.
Democratic Party leader Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, termed the violence as shocking and urged the Indian government to do more to defend all of its citizens' rights, including the right to peaceful protest.
He also condemned President Donald Trump's failure to "publicly voice concern" about the violence during his visit to India. The clashes in the Indian capital erupted during Trump's two-day visit to India from February 24.
Indian-American Neera Tanden, who heads the Center for American Progress think-tank said that "the violence against Muslims in India" is horrifying and destroys India's role as a beacon for democracy in Asia.
“The Modi government's actions have created this climate and it must put an end to this. India as we know it is changing for the worse before our eyes,” said Tanden.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a statement, urged the US government to strongly condemn the violence in Delhi. “The international community, including the US, must speak out against the growing sectarian attacks in India fuelled by anti-Muslim legislation and hate rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of Indian society,” it said.
In a statement, Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) expressed serious concern over the violence. Its vice-chairman George Abraham alleged that the inaction by the Delhi Police is deeply troubling.