UN human rights expert flags violence against minorities in India to US govt panel

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September 21, 2023

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New Delhi, Sept 21: There is a 'steady' and 'alarming' erosion of fundamental rights, particularly of religious and other minorities in India, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issue has told the USCIRF.

During a hearing on Wednesday, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issue Fernand de Varennes told the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that the situation in India can be summarised in three words -- 'massive, systematic and dangerous'.

The USCIRF had announced that it would hold a hearing on religious freedom in India on September 20. India has previously rejected USCIRF reports that alleged violations of religious freedom in the country.

Appearing before the USCIRF for the hearing on policy options for advancing religious freedom in India, de Varennes alleged there is a 'steady' and 'alarming' erosion of fundamental rights, particularly of religious and other minorities in the country.

'India risks becoming one of the world's main generators of instability, atrocities and violence because of the massive scale and gravity of the violations and abuses targeting mainly religious and other minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others. It is not just individual or local, it is systematic and a reflection of religious nationalism,' he said.

The hearing comes on the heels of two successful bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden -- the official state visit of the Indian leader here in June and a bilateral meeting in New Delhi in September.

USCIRF chair Abraham Cooper claimed Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis are experiencing 'increased levels of attacks and acts of intimidation' in India.

'The national government has continued to suppress minority voices and those advocating on their behalf through surveillance, harassment, demolition of property and detention under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. These trends and their implication for the US foreign policy should not be ignored,' he said.

Cooper alleged that for the past several years, religious freedom conditions in India have deteriorated, capturing international attention and highlighting the need for continued discussions and engagement on policy options for advancing religious freedom in the country.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US government advisory body created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its recommendations are not binding on the US government.

On May 2 this year, India rejected as 'biased' and 'motivated' a report by the USCIRF that alleged 'severe violations' of religious freedom in the country.

'The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) continues to regurgitate biased and motivated comments about India, this time in its 2023 annual report. We reject such misrepresentation of facts, which only serves to discredit USCIRF itself,' the Ministry of External Affairs had said.

'We would urge USCIRF to desist from such efforts and develop a better understanding of India, its plurality, its democratic ethos and its constitutional mechanisms,' it had said.

Modi's state visit to Washington in June reflects the close bilateral relationship between the United States and India, the USCIRF had said last week.

'However, over the last decade, the Indian government has enacted and enforced discriminatory policies targeting religious minorities, including anti-conversion laws, cow slaughter laws, legislation granting citizenship preferences based on religion, and restrictions on foreign funding for civil society organisations,' it alleged.

'Recent trends include the eruption of violence between Hindus and Muslims in Haryana in July and targeted attacks against Christian and Jewish minorities in Manipur, highlighting the need for new strategies to mitigate violence against religious minorities in India,' it said.

Since 2020, the USCIRF has recommended that the US Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

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June 17,2024

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Mangaluru, June 16: Muslims in Mangaluru observed Eid al-Adha today by offering prayers in mosques and Eidgahs, exchanging greetings, and sacrificing animals, as the monsoon rain took a break in the region.

Congregational Eid prayers were held in dozens of mosques across the city. Thousands of Muslims gathered at the Masjids and Eidgahs early in the day. Hundreds of women and children also participated in prayers at some of the Masjids. Special 'dua' was offered for peace in the country and around the world, including Gaza.

Dressed in new clothes, Muslims visited their relatives' houses, where they were treated with special sweet dishes. Platters of a variety of delicious cuisines were prepared in Muslim households.

Children in festival attire added color to the celebrations. People wished each other Eid Mubarak and hugged as a large number of photographers captured the poignant scenes of the festival prayers and greetings.

In their Eid sermons, Khateebs exhorted the believers to follow the ideals of Prophet Ibraheem (pbuh), who had decided to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismaeel (pbuh) as ordained by Allah.

Eid al-Adha is an occasion of joy and peace, where people celebrate with their families, let go of past grudges, and make meaningful connections with one another. It commemorates Prophet Ibraheem’s willingness to sacrifice everything for God.

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News Network
June 11,2024

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New Delhi: Indian universities and higher education institutions will now be allowed to offer admissions twice a year on lines of foreign universities with the University Grants Commission giving a go ahead to the plan, UGC chief Jagadesh Kumar said.

The two admission cycles will be July-August and January-February from the 2024-25 academic session.

"If Indian universities can offer admission twice a year, it will benefit many students such as those who missed admission to a university in the July-August session due to a delay in the announcement of board results, health issues, or personal reasons," Kumar said.

"Biannual university admissions will help students maintain motivation since they do not have to wait one full year to be admitted if they miss admission in the current cycle. With biannual admissions in place, industries can also do their campus recruitment twice a year, improving employment opportunities for the graduates," he added.

The UGC chief explained that biannual admissions will also enable the higher education institutes (HEIs) to plan their resource distribution, such as faculty, labs, classrooms and support services, more efficiently, resulting in a better functional flow within the university.

"Universities worldwide already follow a biannual admission system. If Indian HEIs adopt the biannual admission cycle, our HEIs can enhance their international collaborations and student exchanges. As a result, our global competitiveness will improve, and we will align with the global educational standards," Kumar said.

"If HEIs adopt biannual admissions, they need to work on administrative intricacies, good planning for increased use of available resources, and providing seamless support systems for the smooth transition of students admitted at dissimilar times of the year. HEIs can maximize the usefulness of biannual admissions only when they sufficiently prepare faculty members, staff and students for the transition," he added.

Kumar, however, clarified that it will not be mandatory to offer biannual admissions for universities and those HEIs that have the required infrastructure and teaching faculty can utilise the opportunity.

"Offering biannual admissions will not be mandatory for the HEIs, it is the flexibility that UGC provides to the HEIs which want to increase their student intake and offer new programmes in emerging areas. To be able to admit students twice a year, HEIs must make suitable amendments to their institutional regulations," he said. 

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News Network
June 9,2024

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Deir al-Balah, Jun 9: At least 274 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more were wounded in the Israeli raid that rescued four hostages held by Hamas, Gaza's Health Ministry said Sunday. 

Hamas fighters chose not to execute the hostages when the Israeli occupation army carried out the complex daytime operation deep inside the territory.

The killing of so many Palestinians, including babies, children and women, in a raid that Israelis celebrated as a stunning success because all four hostages were rescued alive, showed the heavy cost of such operations on top of the already soaring toll of the 8-month-long war ignited by Hamas' October 7 attack.

Scores of hostages are believed to be held in densely populated areas or inside Hamas' labyrinth of tunnels, making rescue attempts extremely complex and risky. A similar raid in February rescued two hostages while leaving 74 Palestinians dead.

The operation deep into Nuseirat, a built-up refugee camp in central Gaza dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, was the largest rescue since October 7.

So far, the Tel Aviv regime has killed at least 36,801 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 83,680 others in the Gaza Strip. 

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