Indian Americans have a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a “Country of Particular Concern” by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

If India were to be ascribed with such a label, it would hinder the flow of foreign direct investments and subsequent reversal of economic prosperity achieved in the last 20 years. This label may not affect the poor Indians, but it will severely impact all those Indians working in information technology related jobs and businesses involved in software development and services.

South Africa once was an apartheid nation, and its prosperity came to a grinding halt when the foreign corporations realized that they are supporting a regime that discriminates against her citizens. The harassment, lynching, and killing of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others in India needs to stop; if not, it will hurt all Indians as the investors will start pulling out of the country. Who wants to invest in a place where their investment is not secure? 

The success of the American economy is based on the rule of law. When the law is enforced equally, no criminal will get away with his or her power of money. This builds confidence and trust in society and frees them from tensions. Every Indian should feel secure about his or her faith, ethnicity, language and culture.

The First Amendment of America’s constitution serves as a model of success for any government, which essentially keeps the government out of supporting or discouraging any religion from its functioning.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback had once said that the prosperity of a nation hinges on religious freedom. Indeed, the success of a country is directly proportional to religious liberty. It frees people from the daily tensions of what to eat, drink, wear and believe. It allows them to become a productive employee to the company, and a fully participating member of the family by giving the family the full attention it deserves instead of worrying about a fellow employee at the place of work.

Furthermore, the quality of life is directly proportional to freedom from religious and cultural tensions.

At this point in time, the sense of security is diminishing in India. A Christian is apprehensive of going to the Church on a Sunday, and a Muslim is afraid of storing meat in his refrigerator should the vigilantes descend on him. The women, including little girls, are not safe either. Murderers and rapists often are not sentenced to prison. The man who lynched and brutally killed a Muslim man was videotaped and shared on WhatsApp. This is shamefully a weekly occurrence.

If the leaders respond immediately to such incidents and tell the nation that the lynching and harassment of fellow citizens will not be tolerated, then the violence will cease or at least be mitigated. Unfortunately, the current Indian leadership has remained silent when vigilantes kill and maim the people, causing every Indian to live in fear – both the minorities and the ones who frighten.

Hindutva is to Hinduism what Islamist is to Islam; both the ideologies go against the very religions they claim to represent. It may take a few generations for Hindutvadis and Islamists to see the value of respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each other. Ultimately, every Indian wants to live in peace and feel secure about his faith and focus on contributing to the common good of the nation.

Indian Americans have equal access to all the opportunities in the market without discrimination, and I hope that Indian Americans would want India to treat her minorities as America does hers. 

Most Indian American youth are choosing to respect the otherness of the other. After all, they have to work with people of different faiths and races.

In Washington, DC, there are three Indians who regularly attend meetings about religious freedom issues from among about 75 individuals to talk about concerns in different nations. Jay Kansara has been representing the Hindu America Foundation, John Prabhudoss represents the Federation of Indian American Christians of North America, and this writer serves the Center for Pluralism in Washington, D.C., standing up for the rights of people from all faiths. Now, Ajit Sahi of the Indian American Muslim Council has joined the group to address religious freedom issues of Indian minorities. The Dalits and Sikhs have been represented on and off by different visitors.

Mike Ghouse

Washington, D.C.

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