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The 'Special Watch List'

The US Secretary of State annually puts out a list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’, ostensibly for having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedoms. This year while re-designating several countries on that list, the Secretary also placed Pakistan on his Special Watch List “for severe violations of religious freedom.” The timing of it could not be more significant. The statement came the same day the US announced cutting off military assistance to Pakistan until it “takes decisive action” against Taliban groups “destabilizing the region and targeting US personnel.” That only goes on to show the move is motivated by political considerations.There is no denying that growing intolerance for the rights of religious minorities in this country is a serious issue. However, the statement accompanying the list notes “today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religions or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religions or belief.” That inevitably calls for a comparison with US’s strategic partner, India, where the situation is quite alarming. Persecution of religious minorities is patronized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government through its ideological mentor, the RSS; whose declared agenda is to spread Hindutva to all corners of the country. Backed by ruling party leaders and activists of the RSS, some other Hindu extremist organizations have been lynching Muslims, Christians, and Dalits, on mere suspicion of eating cow meat (cow being sacred animal to them) or transporting cows for slaughter. They have also been waging a campaign called ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (return home) aimed at enforced conversions of poor Muslim communities to Hinduism on the pretext that they originally were Hindus who became Muslim under Muslim rulers’ influence, and hence must return to their original faith. Then Muslim men marrying Hindu women are accused of waging ‘love jihad’ and targeted for it. In Pakistan, on the other hand, the rise of intolerance is a direct consequence of the blowback from the Afghan conflict and the Gulf states’ proxy war for regional ascendency. Contrary to the attitude in India, the government here is taking different measures to roll back the ideology of hate.It is pertinent to recall too that Modi not only pays allegiance to the RSS, for several years he was denied US and some other Western countries visas for the anti-Muslim pogrom that took place on his watch as chief minister of Gujarat state. After India elected him as its prime minister, the outside world had to deal with him. But there are several other examples, such as that of Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, which this year has again been designated among “Countries of Particular Concern.” That merits the question, why India finds no mention in US’ Special Watch List?Copyright Business Recorder, 2018
Source: Google news

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