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Congressmen press Obama to discuss religious freedom with Modi

By Lalit K Jha
September 29, 2014 21:58 IST
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A group of 11 American lawmakers has written to President Barack Obama to discuss the issue of religious freedom in India with visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during their meetings at the White House.

"Your meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week provides an opportunity to discuss religious inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India," the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Obama. The letter, dated September 27, was released to the press by Coalition Against Genocide.

"I hope the issue of tolerance will be discussed during your meetings this week and in the future," said the letter written by the Congressmen, who included Keith Ellison and Joseph Pitts.

They said, "Prime Minister Modi can play a constructive role by criticising extremists and opening a dialogue in the country about violence aimed at religious minorities."

Betty McColum, Jim Sensenbrenner, Jared Polis, Trent Franks, James McGovern, Rush Holt, John Conyers, Barbara Lee and Raul M Grijalva are the other signatories to the letter.

The letter draws Obama's attention to the fact that "there has been an increase in violence against Muslims and Christians in the first hundred days of Prime Minister Modi's term," and that such violence "echoes the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, which happened while Prime Minister Modi was the chief minister of the region."

In addition to the letter written by the 11 Congressmen, Comptroller and Auditor General released another letter dated May 14 by Congressman Mike

Honda and written to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to support the inclusion of human rights and religious freedom in the US-India strategic dialogues.

Coalition Against Genocide has welcomed the letter. "All of us who cherish India's traditionally inclusive society, understand the level of concern about the threats to secularism and pluralism in India," said Raja Swamy, a CAG spokesperson.

"The first 100 days of Mr Modi's tenure as PM have shown that such concern is justified and has gained added urgency," he alleged.

Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses Indian-Americans at Madison Square Garden, New York on Sunday. Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Lalit K Jha in New York
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