Bipartisan concern in Washington over the violence in Delhi that has left at least 30 people dead
An independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government body on Wednesday urged India to take “serious steps” to ensure Muslims and other minorities were protected from mob violence.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises the U.S. government but does not set policy, voiced “grave concern” about the violence that broke out in New Delhi during President Donald Trump’s visit to India and has already left at least 30 people dead with hundreds more injured.
“One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith,” said USCIRF Chairman Tony Perkins, a conservative close to the Trump administration. “We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” he said in a statement.
Anurima Bhargava, a commissioner appointed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also voiced alarm at reports that Delhi police “have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims.” In contrast to Trump’s reticence to comment on the protests, she said the “brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue,” adding, “The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all of its citizens.”
Trump, during a press conference in Delhi while the violence was raging, claimed the issue was a matter for India to resolve. He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “incredible” statements on religious freedom, as the riots over a controversial citizenship law swept the Indian capital.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-born Democrat who has been outspoken in her criticism of Modi, called the developments in Delhi “horrifying.” In a post on Twitter, she added: “Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination, or promote laws that undermine religious freedom. The world is watching.”
The clashes in Delhi were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by critics as anti-Muslim and part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda. Modi has called for calm, but witnesses and video footage has shown that police did little to stop Hindu mobs—with some actively seen to be encouraging the violence.
Modi’s government claims the citizenship law does not target minorities but instead ensures protection for non-Muslims persecuted in neighboring countries.
USCIRF had previously criticized the law, echoing concerns of its detractors, prompting the Indian foreign ministry to reprimand it.