A coalition of Indian American civil society organisations convened on Monday with Congressman Ro Khanna, the first Indian American to lead the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. The meeting was held ahead of Congressman Khanna’s upcoming trip to India, during which he aims to highlight and discuss critical priorities for the region. The coalition presented diverse perspectives, shedding light on various concerns within the Indian American community.
Husnaa Vohra, representing the Indian American Muslim Council, expressed her deep concern about the threat to liberal democracy, pluralism, and human rights in India. Vohra emphasised, “We stand as a diverse coalition of Indian American organisations, seeking to safeguard the fabric of pluralism and democracy in India, and urging Congressman Khanna to address ongoing violent acts and human rights violations.”
A spokesperson for India Civil Watch India International, stressed the importance of a democratic alliance against totalitarianism and called for Congressman Khanna to “reposition the India-US relationship around democracy.” emphasising that democracy must be the cornerstone of trade and military deals between the two nations.
Ria Chakrabarty, Policy Director for Hindus for Human Rights, urged Congressman Khanna to embrace progressive Hindu values and support efforts to combat caste discrimination unequivocally. She stated, “It is vital to combat efforts that co-opt and subvert the history of 1971 and ensure that the leadership of Bengalis is central to any recognition of the Bangladesh genocide.”
Prachi Patankar, a board member at India Civil Watch International, raised concerns about the extremist groups and ideologues that Congressman Khanna has allowed to claim his support, urging the Congressman to distance himself from organisations that spread hate and misinformation. Patankar underscored, “We request you to take a clear step in the pro-democracy direction and support proactive federal action for protection against caste discrimination in the United States.”
In response to the testimonies, Congressman Ro Khanna expressed his unwavering commitment to upholding democratic values and human rights both within India and the United States. He fully recognised the concerns articulated by the coalition and wholeheartedly endorsed the imperative of fostering a pluralistic and democratic India. He expressed his desire to protect minority rights in India. Furthermore, Congressman Khanna underscored his dedication to these principles by proudly announcing his cosponsorship of the SAFEGUARD Act, which ensures that the protection and promotion of human rights are intrinsic considerations in the export of arms and defence services to foreign countries. Finally, the Congressman agreed to hold a public call with our coalition when he returns from India.
Policy Asks for the India Trip:
The coalition outlined several policy asks for Congressman Khanna, including:
- Advocating for visa bans against individuals accused of human rights violations, especially in Manipur, Haryana, and Uttarakhand, to deter communal violence.
- Integrating human rights considerations into the security analysis of the US-India relationship and cosponsoring the SAFEGUARD Act to strengthen human rights reporting requirements for arms exports.
- Combatting Caste Discrimination: Strengthen your stand against caste discrimination by clarifying your separation from far-right factions. Support proactive federal action to counter caste discrimination in the US.
- Engaging with the coalition before, during, and after the trip to foster an open dialogue and inclusive discussion about the US-India relationship with a focus on human rights. This includes a public readout with our coalition after the trip.
- Disassociation from Extremist Influences: We ask you to distance yourself from extremist groups and their harmful narratives, sharing details of their far-right affiliations with your office.
- Championing Democracy and Accountability: Lead an India Caucus conference to address concerns of civil society, spotlighting the BJP’s role in eroding democracy and rights. Invite credible experts to testify.