As the death toll in the Delhi riots climbed to 27 on February 26, lawmakers in the U.S. took note of the violence even if President Donald Trump did not want to comment on it during his February 25 press briefing in Delhi.
“Deeply troubled by the deaths from the communal violence in India over the past couple of days,” Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Eliot Engel tweeted on February 26 morning, retweeting a Washington Post story on the violence.
“The right to protest is a key aspect in democracy, but they must remain peaceful and police must ensure the safety of all,” Mr. Engel, whose committee is charged with oversight and legislation related to the U.S.’s foreign policy, said. The violence in Delhi had erupted over the Citizenship Amendment Act, a law passed by Parliament in December, which discriminates against refugees’ claims to Indian citizenship based on whether or not they are Muslims.
On February 25, Representative from Washington State, Pramila Jayapal had tweeted about the issue.
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“This deadly surge of religious intolerance in India is horrifying,” Ms. Jayapal said this week. “Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination, or promote laws that undermine religious freedom. The world is watching.”
Ms. Jayapal had sponsored a bill at the end of last year, titled, ‘Urging the Republic of India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents’. This led to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar boycotting a meeting with HFAC during his December visit to Washington DC after he found that Ms. Jayapal would be attending.
Ms. Jayapal’s bill currently has 62 co-sponsors, including 5 Republicans. GOP lawmakers are generally seen as taking a softer stance on recent developments in India such as the abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Religious Freedom Commission hearing on March 4
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bipartisan body set up by the U.S. Congress, also took note of the violence in Delhi and reacted on Twitter on February 25.
“USCIRF is alarmed by reports of deadly mob violence targeting Muslims in New Delhi, #India and urges the #Modi government to rein in mobs and protect religious minorities and others who have been targeted,” the Commission said, retweeted a BBC story on the Delhi violence.
The Commission has announced a hearing on religious freedom and citizenship laws, scheduled for March 4.
“Witnesses will discuss how citizenship laws are used to target religious minorities, particularly in Burma and India, and will highlight the importance of the atrocity prevention framework for understanding the potential consequences of these laws,” the hearing notice said.