Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks to President Barack Obama at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Vijay Verma(PTI10_1_2014_000011A)
Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks to President Barack Obama at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A Congressional commission will hold a hearing to put a microscope on the current state of human rights in India, a hearing which will take place simultaneous to a meeting at the White House between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama.

Among other things, the hearing will seek to examine the challenges to fundamental freedoms in the country, as well as opportunities for advancement, according to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. In a statement from the commission, it justified the hearing by saying a “wide variety of serious human rights concerns persist,” in India.

Despite the country’s Constitution prohibiting several of its practices, the caste system remains deeply embedded in Indian society and culture. This had fostered the continued acceptance of discrimination, the commission added in its statement.

“Dalit communities, which make up a quarter of India’s population, are also disproportionately at risk of suffering from another major human rights concern in India, that of human trafficking.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including children, are believed to be trafficking annually within India for the purposes of commercialized sexual exploitation or forced labour. Religious minorities also face growing challenges.”

A significant portion of NGOs that support a wide-range of causes in India have been added to the country’s watch lists, or have had their funding cut by the government and other Indian officials, the commission alleged in its statement.

“These actions, coupled with perceived crackdowns on groups or individuals critical of the Indian government, have many concerned that the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association are being increasingly curtailed.”

While examining this issues, the commission hopes to provide the U.S. government with a blueprint and concrete recommendations on how best policy makers can encourage the protection of human rights in the country.

“In 2015, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims and Sikhs experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee met last month to set the stage for the hearing — the panel’s Republican chairman Bob Corker decided to be “brutally honest.”

“How does a country like this have 12 to 14 million slaves?” Corker asked while describing his personal frustrations over India’s failure to address and rectify owning the largest slave population in the world. “Do they have just zero prosecution abilities, zero law enforcement; I mean how could this happen? On that scale, it’s pretty incredible.”

During his visit to the U.S. on June 7, Modi will also address a joint meeting of Congress. His discussion with the president will cover a variety of topics, including reviewing the progress of agreements between the two nations in defense, security and energy.