By Sandhya Jain
Successive Indian governments have failed to protest America'spropensity to misuse human rights issues for politically motivated calumny against nations it seeks to undermine to serve its foreign policy objectives. Shamefully, large sections of the Indian elite also betray unseemly desperation to report against the nation to US human rights committees, usually as quid pro quo for funds for their agenda-driven NGOs.
Yet, even by the standards of its normally invasive diplomacy, the US Congress? decision to appoint a sub-committee on ?India'sUnfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste System,? is simply scandalous. Not only does it construe a gross interference in our internal affairs, it is also an attempt to influence the Indian Supreme Court hearing on reservation rights for dalit converts to religions like Christianity, which admit that they discriminate against dalit adherents!
In these circumstances, the silence of the Indian government, remote-controlled by the Roman Catholic Italy-born Sonia Gandhi, is disturbing. So is the silence of major political parties, especially those that claim a special affinity for dalits. In fact, the Indian political spectrum as a whole would do well to evolve a consensus on the issue of external interest in India, if the country is serious about being considered as a candidate for the Security Council. In this regard, it would be instructive to see how the Chinese government gives America tit-for-tat in the matter of its highly slanted human rights reports.
Actually, America has much to hide regarding its human rights record, particularly vis-?-vis the Native American population (what is left after the genocide by White settlers) and the former slaves imported from Africa. The shocking delay in providing relief to Katrina hurricane victims hardly needs recalling.
The silence of the Indian government, remote-controlled by the Roman Catholic Italy-born Sonia Gandhi, is disturbing. So is the silence of major political parties, especially those that claim a special affinity for dalits.
China, however, does not stomach America'ssupercilious ways. When the US Congressional Executive Commission on China recently released its annual report, Beijing condemned it as ?wanton interference? in its internal affairs and presented its own report on the human rights situation in USA. The document is voluminous (the Chinese are thorough), but even a few cursory examples suffice to show how self-respecting nations protect their honour. The ?Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004,? released by China'sState Council on March 3, 2005, shows the dark side of the Statue of Liberty.
China points out that American society is notorious for rampant violent crimes, and that there is little security of life and liberty in that country. It cites a report of the US Department of Justice (November 29, 2004) that in 2003, citizens aged 12 years and above experienced about 24 million victimisa-tions. Giving statistics of several cities, China said America has the largest number of gun owners and gun violence increasingly takes a toll of innocent lives. About 31,000 Americans are killed and 75,000 wounded by firearms each year, which means more than 80 people are shot dead each day. Police violence is an equally serious problem.
China has made a fascinating observation! In the past decade America spent US $ 7 billion annually to build new jails and prisons. California got one college and 21 new prisons after 1984! This is because jails are a lucrative business, with a combined staff of more than 530,000, they are the second largest employer in America after General Motors. There are over 100 private prisons in 27 states and 18 private prison companies. As a result, the value of goods and services created by inmates surged from $ 400 million in 1980 to $ 1.1 billion in 1994.
As for jail conditions, in many states inmates are routinely stripped in front of others before being moved to a new prison. Male inmates are often made to wear women'spink underwear as a form of humiliation. New inmates are frequently beaten and sometimes made to crawl. The conditions of women prisoners are naturally worse. Sexual harassment is common. The New York Times reported last October that at least 13 per cent of inmates are sexually assaulted in prison (October 12, 2004).
The Chinese government has made a detailed analysis of the political manipulation by the rich in the electoral process, the astronomical costs of elections, and the resultant favours to corporations as a result of election funding. Most poignant among the flaws in the US election system is the newly adopted Help America Vote Act of 2004, which requires voters to produce a series of documents such as a stable residence and thus effectively disenfranchises thousands of homeless people. America refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is home to poverty, hunger and homelessness, in spite of being the world'srichest country. From 1970 to 2000 (adjusted for inflation), average incomes of the bottom 90 per cent stagnated but those of the top 10 per cent experienced an increase of nearly 90 per cent (The Baltimore Sun, July 6, 2004).
Racial discrimination is of course very deeply ingrained and Black murder victims are five-times White victims; Blacks affected by AIDS are 10 times Whites (National Urban League, March 24, 2004). The number of Black people living in poverty is three-times that of the Whites. Apartheid is still rampant in schools (Schools and Lives Are Still Separate, The Washington Post, May 17, 2004).
The situation of American women and children is hardly reassuring. FBI Crime Statistics show that in 2003, there were 93,233 rape cases; virtually 63.2 in every 100,000 women are victims of assault. The number of abused women treated at First Aid Centers exceeds one million every year. More than 1,500 women in the US are killed every year by their husbands, lovers or roommates; nearly 78 per cent American women are physically victimised at least once in their lifetime. Sex crimes are on the rise in military as well. Women soldiers have been raped or sexually harassed in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and other military bases.
As for children, every year nearly 400,000 children in the US are forced to engage in prostitution or other sexual dealings on the streets (The USA Today, February 27, 2004). Then, there are scandals about clergymen molesting children. Actually, the list is endless.