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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Challenges & Opportunities: The Advancement of Human Rights in India

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 3:00pm
1334 Longworth House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing that will examine the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement.

Upon achieving independence in 1947, the Republic of India became the world’s largest democracy. Nearly 70 years later, India’s nearly 1.3 billion people enjoy access to a rapidly expanding economy, a vibrant array of civil society organizations, a largely independent judiciary and an active press.

Yet a wide variety of serious human rights concerns persist. Despite Constitutional provisions abolishing the legal existence of “untouchable” or Dalit castes and tribes, the caste system remains deeply ingrained within Indian society, leading to ongoing discrimination. 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 labor.

Religious minorities also face growing challenges. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s most recent report, “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.”

Meanwhile, a large number of international non-governmental organizations supporting a range of causes, including human rights, have been added to government watch lists or had funding cut off by Indian officials. 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.

This hearing will examine these and other issues, while seeking to provide concrete recommendations for how U.S. policy makers can most effectively encourage the protection of human rights given the strategic importance and continued growth of the U.S. – India bilateral relationship.      

This hearing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media. For any questions, please contact Isaac Six (for Rep. Pitts) at 202-225-2411 or, Kimberly Stanton (for Rep. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or

Hosted by:

Joseph R. Pitts, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC

Opening Remarks


Panel I

  • Mr. John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
    Written testimony
  • Mr. Ajit Sahi, Human Rights Activist & Journalist, Formerly with Tehelka Magazine
    Written testimony
  • Mr. T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director, Amnesty International
    Writtten testimony
Panel II
  • Mr. Jeff King, President, International Christian Concern
    Written testimony
  • Mr. Musaddique Thange, Communications Director, Indian American Muslim Council
    Written testimony
  • Ms. Martina E. Vandenberg, Founder & President, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
    Written testimony
  • Mr. Raj Cherukonda, Representative, Dalit American Federation
    Written testimony





114th Congress