The British government was asked to raise concerns on the treatment of Christian and Sikh minorities in India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April.
During a debate in the House of Commons on â€˜freedom of religion or beliefâ€™ last week, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Martin Docherty-Hughes highlighted figures which showed that India had risen to the position of â€˜the 11th most dangerous country for Christiansâ€™.
â€œWell-known people… continue to call publicly for the country to be free of Christians by 2021. So far, there have been 23,000 incidents of physical and mental abuse against Christians of all denominations, and 6,35,000 Christians have reportedly been detained without trial or unfairly arrested…â€ he said.
Mr. Docherty-Hughes also referred to the situation of Sikhs in India, arguing that a debate on the push for self-determination needed to be separated from religious persecution issues. Jagtar Singh Johal, a citizen from the SNP legislatorâ€™s constituency, was detained by Punjab authorities during a visit last year.
â€œThe number of Sikhs detained for very long periods by state authorities continues to rise across all the States that make up the Indian nation… That is a matter not only for those who practise the Sikh faith in India, but for every U.K. citizen â€” including many constituents of Members here â€” who wishes to travel to the Punjab to visit holy sites and/or their families,â€ he said. He called on the government to raise questions on both issues during CHOGM.
Mark Field, Minister for Asia and the Pacific, accepted that Mr. Docherty-Hughes had raised â€œprofoundâ€ points and pledged to call Parliamentâ€™s attention to the issue. MPs would â€œappreciate that diplomacy sometimes needs to be done behind closed doors, rather than with megaphones,â€ he said, during the Westminster Hall debate, a forum for Members of Parliament to debate topical issues.