U.S. Commission Again Designates India as ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for Religious Freedom Violations
- The USCIRF notes that “during the year, the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies — including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affected Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has designated India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for the third consecutive time “for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” The annual report released on April 25 highlights the countries and entities that, in USCIRF’s view, merit CPC, Special Watch List (SWL), or entity of particular concern (EPC) designation, and is intended to focus U.S. policymakers’ attention on the worst violators of religious freedom globally.
The report assesses religious freedom violations and progress during 2020 in 27 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body, separate from the U.S. Department of State, that monitors and reports on religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress.
In the report, USCIRF observes that in 2021, religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened. “In 2021, the Indian government repressed critical voices — especially religious minorities and those reporting on and advocating for them — through harassment, investigation, detention, and prosecution under laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Sedition Law,” reads the report.
Additionally, USCIRF notes that “during the year, the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies —including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affected Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities. The government continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.”
The USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government “impose targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations, advance human rights of all religious communities in India and promote religious freedom, dignity, and interfaith dialogue through bilateral and multilateral forums and agreements, such as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral.” It also urges that the U.S. Congress should “raise religious freedom issues in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship and highlight concerns through hearings, briefings, letters, and congressional delegations.”
In addition to chapters with key findings and U.S. policy recommendations for these 27 countries, the annual report describes and assesses U.S. international religious freedom policy overall. The report also highlights important global developments and trends related to religious freedom during 2021—including in countries that do not meet the criteria for CPC or SWL recommendations. These include the COVID-19 pandemic and religious freedom, blasphemy and hate speech law enforcement, transnational repression, religious intolerance in Europe, deteriorating religious freedom conditions in South Asia, and political upheaval that raises religious freedom concerns.
Meanwhile, groups such as the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) and the India American Muslim Council (IAMC) applauded USCIRF’s designation.
Noting that “2021 has been the most violent year on record for the Christians in India,” FIACONA said in a statement emailed to American Kahani that it has “documented an unprecedented 761 violent acts against Christians in India by the groups directly affiliated to the Hindu nationalist Modi government.”
Adding that “the attacks against other religious minorities in India have also gone up several-fold in the last seven years, FIACONA noted that “the attacks are motivated in part by the perceived protection provided for the attackers by the government officials. The Modi government has maintained an eerie silence against such attacks giving the impression that such attacks are tacitly supported by the government.” While the organization is appreciative of the USCIRF 2022 Report on India, “we are disappointed that the leaders and entities responsible for the worsening situation are ‘protected’ in this report by not naming them,” the statement added.
Similarly, IAMC tweeted that it “welcomes the @USCIRF designation of India as the Country of Particular Concern for the third consecutive year over the rapidly escalating persecution of religious minorities and for the Indian government’s complicity in the massive violations of religious freedom.”
This is a one sided story without checking the realities on the ground and it merely caters to left extreme ideologies. It has become fashionable to criticize the Indian Government when it traces all religions equally instead of pandering to minorities.