By Muslim Mirror Staff
New Delhi: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the US government to designate India as a ‘country of particular concern’ and impose sanctions on individuals responsible for violation of religious freedom in the country.
In its 2021 report, the USCIRF talked about the CAA, anti-conversion or love jihad law, disinformation and incitement of violence targeting minority communities and attempts aimed at closing space for civil society through FCRA and other laws.
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) May 26, 2021
‘’The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in sys tematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. In early 2020, the passage of the religiously discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)—a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan residing in India—led to nationwide protests against the CAA and spurred state and nonstate violence, largely targeting Muslims,’’ said the report.
Despite India’s constitutional protections for religious freedom, approximately one-third of India’s 28 states limit or prohibit religious conversion to protect the dominant religion from perceived threats from religious minorities. While the new legislation in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh targets interfaith marriage in particular, several other states prohibit conversion based on vague criteria, including force, inducement, allurement, coercion, fraud, or misrepresentation. These anti-conversion laws are too often the basis for false accusations, harassment, and violence against non-Hindus that occur with impunity.
In 2020, for example, mobs—fueled by false accusations of forced conversions—attacked Christians, destroyed churches, and disrupted religious worship services. In many cases, authorities did not prevent these abuses and ignored or chose not to investigate pleas to hold perpetrators accountable. This contributed to increased mob attacks and a fear of reprisal against those coming forward. Religious minorities remain concerned about the potential for a national anti-conversion law and additional state-level statutes.
Commissioner Johnnie Moore said, “India does seem to be at a crossroads. Its democracy—still young and freewheeling—is creating through the ballot box difficult challenges for itself. The answer, of course, is for India’s institutions to draw upon their rich history to protect their values. India must always resist allowing political and intercommunal conflict to be exacerbated by religious tensions. India’s government and people have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose from preserving social harmony and protecting the rights of everyone. India can. India must.’’
The commission has recommended certain measures for the US government.
- Designate India as a “country of partic ular concern,” or CPC, for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
- Impose targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ or entities’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States.
- Advance human rights of all religious com munities in India and promote religious freedom and dignity and interfaith dia logue through bilateral and multilateral forums and agreements, such as the min isterial of the Quadrilateral; and
- Condemn ongoing religious freedom violations and support religious organi zations and human rights groups being targeted for their advocacy of religious freedom.
- The U.S. Congress should continue to raise religious freedom concerns in the U.S.-India bilateral rela tionship and highlight concerns through hearings, briefings, letters, and congres sional delegations.