Designate India as ‘Country of Particular Concern’, impose ‘targeted’ sanctions, religious freedom panel tells US govt

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.

‘’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.

Related posts