A United States government body has called for India’s inclusion on a religious freedom blacklist over what it described as a “drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said India is among “countries of particular concern” that should be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records.
In its annual report published this week, the commission said India was “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations.”
The report said the Indian government “allowed violence against minorities” and also “engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.”
India accused the USCIRF and being “biased,” adding that the commission’s “tendentious comments against India are not new.”
Indian government spokesman Anurag Srivastava said, however, that the “misrepresentation” of report released on April 28 “has reached new levels.”
“It has not been able to carry its own commissioners in its endeavor. We regard it as an organization of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” Indian media news18.com quoted Srivastava.
The USCIRF, an independent U.S. federal government body, makes policy recommendations based on its review of global religious freedom to the U.S. president and the U.S. Congress.
Established by the U.S. government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of the USCIRF are non-binding to the State Department.
Traditionally, India does not recognize the USCIRF’s view. For more than a decade, it has denied visas to members of the commission.
USCIRF’s report recommended to impose sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” by freezing their assets and barring them entry into the United States.
This is the first time in more than 15 years that India has been designated a “country of particular concern.”
In 2013, the commission reported that “there has been no large-scale communal violence against religious minorities in India since 2008.”
It pointed out, however, that in some cases, redressal had been slow and ineffective.
The annual reports for the last two years have been warning India of a “continued downward trend” with regards to religious tolerance and religious freedom violations.
In its report, the USCIRF mentioned the communal riots in Delhi in February, alleging that police, operating under the Home Ministry, failed to halt attacks and even participated in the violence.
Aside from India, the 2020 USCIRF annual report, recommended 13 other countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”
These include nine that the State Department has designated as CPCs in December 2019 — Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan — as well as five others—Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.