USCIRF recommends US President to designate India as ‘Country of Particular Concern’ over Religious Freedom

Donald Trump
Donald Trump at MSNBC news channel

Washington, April 28: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended to the State Department to designate India as a country of “Particular Concern” (CPC) in its annual report of 2020,alleging that Modi government allowed violence against minorities” and also “engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence”.

In the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.” These include nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—as well as five others—India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

The US commission mandated to monitor religious freedom globally said that India was “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations”.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission. It makes policy recommendations based on its review of global religious freedom to the US President, the Secretary of State and the US Congress. It is followed by Special Watch List Countries for severe violations.

The watchdog alleged that discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric, and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities in 2019.

The annual report makes a mention of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). It adds that the “BJP leaders have continued to advocate for nation-wide NRC” and coupled with the CAA “Muslims alone would bear the indignities and consequences of potential statelessness” and also the Delhi 2020 riots.

The USCIRF has recommended that the US government impose targeted sanctions on “Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States”.

While discussing India, USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said, “We are seeing impunity for violence by non-state actors committed against religious minorities.”

Expressing deep disappointment, Vice-Chair Nadine Maenza said “perhaps the steepest and most alarming deterioration in religious freedom conditions was in India, the largest democracy in the world”.

Appreciating some governments that took steps particularly two that engaged closely with USCIRF – to establish a safer environment for freedom of religion or belief, Tony Perkins said. “Sudan stands out, demonstrating that new leadership with the will to change can quickly bring tangible improvements. Uzbekistan also made important progress in 2019 toward fulfilling the commitments it made to allow religious groups greater freedom. Though other countries deteriorated, particularly India, we see international religious freedom on an upward trajectory overall.”

The 2020 Annual Report further recommends to the State Department six non-state actors for designation as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. These consist of five groups that the State Department designated in December 2019—al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Houthis in Yemen, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Afghanistan—plus one other—Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria.

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