In annual report, USCIRF sounds alarm over New Delhi policies targeting the country’s Muslim minority
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has advised Washington to once again designate India a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ following a rapid rise in reports of abuse directed toward the country’s Muslim minority.
“Perhaps the steepest, and most alarming deterioration in religious freedom conditions is in India,” said Nadine Maenza, the vice-chair of the USCIRF, upon the release of the Commission’s annual report on religious freedoms globally.
“The Citizenship (Amendment) Act in India potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation, and statelessness when the government completes its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens,” she added.
Summarizing recent policies enacted by the Narendra Modi-led government that have disproportionately targeted Muslims, the report highlighted bigoted comments of various members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
In addition to the citizenship law, the report also criticized the continued enforcement of cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws, the Supreme Court of India’s ruling on the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and the revocation of the constitutionally mandated special status for India-held Jammu and Kashmir
The charges against India include torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged detention without charges; ‘disappearing’ persons through abduction or clandestine detention; and other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.
The report recommended Washington impose targeted sanction 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 under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.
Nations designated as ‘countries of particular concern’ are subject to further action, including economic sanctions, by the U.S. unless the administration grants a “national interest” waiver, as it does for Pakistan.
The report also recommended 13 other countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
These include nine that had already been designated as such by the State Department last year: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The remaining five are India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
Referring to Pakistan, which retains its designation from last year, the USCIRF appreciated the country’s efforts to reduce religious intolerance. “One of the things that has been important for us with Pakistan is that the government has been willing to engage in dialogue about how religious freedom concerns can be addressed,” said USCIRF Commissioner Sam Brownback.