Religious freedom in India ‘worse’ : US Commission recommends sanctions

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The US Commission on Religious Freedom has once again recommended special restrictions, calling the situation of religious freedom in India “worse” under the Hindu nationalist regime.

A demonstrator is detained during a protest against a new citizenship law, in Delhi, India, December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

This is the third consecutive year that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that India be placed on a “list of countries of grave concern”, according to AFP.

The recommendation has caused outrage in New Delhi and is certain to be rejected by the state department.

The US panel appointed to make the recommendations, in its annual report, expressed grave concern about South Asia and supported the State Department’s decision to blacklist Pakistan.

This panel is appointed to make recommendations but does not formulate US policy.

The commission pointed to the “numerous” attacks on religious minorities in India, especially Muslims and Christians, in 2021, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pursued “its own ideological stance of a Hindu state” through anti-minority policies.

The report says that the situation of religious freedom in India has become very serious.

In its report, the commission pointed to the culture of impunity, and arrests of journalists and human rights activists for the nationwide campaign of intimidation and violence by mobs and various activist groups.

In previous years, the Indian government had rejected the commission’s findings, accusing it of bias.

US President Joe Biden, like his predecessor Donald Trump, has sought to expand ties with India as a common ally in the face of emerging power China.

Biden is also expected to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tokyo next month on the sidelines of the Quad quadripartite summit with Japan and Australia.

The US commission also recommended that Afghanistan be blacklisted after the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan and that Nigeria be re-listed, which the Biden administration had earlier removed from the list.

Countries on the US State Department’s blacklist of religious freedom that could be subject to sanctions include China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, federal commission created in 1998 through the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF uses international standards, such as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to monitor violations of religious freedom or belief abroad.