US: US commission demands ban on Indian agencies, alleges 'violation' of religious freedom

Pankaj Prasad

USCIRF also recommended that the US Congress raise and hold hearings on the issue of religious freedom during US-India bilateral meetings.

A federal US commission has urged the Biden administration to impose targeted sanctions by freezing the assets of Indian government agencies and officials responsible for "serious violations" of religious freedom in the country. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also recommended that the US Congress raise and hold hearings on the issue of religious freedom during US-India bilateral meetings.

In its annual report on religious freedom, the USCIRF asked the US State Department to designate India as a 'country of particular concern' along with several other countries on the state of religious freedom. USCIRF has been making similar recommendations to the State Department since 2020, which have not yet been accepted. USCIRF recommendations are not binding on the State Department.

USCIRF has alleged in its report about India that in 2022 the situation of religious freedom in India continued to worsen. Throughout the years, the Indian government promoted and implemented religiously discriminatory policies at the national, state, and local levels. These include laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relations, the wearing of the hijab, and cow slaughter, which negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis (indigenous people and scheduled tribes).

USCIRF has alleged that the central government also continued to stifle critical voices. Especially religious minorities and those who advocate on their behalf. These include targeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through surveillance, harassment, destruction of property and detention under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Report not completely conclusive: Vedant Patel

Responding to these questions, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters that USCIRF is not a branch of the State Department or the executive branch, but its reports reflect the importance of religious freedom to the American people. While guiding, Patel said, the report's recommendations overlap somewhat with the State Department's list of countries of particular concern, but are not entirely conclusive. Governments or other entities with questions or comments about this report should contact the Commission directly.

FIIDS criticized the report

The Foundation of Indian and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), a US-based non-profit organisation, criticized the USCIRF for its "biased" report. Khanderao Kand of FIIDS said in a statement that the USCIRF is attempting to revive its annual case against India for inclusion in the CPC by misreporting its data that estimated Shows omissions and special operations.

Kand said the USCIRF in its report listed the delay in court cases but omitted the fact that the implementation of the NRC was actually ordered by the Assam High Court and not the government. Furthermore, the report fails to acknowledge the cultural and economic importance of cows to Indian villagers, not to mention the constitutional ban on cow slaughter.

He said the report ignores the fact that the houses bulldozed were illegal and notified and goes on to list lapses. USCIRF surprisingly mentions beheadings and targeted killings of Hindus by jihadist Muslims in Kashmir. failed to do.

IAMC endorsed the report

At the same time, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) supported the USCIRF's decision to designate India as a country of particular concern for the fourth year in a row. IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmad said the decision confirms what IMAC has been saying for years, that India's government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has violated the religious freedom of minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians. continues to be systematically violated.