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US freedom of religion panel asks State dept to equate India's track record with Pak

By Our Representative 

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an autonomous body of the US Government that tracks global religious persecutions, has urged the US Department of State to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), which is America’s red list of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedoms.
“Religious freedom and related human rights in India are under ongoing threat for a variety of reasons, including various government policies that do not protect religious minorities,” the USCIRF wrote in a report titled “Country Update: India” released on November 22 detailing the persecutions in the calendar year 2022.
Designating India as CPC, “for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations… would reinforce the United States’ concern regarding the conditions discussed in this country update and would encourage the Indian government to diverge from policies that violate religious freedom and promote communal divides,” the USCIRF update further said.
The CPC is the US Department of State’s rogue’s gallery and currently includes China, Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, Burma and Saudi Arabia, among others. Besides naming and shaming, a CPC designation also paves the way for a closer US scrutiny of and possible sanctions on governmental agencies and officials in the CPC countries.
The USCIRF annual reports in 2020, 2021 and 2022 recommended India’s inclusion as CPC. The US Department of State declined the recommendations on India in 2020 and 2021. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce this year’s list next month.
The USCIRF India Update includes a broad overview of threats against religious minorities, including rising hate speech, the illegal demolition of Muslim-owned homes, stringent anti-conversion laws, the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Karnataka hijab ban, and violent attacks by Hindu supremacists on minority communities, especially Muslims.
Quoted throughout the report are leaders of India’s ruling Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who have made hate speeches or encouraged violence against Muslims. This includes Rajasthan legislator Gyan Dev Ahuja, who publicly urged people “to kill anyone involved in cow slaughter;” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who stated that “madrassas or Islamic seminaries should cease to exist;” and an official handle of the Gujarat BJP, which tweeted a caricature of Muslims being hanged.
Also mentioned are the arrests of a Muslim journalist and fact-checker Mohammad Zubair and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad, as well as the prolonged detention of Muslim journalists and prisoners of conscience Siddique Kappan. The crackdown on activists and journalists is contrasted with the release of radicalized Hindu teens who created apps to harass Muslim women, as well as 11 Hindu supremacist men who were convicted of gang-raping a Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, and slaughtering her family.
“The manner in which government officials have enforced [discriminatory] policies has enabled intolerance of religious minorities and exacerbated communal divides, resulting in violence, deaths, injuries, sexual assault, destruction of property including houses of worship, arbitrary detentions, harassment including online harassment, and social boycotting of religious, scheduled caste, and tribal communities,” the report said.
Welcoming the USCIRF’s Tuesday country update on India, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed said, “The US failure to designate India as CPC for two years in a row has emboldened India and exponentially increased violence against minorities, especially Muslims. As India’s Muslims face a genocide, the US Government cannot anymore pretend it bears no responsibility for that fate.”

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