Christian group urges for US sanction on India after anti-conversion laws

Anti-conversion laws do not secure the freedom of religion for Indians, but rather take away their ability to fully exercise their rights without government hindrance, according to a report by International Christian Concern (ICC).

International Christian Concern is a group based in Washington, DC, whose concern is the human rights of Christians across the globe.

The Christian group said the Department of State in the US must prioritize religious freedom, minority rights, and the repeal of anticonversion laws in its bilateral conversations with India and should pressure the Narendra Modi administration to condemn specific instances of violence against religious minorities.

“These should be standing agenda items in every bilateral meeting between the two countries. Diplomatic pressure is most effective when it is consistent and ongoing and offers measurable steps and goals for improvement,” the report argued.

The US should publicly impose measured economic consequences on India for its behavior, Christian group demanded.

“…the US should implement targeted sanctions and visa bans on persons known to persecuting religious minorities. The Global Magnitsky sanctioning authority and others provide an array of measured economic responses on individuals and move away from broader sanctioning powers that could negatively impact the country as a whole. In addition to individual sanctions, entity level sanctions should be considered as well, including on the Bajrang Dal, the RSS, the VHP, radical members of BJP leadership, and Hindu Munnani,” the group demanded.

The US government should monitor Hindu extremism in America, which is peddled through various front organisations that maintain close ties to Hindutva organisations across India and advocate for Hindutva policies and ideologies, ICC said.

They also said the US should pressure India to allow the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioners to make an official trip to India. For years, Indian leadership has denied USCIRF official access to India to conduct a comprehensive review of religious freedom conditions in India. The Indian agreement to allow USCIRF for an official visit would be a significant step in the right direction.

USCIRF is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

ICC studied the effects of the enactment of Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law from January to June 2021. During this time, ICC documented the instances of persecution experienced by the state’s Christian community and the number of churches closed as a result.

ICC also surveyed over 500 Christians regarding the enactment of the new anti-conversion law and its effects on their community.

On January 9, 2021, Madhya Pradesh became the latest state to enact an anti-conversion law.

The enactment of this law unleashed a new wave of persecution for the state’s Muslim and Christian minorities.

According to the report, the data show the enactment of the anti-conversion law in Madhya Pradesh had a significantly negative effect on the state’s Christian community. The law dramatically increased the number of persecution incidents endured and led to an overall climate of fear for the state’s Christians.

“The legal structures set forth by these laws make state administrators the final decision arbitrators between legitimate and a nonlegitimate conversion, taking this authority from the individual where it rightly belongs. The constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens, included the right to propagate one’s faith and change religions,” read the report.