USCIRF annual report puts India in “Countries of Particular Concern”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2022 Annual Report has suggested the US Government put India in ‘Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)’ following the rising religious intolerance in India.

The report cites a plethora of incidents in 2021 where the basic rights of minorities were infringed and minorities including Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians were forced to live under constant intimidation by the right-wing groups.

The USCIRF raised concerns over the targeting of various sections of civilians including minorities, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists and even humanitarian organizations.

The report mentioned the persecution of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in various parts of the country. Issues such as cow slaughter and NRC and CAA were used to threaten Muslims in states like Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Government-backed right-wing groups lynched people over suspicion of cow smuggling in Tripura. Mosques were also vandalized by groups like VHP and Bajrang Dal.

State-sponsored mobs have raided churches in search of converted Hindus in the state of Karnataka. Numerous interfaith couples were harassed by VHP in the states of UP, MP until the Judiciary had come to the rescue. Moreover, the majority of Indian states have brought laws hindering Interfaith marriages and religious conversion.

Human rights activist such as Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit Priest, was denied even basic amenities during his time in jail, despite him being the oldest UAPA prisoner in the country. The priest was never tried and his health deteriorated during his time in jail eventually, he died following health complications. Various journalists including Shyam Meera Singh and Meer Faisal were inflicted with UAPA for just reporting the atrocities against Muslims in Tripura and other parts of the country.

The report also condemned the oppression of Dalits in various instances such as the heinous Hathras case. The rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras UP were severely censored by the UP government. Journalists and activists were debarred from reporting the case, moreover, Kerala Journalist Siddiqui Kappan was booked under the dangerous UAPA and still awaits justice.

All around restrictions were put on the licensing of minority institutions and organizations. International funding of religious and humanitarian institutions and NGOs were stopped under the FCRA act. The NGOs of IIT- Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and Oxfam India were forbidden from receiving foreign funding.

It is to be noted that the report does include the religious hatred in the past months of 2022, for instance, the religious targeting of Muslims in the issues of Hijab, Halal and multiple riots in Jahangirpuri (Delhi), Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where Muslim business and property were selectively demolished.

USCIRF has asked the US Congress to raise issues of human rights infringement, especially of religious minorities in the Bilateral engagements between the US and India, and even put sanctions on the accused if these issues are not checked appropriately.

The 2022 Annual Report also recommends 12 countries for placement on the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL) based on their governments’ perpetration or toleration of severe violations. These include three that the State Department placed on that list in November 2021: Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua—as well as nine others: Azerbaijan, CAR, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Mohd Yasir Jamal Kidwai

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