“The Indian government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence. “
GoaChronicle brings its readers the shockingly biased report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Annual Report 2020 that portrays India as nation of violators of religious rights of minorities.
The USCIRF reports states:
“The BJP-led government enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)—a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan already residing in India—and approved a National Population Register (NPR) as a first step toward a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The border state of Assam, under mandate of the Supreme Court, implemented a statewide NRC to identify illegal migrants within Assam. When the statewide NRC was released in August, 1.9 million residents—both Muslims and Hindus—were excluded. Those excluded live in fear of the consequences: three United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs warned that exclusion from the NRC could result in “statelessness, deportation, or pro- longed detention.” Indeed, Home Minister Amit Shah referred to migrants as “termites” to be eradicated.
Troubled that Hindus were excluded from Assam’s NRC, he and other BJP officials advocated for the CAA as a corrective measure to protect Hindus. The CAA provides listed non-Muslim religious communities a path to restore their citizenship and avoid detention or deportation. In its wake, BJP leaders have continued to advocate for a nation-wide NRC; the citizenship of millions would be placed under question, but, with the CAA in place, Muslims alone would bear the indignities and consequences of potential statelessness. “
The report further elucidates:
Throughout 2019, government action—including the CAA, continued enforcement of cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws, and the November Supreme Court ruling on the Babri Masjid site—created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities. In August, the government also revoked the autonomy of Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir and imposed restrictions that negatively impacted religious freedom.
Mob lynchings of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued, with most attacks occurring within BJP-ruled states. Lynch mobs often took on overtly Hindu nationalist tones. In June, in Jharkand, a mob attacked a Muslim, Tabrez Ansari, forcing him to chant “Jai Shri Ram (Hail Lord Ram)” as they beat him to death. Police often arrest those attacked for cow slaughter or conversion activities rather than the perpetrators. Violence against Christians also increased, with at least 328 violent incidents, often under accusations of forced conversions. These attacks frequently targeted prayer ser- vices and led to the widespread shuttering or destruction of churches. In 2018, the Supreme Court urged the central and state gov- ernments to combat lynchings with stricter laws.
When, by July 2019, the central government and 10 states had failed to take appropriate action, the Supreme Court again directed them to do so. Rather than comply, Home Minister Shah called existing laws sufficient and denied lynchings had increased, while the Home Ministry instructed the National Crime Records Bureau to omit lynchings from the 2019 crime data report.
USCIRF reports further continues expressing displeasure stating:
During 2019, discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric,and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state, and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities. After the reporting period, India continued on this negative trajectory. In February 2020, three days of violence erupted in Delhi with mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods.
There were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry’s authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence. At least 50 people were killed.
Here are the recommendations of the USCIRF to the US government against India:
- Designate India as a“country of particular concern,” or CPC, for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA);
- Impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States under human rights related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations;
- Strengthen the U.S.Embassy’s and consulates’ engagement with religious communities, local officials, and police, especially in regions impacted by religiously motivated violence; increase U.S. partnerships with Indian law enforcement to build capacity to protect religious minorities, houses of worship, and other holy sites,and confront religious-based hate crimes; and
- Allocate funding to support civil society to create a monitoring and early warning system in partnership with police to challenge hate speech and incitement to violence.
The U.S. Congress should:
• Continue to hold hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and U.S. policy toward India.
Interestingly, three Commissioners of USCIRF did not share the view reflected on the recommendations the US government by other Commissioners of USCIRF.
COMMISSIONER GARY L. BAUER
I must dissent from the decision of my fellow Commissioners to recommend India, the world’s largest democracy, for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, placing India in a gallery of rogue nations in which it does not belong.
The trend line on religious freedom in India is not reassuring. But India is not the equivalent of communist China, which wages war on all faiths; nor of North Korea, a prison masquerading as a country; nor of Iran, whose Islamic extremist leaders regularly threaten to unleash a second Holocaust.
India is our ally. A young democracy, it only gained its sovereign freedom in 1947. I hope and pray India’s leaders will resist the impulse to punish or restrict any of their citizens based on faith. The United States should raise our concern over restrictions on religious liberty in all bilateral communications and negotiations with India, as allies do. I am deeply concerned that this public denunciation risks exactly the opposite outcome than the one we all desire.
COMMISSIONER TENZIN DORJEE
I want to express my concerns about the CAA, as all persecuted religious minorities deserve the same treatment. I also dissent from the recommendation that India should be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC. India does not belong to the same category as authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea.
India is the largest democratic nation in the world, where the CAA has been challenged openly by the opposition Congress Party and law makers, civil society, and various groups. By and large, the press freely reported both anti-and pro-CAA voices and chief ministers of states such as Kerala decided not to implement the CAA.
The Supreme Court of India has been asked to adjudicate on its constitutionality. India is a free and open democratic society that allows for all possibilities; therefore, India is not a CPC country.
COMMISSIONER JOHNNIE MOORE
I am gravely concerned that political and inter-communal strife will be further exacerbated by religious tensions, yet I am also heart- ened that India remains the world’s largest democracy, governed by a pristine constitution, and I am also encouraged that this great nation is a tremendous friend and ally of the United States. It is also a nation that is the very definition of diverse. My hope, and my prayer, is that India’s still-young, and freewheeling, democracy will give way to an ever-brighter future through these challenges, for all of its cit- izens, whatever their religion or political affiliation. I am rooting for India’s institutions to draw upon her rich history in order to pull her through the present time.
International reports have been coming out frequently contributing to the global propaganda of portraying India as dangerous for the Muslim and Christian minorities.USCIRF Report