India’s religious freedom ‘worse dramatically’ in past year, US panel says

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Hindu worshipers pray after taking a bath as part of rituals at the end of the four-day ‘Chhath Puja’ festival celebrations, in New Delhi, India, November 11, 2021. The US Commission for International Religious Freedom has recommended that India be singled out as a country particularly concerned about its systematic repression of minority religions. File photo by Abhishek/UPI | License picture

April 26 (UPI) — An independent, bipartisan commission has again called on the US government to name India one of the world’s worst religious freedom violators, saying conditions in the country have “significantly worsened” over the year. elapsed and that individuals in New Delhi should be subject to sanctions.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has already twice recommended that the State Department designate India as a country of particular concern, but the federal government has twice decided against it.

In its annual report mandated by Congress report published on Monday, the USCIRF again recommended that India be designated a CPC, meaning a country that engages in “particularly serious” violations of religious freedom.

The commission said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2021 had continued its nationalist agenda to transform India into a Hindu state by implementing legislation and structural changes “hostile” to religious minorities.

“During the year, the Indian government has intensified its promotion and enforcement of policies – including those promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda – that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and other minorities. nuns,” the commission said in its report.

Voices critical of the government have been harassed, investigated, detained and prosecuted under laws that USCIRF says have been invoked to “create a growing climate of intimidation and fear in an effort to silence anyone speaking out. against the government”.

Numerous attacks against religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, have been reported, many of them violent, unproven and encouraged or instigated by government officials, the commission said, adding that during the pandemic, patients received different treatment in hospitals because of their religion.

The report also highlighted how the government has used laws to block funding for religious and charitable organizations in the country, which has had a negative impact on minority communities.

UPI has requested comment from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The Indian American Muslim Council, the largest advocacy group for Indian Muslims in the United States, welcomed the recommendation and called on the federal government to act on it.

“Given the damning information presented in this report, US State Department officials must now act on USCIRF’s recommendations by officially designating India as a CPC and imposing targeted sanctions on the Indian government to hold officials responsible for promoting hatred,” ADRIC President Syed Afzal Ali said in A declaration.

The commission also recommended that the State Department designate Afghanistan for the first time in 21 years.

Nadine Maenza, president of USCIRF, told reporters during a press conference about the report that its cover features images of the Middle Eastern country to highlight its environment for religious freedom which “entered an immediate and disastrous downward spiral” after the withdrawal of the US military from the country in August and the takeover by the Taliban.

“While we have long been concerned about conditions in Afghanistan, the return to power of the Taliban had an immediate and chilling impact on religious freedom and the broader human rights environment,” he said. she stated.

Along with India and Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam were recommended for CPC designation while the commission requested the new designations of Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The commission also asked the State Department to include the nine countries of Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. on its special watch list of countries where governments engage in serious violations of religious freedom that do not reach the degree of CPC.

It was recommended to keep Algeria, Cuba and Nicaragua on the special watch list.

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